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Ukrainians mobilize to ‘reclaim our art, reclaim our artists’



Marta Trotsiuk has always loved Ukrainian contemporary art. Her personal collection brightens up her dim but warm living room in central Lviv, illuminated only by twinkling lights. Even when the power is on, energy conservation has become a way of life in Ukraine.

When the Russian invasion happened nearly a year ago, Trotsiuk recognized that Ukrainian art and culture — and her connections as president of the Ukrainian Gallerists Association — could be the weapons by which she contributed to the war effort.

She says the conflict in Ukraine has highlighted the importance of art and how it can help document history while offering insight into Ukraine’s dynamic culture. Trotsiuk hopes art can also be used as a pressure point to help end the war.

It took only five days for her to assemble like-minded Ukrainian artists and art curators in a group she called Culture Against Aggression.

Woman with long blonde hair and wearing black dress sits on sofa next to woman with short black hair and wearing a face mask and dress, and holding a microphone, under a screen with text Impose Cultural Sanctions On the Russian Federation.
Marta Trotsiuk, left, is interviewed on stage at an event in Taiwan. Trotsiuk and other Ukrainian artists and gallerists have been urging the international arts community to join a cultural sanctions campaign against Russian artists. (Submitted by Marta Trotsiuk)

“We decided to enrol in this cultural diplomacy,” Trotsiuk said. “We decided to communicate with our colleagues abroad and first ask them to impose cultural sanctions on the Russian Federation, and then to ask them to invite Ukrainians to talk on the international level through culture and art about the situation and about the truth that we have here.”

She said the ask seemed simple enough, but it was initially met with a great deal of resistance.

“When the war started we saw that many of our colleagues abroad — in museums, cultural institutions — they wanted to do something,”  Trotsiuk said. “And they made a lot of mistakes.”

She says they wanted to bring Ukrainians together with Russians and Belarusians to show unity and to show that art can be bigger than politics.

“It’s impossible to have in one room representatives of those three countries. But our colleagues, they just didn’t understand that,” she said.

Sanctions aim to ‘put pressure’ on Russia

Trotsiuk has felt disappointed that some of the most famous and visible Russian personalities in the cultural sphere have failed to speak out against the violence their government is perpetrating. She said international institutions then giving them the spotlight is unacceptable, and that barring individuals from their respective fields may put pressure on them to change their approach.

This week, the latest ask by Ukraine on the cultural sanctions front has been for Russian athletes to be excluded from the 2024 Summer Olympics to be held in Paris, a request being supported by a lengthening list of countries from around the world, excluding Canada.

“For the whole Ukrainian sports community, this is a question of principle,” said Ukraine’s sports minister Vadym Guttsait.

Trotsiuk said it’s not hard to find examples to explain why Ukrainians and Russians standing next to one another on a stage can feel impossible. She points to a vivid painting on her wall, set in dramatic shades of pink. It was made by local artist Zirka Savka before the invasion.

“Her husband, from the second day of the war, he went as a volunteer to the army. He’s also an artist and he exchanged his paint brush for a machine gun,” Trotsiuk said.

She said Savka travelled to Taiwan late in 2022 with Trotsiuk, to showcase Ukrainian culture and the way of life that Ukrainian soldiers are fighting to save. All the while, she was worried about if her husband would live to see tomorrow. Trotsiuk said the idea that anyone would ask this artist or any Ukrainian to then share a stage with a Russian is unthinkable.

“And her art, it’s changed also because of the war,” Trotsiuk said.

Scrolling through Savka’s Instagram account, the brilliant pinks and purples are no more, swapped out now for reds, blacks and oranges. The images have a much more visceral, graphic or violent feel to them now.

Destroyed vehicles being used as artists’ canvases in Ukraine

As many parts of Ukraine rebuild from ruins, a project in Irpin has artists painting sunflowers on burnt-out cars to help raise funds for local causes. But not everyone is on board with the idea.

The shifting of art in all its forms will document the timeline of this conflict, of this dark chapter in Ukrainian history. The Ukrainian government has invested in a number of programs to capitalize on the country’s rich resource of artists.

One such program is the Metahistory Museum, which is publishing a work of art every day of the war to document the conflict’s progression from an artist’s point of view. Those digital images are then sold as NFTs (non-fungible tokens) to raise funds for Ukrainian cultural institutions, many of which have been targeted by Russian bombs.

For Alice Zhuravel, this project was a welcome opportunity to step back into the art world. Zhuravel had been trying to make a name for herself as an artist but last February, she felt so pressed by the urgency to help her country, she instead moved into the humanitarian aid sector, where she documents the experiences of Black Ukrainians and Ukrainians with diverse backgrounds.

