Ukrainian artists deploy their creativity to continue making art during the war: NPR

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Ukrainian artists had to become creative in the way they expressed themselves through their art during the war.


Ukrainian artists have found ways to continue creating despite the war ravaging their country.

OLIA FEDOROVA: My name is Olia Fedorova and I’m 28 years old. I am an artist, a conceptual artist. I do the performances and the photos and videos. I was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and I live here with my boyfriend, two cats in the center of the city where we are now hiding from Russian bombs.

FOLKENFLIK: Olia and her friends are hunkered down in a basement most of the day. She usually takes photos and creates art using the world around her – fields, farms and other landscapes. But now she has turned to writing as a form of expression.

FEDOROVA: It’s an artistic text because there are a lot of emotions, expressions and metaphorical stuff. I think these texts are my art now because obviously I can’t work with landscapes because I don’t go out.

FOLKENFLIK: She read some of her work to us.

FEDOROVA: (speaking Ukrainian).

FOLKENFLIK: I miss the silence, she writes, the true silence of the calm of which one does not expect anything terrible. Here, silence is no longer trusted. If we don’t hear the explosions for a while, we immediately wonder, is this a good thing or a bad thing?

FEDOROVA: I think I focused a lot on this work as an information warrior, I call it, an information resistance warrior. And that inspires me a lot.

FOLKENFLIK: But Olia says she worries about how her art might change after the war is over.

FEDOROVA: It scares me because I used to work with landscapes around my city. And I had a special field where they grew different things like corn, wheat, sunflower. But I don’t know what is now. I bet there are a lot of burnt Russian tanks.

SANA SHAHMURADOVA: My name is Sana Shahmuradova. I come from Odessa and I only paint and draw. I am a full time artist. And what happened recently kind of shattered my dream life.

FOLKENFLIK: Sana had to flee her home in the countryside, where she has family. She says the invasion left her in a state of shock and it’s hard for her to imagine creating an art form at first.

SHAHMURADOVA: My brain got stuck a lot. I heard the first explosions, and it took me maybe a week to at least get back to drawing. I think I’m in kind of a survival mode where I don’t fully feel (laughs) what’s going on because my brain is trying to defend itself.

FOLKENFLIK: But as soon as Sana felt ready to take up drawing again, she realized she had to get creative because she had left all her art supplies at home.

SHAHMURADOVA: Every time I came here, I drew on scraps of wallpaper. I found charcoal, then I found my little brother’s colored pencils, his gouache paint. I also found paper in the nearby store. But then I was also experimenting and using, I don’t know, like leftover beats. Like, boiled beet is very – it’s a nice pink color.

FOLKENFLIK: Sana now publishes her drawings on Instagram. And a common theme in her work is a woman holding a baby to her bare chest as ghostly figures around her reach for the sky.

SHAHMURADOVA: I just imagined that there is this mother, like an archetypal mother or just an ordinary mother feeding her baby, and there are people around who are metaphorically trying to save this new life, this new generation.

FOLKENFLIK: Sana says hope is something she refuses to give up.

SHAHMURADOVA: Despite all the disasters, horrors and bloody losses that our country is experiencing at the moment, there is still a baby being born in the bomb shelter. There is still a woman who feeds her whole family with the meals she cooked before everything happened. And she continues to do so. Like, there are still miracles happening, and I guess we somehow have to find ways to draw our attention to those tiny rays of the sun.

FOLKENFLIK: We heard from Ukrainian artists Sana Shahmuradova and Olia Fedorova.


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