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Following the start of the full-scale russian war on February 24th, artist Alexander Zhyvotkov has not evacuated from Kyiv. Despite regular missile attacks, the artist keeps working in his studio. Zhyvotkov managed to convey the modern tragedy of Ukraine fighting russian barbarism. The war plunged society into pain, despair, and grief. While experiencing these emotional states, Zhyvotkov embodies them in sculptural reliefs and counter-reliefs made in stone and wood.
“For the whole month, I woke up with a knot inside of me; with all the feelings jumbled up – the feeling of hate was mixed with disbelief (how could this be?) followed by fear, resentment, anger, and the desire to strangle those bastards,” Zhyvotkov says. The artist’s words ring true with anyone who has seen at least one photo from the Ukrainian cities and villages affected by the russian military aggression. “These feelings would not go away, they stopped only when I started working,’ he explains his coping strategy.
From February 24, Zhyvotkov’s studio turned into his fight, the space where the artist creatively began the battle for Ukraine. Most of his artworks are dedicated to specific dates and sites, those that will forever remain open wounds in the hearts of Ukrainians – Bucha, Mariupol, Kherson, Vinnytsia, etc.
From October to December 2022, under the unceasing sounds of the air-raid alerts, Zhyvotkov worked on the “Tocsin” series. A year of the full-scale war is reflected in the bell-shaped reliefs showing horrified faces in the color of congealed blood. With their creative persuasiveness and colossal artistic tension, Zhyvotkov’s reliefs affect us as another form of witnessing the tragedy and another evidence of the fragile state of humanism.
We express our sincere thanks to Oxana Melnychuk, curator Angeline Scherf and L’Association Art, Culture et Foi/Paris for their assistance in the exhibition preparation.