“With the humanitarian work, you can see your results in the same day,” Zhuravel said. Initially, that’s what she needed, but a year in, she is eager to return to art in a public way. She has, all along, done it as a manner of reflection and self-care, and hopes to find more time and space for her art moving forward.

Woman with reddish brown hair and wearing a knit headband and a blue winter jacket stands on a city street.
Artist Alice Zhuravel in Lviv, Ukraine, where she moved with her mother just days prior to the invasion. (Sarah Lawrynuik)

“Art, for me, is a very important field in the long-term, the best for social change and for the building up of positive culture,” she said.

The work she submitted to The Metahistory Museum was a digital 3D piece meant to document the tragedy in the destruction of Ukrainian land.

“They destroyed for many years our harvest,” Zhuravel said. “This harvest of grain and sunflowers, for example.”

The Metahistory Museum has raised more than $1.3 million so far.

This year, Ukrainian governments and citizens are engaging in broad conversations about how to remove Russian cultural influences from all realms of Ukrainian life — the derussification of the country — from street names to the debate about removing Russian poet and playwright Alexander Pushkin’s name from the theatre in Kharkiv. Conversely, Ukrainians are trying to reclaim other famous artists they say had been previously identified as Soviet, or Russian.

“It’s complicated because all the time Ukraine was suffering, we couldn’t get our full independence for a long time,” Trotsiuk said. “But our culture was, all that time, with us and identity also. [And it is time] to reclaim our art, reclaim our artists.”


Sarah Lawrynuik is a freelance journalist who reports on climate change and conflict and is currently based in London, UK. She’s covered news stories across Canada and from a dozen countries around the world, including Ukraine, Hungary, France and Iraq. She has also worked for CBC News in Halifax, Winnipeg and Calgary.


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Is This The Actual Cover-Art For ‘The Winds Of Winter’? – Forbes



I’ve penned many an article and blog post about the long, long wait between books in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song Of Ice And Fire upon which the HBO hit show Game Of Thrones was based. Mostly, when I post these it’s some kind of grappling with disappointment, some attempt to give up the ghost and move on from what used to be my favorite fantasy series of all time.

After all, the world has changed since A Dance With Dragons released back in 2011. I’ve changed, too. Maybe I should be able to move on now, nearly twelve years later. I wish I could.

Today, however, I come to you with that terrible, wonderful poisoned chalice: Hope. Winter may be coming at last, and just in time for spring. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a “chalice half-empty” kind of guy when it comes to Martin’s novels. I love his writing—just not the pace of his prose.


But now we have this possible cover art for The Winds Of Winter and while it might not be the official cover art for the book it also might be. The artist, Ertaç Altınöz, released the below image a few days ago on Instagram and Art Station and it’s possible this is more than just fan-art. This is, after all, the same artist who did the cover art for The Rise Of The Dragon, the new illustrated book set in Martin’s fictional realm of Westeros.

I reviewed that book not too long ago, and it really does have a bunch of lovely art.

That lovely artwork on the cover of Belarion the Black Dread? That’s by Ertaç Altınöz. So when he posted this cover of The Winds Of Winter, I stopped and took note:

When a follower on Instagram asked the artist if this was the official cover, since he’s worked with Martin before, Altınöz replied “I have my moments David, so who knows, my friend?”

That’s what we call ‘playing coy’ and could mean a lot of things. It doesn’t rule out the possibility that this is, indeed, the long-awaited Winds Of Winter cover. Then again, it’s far from a sure thing.

Let’s pretend it’s the real deal for a moment. If it is, that could also mean that we’re getting an official announcement of some kind—perhaps even a release date!—in the not-so-distant future. In the artist’s other Instagram posts, he typically notes when something is a fan poster or fan-art and he doesn’t do that here. Then again, when he posts the official artwork, it usually is accompanied with some kind of publisher copyright—and this, I’m afraid, has none.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m thinking it, too. This is probably nothing, signifying nothing, a bit of fan-art from an artist as hopeful as the rest of us that Martin will finish the damn book and we can all wait another decade for the last one (to probably never come out). I’m not bitter, you’re bitter.

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Imaginary Friends: Barcelona art show aims to connect with our inner child – The Guardian



Nine leading contemporary artists have come together to create an interactive exhibition in Barcelona for kids – and anyone in touch with their inner child.

“Before the pandemic we had the idea of mounting an exhibition of contemporary art for people of all ages, something that children could relate to but also so that older people could relive the experience of being a child and participate as if they were children,” said Martina Millà, who jointly curated the show at the Fundació Joan Miró with Patrick Ronse, the artistic director of the Be-Part contemporary art platform in Belgium.

Millà added: “There’s much in this exhibition that’s therapeutic, above all a return to a pre-pandemic spirit after we’ve all suffered so much.”

Tails Tell Tales, an installation by Afra Eisma.

