“We need to proclaim and witness the truth.”
A quote from the Ukrainian artist Alina Potemska at the opening of her exhibition “We Will Enjoy Flowers Again”. Presented by Collage Arts, it is on until 29th October. “We Will Enjoy Flowers Again” – Collage Arts (collage-arts.org)
The exhibition, and her speech, made me reflect on the importance of art in providing greater awareness and helping us face the intolerable by creating a kind of beauty. I have always loved Nietzsche’s quote, “What is the power of art? The artist, with his hues, tones and colours, provides an insight into the tragic web of life and, in so doing, creates a clearing of liveability.” Alina’s exhibition helps us to look at the tragedy of what is happening in Ukraine, to recognise and understand the terrible cost. It makes the audience see the trauma, reflect on it and crucially, not turn away.
So, how does she do this? Her work is original, contemporary and rooted in tradition. One of her more moving pieces is ‘The Cabinet’.
Alina presented a cabinet containing the essential items you might take if you suddenly had to leave your home. These things would remind you of your life and give you hope that you may return. Her use of the cabinet builds on the concept of Cabinet of curiosities, these were collections of notable objects in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and over time became the founding collection of some museums. In her Cabinet, Alina showcases what she considers the notable items of a life. The Cabinet also tells us something about the culture and heritage of Ukraine and you can find all the details of what it contains at the end of this piece… Her creation makes us ask, if I became a refugee, “What object would I take with me?” The Cabinet puts us in the shoes of someone having to flee their country. The Mirror: The Heart of Britain’s is running stories on the objects people take with them when they are forced to make these journeys https://www.instagram.com/peoplemove
Alina’s story is here https://www.instagram.com/p/CjXuZ61IaP8/
I spoke to the Chief Executive of https://collage-arts.org/, Manoj Ambasna, to find out how the exhibition came about. He told me the mission of Collage Arts is to showcase innovative work that challenges. They want to provide a platform for new art in the hope that more prominent galleries may pick up and display the work. Manoj told me he came across Alina through KickStart Scheme, where Collage Arts supported her creative business with board games and provided support as gateway organisation in hiring employees for her company Ludensa Game Design (ludensa.co.uk)
Manoj wanted to host an exhibition of Alina’s art because he believes her work is so relevant and depicts the real suffering and spirit of the Ukrainians. The added appeal for him is that her work is very original, for example, some of her prints have QR codes, so you look at these prints and then are taken to the back story.
The contemporary feel of her art was brought to life for me by a comment from a Elizbieta Smolenska. She described the prints as “..like a Kodak film – full of images that will stick in your mind. Despite all the information we are bombarded with, we will come back to what she has shown us. They are almost what you might see on social media but are not; they are artistic prints, and their symbolism is unique.” And I can confirm that the bright colours and clear lines stay firmly in your mind. My measure of a good exhibition is if I am still thinking about it two or three days later. With Alina’s collection, the answer here is a definite yes.
What does Alina say?
Alina explained that although her art reflects heartbreak, she also wants to show that there is always hope. This hope comes from the unity of the Ukrainian people and a strong belief that their country will be rebuilt. The ordinary pleasures of life will once again be enjoyed without fear of bombings and terror attacks. To quote the poet Loraine Masiay Mponela from her poem “Hope” “Hope, like everybody else, you take your time, but my faith gives birth to your new offspring, and so my resolve is ever renewed”. This hope of a better world gives Alina and many others the courage to go on.
We will enjoy flowers again.
1. The Book of Ecclesiastes
We have two paintings of our daughter which she wanted us to save in case of emergency. But they are big size oil paintings on canvas. Instead, we took her master of arts diploma work which symbolizes academy time in her hometown Kyiv and which means a lot to the whole family. Hoping to be back for the rest of the pieces. Tetiana
2. Photo album
When we were fleeing from occupation, I knew that I’ll have at home in Kyiv only 20 hours. And 2 hours from this precious time I spent checking our family photos to select the best to remember. I was worried there could be a rocket attack that destroys everything at home. Olga [here and further]
3. String bag
This bag belongs to my mom. She loves this kind of eco bag. It’s a bag from her childhood back to the 60-s.
My friend Alina gave it to me. I always loved her art. It’s an etching on the textile of a menorah symbolizing the period of my life when we were organizing children’s summer camps together many years ago. Also, I have a few of her other artworks including an engraving, however, they are too big to travel with.
5. Feather button
My friend, who sells books, used to decorate packages of books with it.
6. Meeples from “Exodus”
Pieces from the board game Exodus about Jews exiting Egypt. I’ve playtested that game in the early stages of development. Now they symbolize my family fleeing from war and chasing peace and calmness all around the world.
7. Vyshyvanka: the national dress
While we were fleeing my daughter grew out of it. Now she wears the same one but bigger — mine.
8. Cover in stars print
It was the first cover of my older daughter I used to wrap her in. We always travel with it as it’s handy but also important for us.
9. A pencil
A pencil which I have had since school. I adored math and geometry so my pencils usually became short very fast.
10. An olive seed
From a family vacation in Turkey. It was our last trip before covid. I picked two olives and saved them as a souvenir. The other one has my husband. I’m dreaming of having them both next to each other in the same box in Kyiv.
11. A keyring
My friend who moved to Israel brought it to me. It’s a reminder about her.
I’m dreaming of returning home and spending them. I still want to be able to use them. It’s 15.60 UAH. That was the price for a small white americano in my favourite coffee shop next to home.
13. A pin
Father gave it to me. It’s a cave he discovered. He is a speleologist. Now he is working in cooperation with the Armed Forces of Ukraine on drone systems which can drop bombs from high. If you want to support the drone project financially please email email@example.com for more details.
#IWantHome by OFF