Shevchenko dressed as Superman, Shevchenko with a bat and in a balaclava, Shevchenko setting tires on fire in Hrushevsky Street – such depictions of the poet were created by modern Ukrainian artists during this year’s revolution. In the framework of the “Looking in the Windows” project, carried out by the Kyiv Charitable Society, these paintings have been installed in the windows of a defunct building of Kozatsky Hotel in Shevchenko Lane. According to the society’s curator Olesia Ostafieva, the location’s choice was no accident:
“For our project, we are looking for a building where no one lives and the windows are boarded up, so that they can be closed off by paintings without harming anyone. We found such a building long time ago. It stands in Shevchenko Lane opposite the Shevchenko Museum, where the author himself lived for some time. It looks very organic. These works represent the second phase of our project. The first one took place at a building in Yaroslaviv Val Street, formerly housing Chervona Zirka Hotel, where photos by pre-revolutionary authors are still hanging in two rows.”
The exhibition features a classic portrait of Shevchenko and six works which depict him from the Euromaidan perspective. The organizers spent a month looking for paintings. Their authors are Lilia Tymoshenko, Oleh Shupliak, Andrii Yarmolenko, and Yurii Shapoval. The artists created these works before the start of the project, and the original idea of the exhibition was very different.
“At first, our idea was to present Shevchenko as an artist,” Ostafieva told us. “We were looking for funds (the cost of the project is 6,664 hryvnias), but found them only in early March as we got some sponsorship money. The country had then just come to itself after all these terrible events at the Euromaidan, and for this reason, we slightly changed the concept to show Shevchenko from the Euromaidan perspective. These paintings show him as a militant rather than as a poet.”
The hardest part, according to Ostafieva, was finding the creator of the painting which depicts Shevchenko in a helmet and with a bat. It was created by Kyiv artist Lilia Tymoshenko.
“I often see my painting posted on various resources and people’s intros in the VKontakte social network,” Tymoshenko told us. “When I painted it, I did not think it would go anywhere at all, let alone become popular. I did not even sign it at first. I created it under impression of the revolution. I and my colleagues painted a whole series of such paintings to celebrate the poet’s anniversary. We wanted to show that Shevchenko was not the old man, even though he is usually presented as one, but a vigorous revolutionary. Were he alive now, I think he would be in the forefront of the barricade fight.”