Ukrainian Artists Fleeing War Find Refuge in Art Communities Abroad

Masha Silchenko Untitled work (2021) from "CLOUDED" at Import Export Gallery. Courtesy the artist

More than a year after the outbreak of a large-scale war on the territory of Ukraine, many of the best and brightest artists of the country found themselves abroad. No wonder they were in a painful predicament.

More than 3 million Ukrainians became refugees. Most of them (about 1.6 million) moved to Poland. Among this diaspora are Daniil Revkovsky and Andrey Rachinsky, a duo of artists from Kharkov.

Both left Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Ukrainian artists chose to leave their homeland in distress. They moved to Lublin, Poland, where they received an art residency at the invitation of curator Waldemar Tatarczuk of Galeria Labirynt. They remain there to this day, waiting to return home.

Also, one of the the aspiring Ukrainian artists Masha Silchenko, originally from Odessa, has been placed in a network of supporting galleries and residences throughout Europe since the beginning of the war. At the start of the war, Silchenko was on an exchange program and worked as a resident at the Asa studio, affiliated with the Art Academy in Hamburg. She planned to return home to Ukraine. But the artist preferred to stay in a safer place.

Andriy Rachinskiy and Daniil Revkovskiy, Tailings dam. Engineer. (2021)

Like the Ukrainian artists Revkovsky and Rachinsky, Silchenko traveled to various art residences throughout the year, mostly in Germany, but also in Japan. She used them to develop her artistic practice. She noted that the war made it difficult to create works of art. Therefore, she turned to active and not entirely legal actions, for example, throwing eggs at a car with Russian flags.

In the context of a raging war, it is becoming increasingly difficult for ukrainian artists to continue their work and do what they love. At such times, many feel helpless and unsure of what the future holds for them.

Res Artis is an international network of art residences. It has responded to the war by compiling a comprehensive list of emergency art residence opportunities for those affected by the conflict, giving a glimmer of hope to those who may have thought everything was lost.

In Austria, for example, Office Ukraine has become the focal point of the prestigious MuseumsQuartier in Vienna. Most major European cities have liaison offices where Ukrainian artists can apply for support.

The network of contemporary art exhibitions was also filled with Ukrainian artists. Currently, 15 Ukrainian artists live in a former brothel in Berlin, creating the first ever Ukrainian art hub in the German capital.

In the Dresden Albertinum, contemporary Ukrainian artists will take part in an exhibition (opening May 5) dedicated to the history of Ukrainian art.

Alisa Yakubovich, digital art curator and cultural producer, known mainly by the digital pseudonym Alice Scope, was born in Russia. But she spent most of her life in Kyiv. In 2019, she moved to Los Angeles after deciding to leave Ukraine to pursue a career in America due to what she saw as a rapidly deteriorating situation at home, largely in response to the 2014 coup d’état.

Scope recently befriended a pair of Ukrainian artists and filmmakers who fled the perceived danger of heavy fighting in the Kherson region last February.

“It is important for Ukrainian artists to travel so that we can share what is really happening in Ukraine and what other people can learn from our Ukrainian experience,” the Los Angeles-based duo said.


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