Every war leaves its ferocious mark on witnessing land, the onslaught of conflict carrying a heavy burden across both place and civilization as they try to hold on to their humanity. Every little unbearable remains of war cannot be erased, and therein lies the uncomfortable truth.
The long-standing eight-year conflict between Russia and Ukraine has turned into yet another bloody chapter, Russia’s recent large-scale land, air, and sea invasion causing severe civilian losses and enacting a profound blow to freedom. Due to Ukraine's climate of constant agitation, estimates show that already 600,00 refugees are escaping the escalating brutality.
Ukrainian artists and activists are taking a stand, refusing to be denied their unconditional rights as they bear witness to the tremendous desolation and the searing sound of missiles and artillery ravaging the land that they call home.
Exploring these changing topographies of war and conflict zones, Ukrainian-born artist Stanislava Pinchuk conducts a multidisciplinary practice, creating installations, drawings, films, and sculptures instilled with memories that are a testament to the political atmospheres and human rights violations that the land absorbs.
One of Pinchuk's most recent works called The Red Carpet is a symbolic piece that illustrates the life of women in conflict areas with a simple and elegant composition. An architectural intervention of transposing a Ukrainian Bessarabian rug onto the steps of the Sydney Opera House, the physical piece exists in tandem with the immaterial experiences that it documents.
In a combination of textiles and data, The Red Carpet contains a data map of the damaged typography of Kiev’s Maidan protests and references a wider canon of women recording their experiences of conflict through the historical art mediums of needle, loom and thread.
“A lot of my work is about the tension between beauty and physical pain. I’ve always felt that a lot of the mediums that are seen as women’s work — things like lacemaking, embroidery, textiles, and tattooing — are often written off as decorative. They require a lot of strength and resilience, a lot of sweat and pain. But I really hope they also look effortless and beautiful to the eye, really inviting in how they present something very complex in a poetic way.” The artist states. “There’s a lot to be said for treading softly! And it feels really appropriate to map conflict in this way; a more gentle, subtle way to communicate the feeling of war.”
In the recent Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Pinchuk exhibited a body of work titled The Wine Dark Sea, which directly approaches the current atmosphere in Ukraine. The work is composed of various marble blocks and columns with interweaved phrases collected from Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, and the so-called Nauru files, which depict a sordid picture of Australia’s offshore refugee detention. The most striking aspect of this installation is both the rich colours of the marbles and the historical phrases carved in it — ideas of arduous and inhospitable journeys.
"I hope there's a certain universality to the work," Pinchuk explains. "This could be a work about Manus/Nauru [Australia’s offshore detention centers], it could be a work about Ukraine, about Syria, about Yemen, about Palestine, about Bosnia. A myriad of places."
The artistic practice of Pinchuk heavily relies on source materials, data, documentation and detritus surveyed through fieldwork that then feeds into the artistic process, creating both a profound journey outward through the lives of war refugees and as well as the artist's own reflection and personal atmospheres. The advocacy and relentless research of Pinchuk intertwine with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal addressing Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
In the blink of an eye, individual lives can change completely due to war, conflict or rising humanitarian crises that leave their mark on future generations. Despite humanity’s tendency to forget and repeat, artists like Pinchuk remind us not to lose sight by acknowledging the past as a way to better the future.