Right at the entrance hangs a blood-red painting, the canvas of which has been slit with a knife in numerous places. Immediately you have the war in front of your eyes, or so you think. In fact, the picture was created at the end of the Soviet Union, when almost all certainties dissolved and it was not clear what the future would bring: democracy? Nuclear war? A new tsar? The work shows all the uncertainty of the artist and his surroundings, says curator Maria Isserlis. "Of course, you can also relate it very well to today's world." His painter Andrii Sahaidakovskyi comes from Lviv and is hardly known in this country. He has this in common with almost all of the fifty Ukrainian artists who can be seen in a new special exhibition at Dresden's Albertinum. It is the first show of modern Ukrainian art in Germany, to which the creators have given the title "Kaleidoscope of History(s)".
Correspondent for Saxony and Thuringia based in Dresden.
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You can simply let the works – paintings, sculptures, photographs and video installations – work their magic on you, but they only unfold their full meaning through their genesis, which is told here. After all, the past century has so many ruptures in Ukraine that have inevitably shaped artists and their work. "The topic is very emotional," says Marion Ackermann, director of the Dresden State Art Collections (SKD). "We know far too little about Ukrainian modern and contemporary art, and we have also looked too little." She sees the location of Dresden and her house in the immediate vicinity of East-Central Europe as an obligation to build bridges here. From a Western point of view, the art of these countries and regions is still terra incognita. "We want to raise awareness of this."
There is, for example, the painter Kateryna Bilokur, who lived in the first half of the twentieth century and, despite her desire to become an artist, never got out of the conservative and patriarchal environment of her village. Her still lifes of flowers and fruits, however, caused a sensation in Soviet times, she became "Honored People's Artist of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic" and yet spent the last years of her life in abject poverty. The impressive series "Crimean Snobbery" by photographer Boris Mikhailov, on the other hand, focuses on the holiday life of the eighties on the Black Sea peninsula, which was both a myth and a place of longing for the people of the Soviet Union. The photographs bear witness to the summery lightness of being, to the joie de vivre by the sea, but also to the illusion of freedom – aptly arranged in the portrait of a young woman in a summer hat at a bar in front of two life-size portraits of Marx and Engels.
Of course, the Russian attack on Ukraine plays a major role in many works. The young Kiev artist Sasha Kurmaz has made a frieze of collages that documents as a kind of diary what he has experienced since the invasion: destroyed houses, people seeking shelter from bombing in subway shafts, civilians killed in an attack. Nikita Kadan, on the other hand, has combined flower boxes, Soviet art books, art from the National Museum of Ukraine and the Dresden Art Collections with parts of Russian projectiles and their consequences in metal shelves set up as crosses, including melted drinking glasses, a destroyed satellite dish and fragments of ruins he found in liberated areas. He picked up a dented piece of tin roof two minutes from his home, Kadan reported at the opening.