Sunday, 22 February 2015

Olha Pryymak - Ukraine Diaries

     In this cold and gray Sunday I crossed London to go see Ukraine Diaries, an exhibition of paintings by Olha Pryymak at Krilova Stelfox Gallery just off Brick Lane.

I was very touched by Olha's work; eight groups of small square paintings record days in which events in her native Ukraine cast their shadow on her quiet family life in London.
As an expat I fully understand the deep link with the native country, a link that is particularly strong nowadays when information travels fast, when there is always a camera around to record images and sounds, when strangers can give you an account of facts as they are happening.

Olha selects instants of some particular days: when her brother graduated, when the protests started, when the plane crashed, when her son walked the dog. 

He practices on the clarinet, maybe she is looking at news on the phone while she listens. He plays innocently with his toy soldiers while elsewhere troops are killing dozens of people in the snow. Where are we, here or there ?

The paintings are installed in asymmetrical clusters, some times they are coupled up, one in direct response to the other one. The show is hanged in chronological order of days and surprisingly proceeds  counterclockwise. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition we do everything the opposite way, says Olha.
All the paintings are on small wood boxes, their square format recalls images on a screen, they are images of images, all equal: interiors, landscapes, portraits, London, Kiev, the phone screen, a newspaper. They all contribute to convey the bewilderment and horror at a protest that unexpectedly turned into riots, then violence and ultimately a full fledged war.

The paint flows fast because recording fleeting visions, flickering videos, a casual appearance of the Ukrainian flag colours in an urban decor, is urgent. They need to be fixed before they drift away again  in the flux. Synapsis are firing, connections are made, some obvious, some only known to the artist.

We can almost hear the droning of the news, the clarinet being played, the pinging of new tweets, the sound of a shooting. Politicians are staring at us in gray ink from the front page, they don't do anyting while explosions obscure the painted space.

Olha Pryymak's Ukraine Diaries is at Krilova Stelfox Gallery, 23 Heinage St, London E1 until the 25th of February.

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