"There are no tyrannies that would not try to limit art, because they can see the power of art. Art can tell the world things that cannot be shared otherwise. It is art that conveys feelings."

 - Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the President of Ukraine 

When Faith Moves Mountains

(c)Lesia Khomenko - foto: M HKA, 2022
Painting , 200 х 169 cm
acrylic on canvas

Khomenko’s artistic practice is currently focused on the ways of looking at the war and the ways the war represents itself. In her works, the artist combines found images with her own experience and experiences of her nearest and dearest. 

This painting is based on a photo posted online by Andriy Rachynskyi, an artist who, after the outbreak of the war, became a volunteer turned to volunteering and helped with for acquiring and bringing logistical supplies to the army after the outbreak of the war. The photo is a selfie made by Ukrainian soldiers, retouched to conceal their faces and weapons. 

Khomenko collects photographs depicting soldiers with their faces and backgrounds digitally obscured by means of glitching, pixelation, blurring or hatching. Ukraine’s martial law prohibits taking photos of military facilities, soldiers and equipment on security grounds. Photography ceases to be an instrument and becomes a dangerous weapon. By turning found photos into paintings, the artist references the historical tradition of depicting war, as well as translates the language of digital imagery into that of painting. Her way of processing the images includes fitting pixelated fragments into the figures of her characters to dehumanise and deconstruct them.

“Contemplating the original photos, I see that retouching doesn’t remove strategic information from them; on the contrary, it adds new information that layers up just like characters’ skins in video games. Thus, pixels represent a kind of a ‘superpower’ owned by these ‘superheroes’. In the digitalised world of information warfare, pop culture exists side by side with a real war, and I, being an evacuated civilian, tend to mix up the images. I want my characters to look scary, I want them to make any ‘brainimical’* Russian looking at my works drown in dehumanising agony.”

* i.e. brainwashed + inimical

Lesia Khomenko