We are delighted to announce Vlad Yurashko’s fourth solo show at our exhibition spaces in Berlin. The Ukrainian painter, born in Poltava in 1970, has repeatedly referred to military structures and their associated actions in earlier works. In particular, he dealt extensively with his own experiences as a conscript at a time when the Soviet Union still existed. His current works, on view in our exhibition “Anonymous. Right to Remember” have been shaped by current war events in his home country. With his paintings, Vlad Yurashko seeks to claim and preserve the right of every human being to their individual history and memory.
Vlad Yurashko on his current work:
Serving as the impetus for creating this exhibition are family album photos onto street maps from Google Maps, from Poltava to Banska Bystrica, where my mother and sister traveled seven days prior to the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I overlaid the silhouettes and curves of the roads from Poltava to Banska Bystrica with photographs, realising that this route was a reliable way to keep them alive. As an artist, I created this work as a metaphor for the modern, globalised world, where you can save a human life with Google Maps or destroy or annihilate it with precise geo-coordinates.
Against the backdrop of the war, I understand the representation and transferring of at least a small history of an ordinary Ukrainian family onto canvas and into the exhibition space as an act of decolonization, a liberation from the Russian Empire and its new colonial plans for Ukraine. My task as an artist is to preserve for the future the image of individual history against the backdrop of public history and to convey the idea that truth and the right to history and memory belong to everyone and not just a tyrant.
Decolonization brings optimism and hope for the freedom and independence longed for over centuries, but hanging over this at the same time is the threat of annihilation, not only of armed people fighting for this independence, but also of documentary evidence of the existence of an ordinary person or his family. When my mother and sister safely reached Slovakia, I remembered the photos that remained in my mother’s apartment in Poltava, where a cruise missile, a shell, or a bomb can hit at any moment. And when all the family photos are disappeared as a result of the house being destroyed, the documents and evidence of my family’s actual existence will also vanish.
In a documentary film, Gerhard Richter says the photo we observe is an optical trap. We don’t know or even have an inkling of what was to the left or right of the edge of the photo image. Our family album includes photos taken by Vitaly Litovka, my stepfather, in 1976 during our trip to Crimea. In most cases they are image pairs from a tourist trip, a young woman under a cypress tree, boys on a boat, the same woman against a backdrop of mountains, sea or beach. But all these photos are pairs of images. In the first image, the action seems to be building, the figures are often in motion. In the second image, the figures at times appear less interesting than in the first picture; it’s now a banal souvenir photo where all the figures assume static poses.
But when placing both images side by side, you can see the expanded possibilities of the optical trap Richter was referring to. Because we observe not only the lapse of time between shots, but also the subjects and the photographer, we see additional details on the margins of what is happening. Art historian Jerry Saltz says that paintings have time locked into their surface. The past, the present, and the future are locked into the paired images and are suspended in front of the viewer. And if we speak of time, then it moves much more slowly here than between other captured events, at a speed viewers themselves determine.
When we are faced with the existential decision of which position we want to take in a radically changed world, then our relatives in our family album help us. They look at us decades later and tell us not to be afraid to make that choice. Good or bad, there is a way. And the opportunity to make a judgement is given to us as viewers of their history.