The show, titled Imaginary Friends, brings together installations from nine contemporary artists, several of whom are known to Ronse from his involvement in the 2018 Play festival of contemporary art.

Outside, at the entrance to the exhibition, visitors are invited to sit on Jeppe Hein’s beguilingly convoluted bench, conceived as a riposte to the hostile architecture of street furniture, such as benches designed so that homeless people cannot sleep on them.

One of the most striking installations is We Are the Baby Gang, a collection of colourful, feathered polar bears created by Paola Pivi, an Italian artist who lives in Alaska, which Millà says is designed to make us consider the anthropomorphic way we look at animals.

Pipilotti Rist’s oversized sofa

The creatures are very tactile but this part of the show is not interactive, leaving one small and disappointed boy to go into a screaming meltdown when he was told off for touching the exhibit.

That aside, the gallery is filled with the babble of excited children and the British artist Martin Creed’s Half the Air in a Given Space gives them plenty of opportunity to let off steam.

Creed has filled a room almost to the ceiling with large orange balloons, creating an immediate feeling of disorientation and claustrophobia accompanied by an irresistible impulse to burst out laughing.

Perhaps the most engaging work in the show is the Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist’s oversized sofa and armchair. Sitting on the enormous sofa, with your feet barely reaching the edge of the seat, never mind the floor, is an Alice in Wonderland moment that provokes a powerful physical memory of childhood.

“These works are a way of inventing a parallel life,” said Millà. “It’s like having an imaginary friend, and also a means of escape.”

Imaginary Friends is at the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona until 2 July

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Inspired by a Lifetime exhibition showcases art by nonagenarians –



A local artist is capturing the beauty in sunset years by teaching seniors how to paint. Their work has made the walls of a local gallery. 

“I thought I’d be dead before I got famous. Thank God that’s not the case,” jokes 92-year-old Keith Sumner, one of the many seniors whose original art is displayed at the exhibit titled Inspired by a Lifetime at Stonebridge Art Gallery.

A resident of Leacock Retirement Lodge in Orillia, he is one of the students taking lessons with Lisa Harpell, an Elmvale-based artist who has been teaching art classes to seniors in retirement homes in the region. 


The work of about 40 senior artists ranging in age from 81 to 101 years old from seven retirement communities is on display at the Wasaga Beach gallery until March 27. The show includes work done by residents from Waterside Retirement Lodge (Wasaga Beach), Chartwell Whispering Pines (Barrie), Aspira Waterford Retirement Residents (Barrie), Allandale Station (Barrie), Lavita Barrington Retirement Lodge (Barrie), Bayfield House (Penetanguishene), and Leacock Retirement Lodge (Orillia).

The exhibition also includes Harpell’s paintings and sculptures. 

True to its title, each painting displayed for Inspired by a Lifetime has an impactful story to tell.

Verna Stovold, who suffers from macular degeneration, was one of Lisa Harpell’s students whose work is part of the Inspired by a Lifetime exhibit now on at Stonebridge Art Gallery. Contributed photo by Lisa Harpell

Verna Stovold, who lives with macular degeneration, is one of the many seniors attending the classes.

“Verna paints beautifully because her body remembers how to paint background, middle ground and foreground,” said her teacher, Harpell. “She tells us the paint that she wants and she dabs her brush and goes right ahead and paints. She asks me all the time if it’s okay if she comes to class … I say, ‘Verna, you’re the one that’s inspiring everyone else.’ Because I am holding up [her] paintings and everybody goes ‘wow.’” 

Stovold has two large paintings and ten studies included in the exhibition.

The process of training seniors to paint has been extremely gratifying for Harpell. 

“It is deeply satisfying to the soul. It brings me to tears all the time,” she said. “Because I know that what they created is worth showing. And it needs to be brought to the community not only for their sake, but for the community to realize that anyone can do this. Creativity is something that gives us hope. And that is something that is necessary in this world right now.” 

In her early days, Georgian College, Barrie, grad worked with the late Canadian artist, William Ronald. 

“He really did bring out the kid in me. He was such a kid himself. And that [thought] is what I really try to pass on, not only his legacy. I also find that the child in every one of my students wants to just play with paint and get their hands dirty. And have some fun and laughs,” says the mother of four. 

Alysanne Dever, lifestyle and programs manager at Chartwell Whispering Pines Retirement Residence, said the exhibition and art classes have brought a wave of positivity for the artists, their family, and their caretakers. 

“This is the first time that I have ever seen or heard of an art gallery showing for seniors with no prior experience,” says Dever, noting the opening day reception crowd packed the gallery. “Really, that’s what it’s all about! The residents were so proud that people were complimenting and wanting to learn about what inspired them to paint specific photos. One of our residents actually sold an art piece as well and she was so thrilled!”

Dever is a strong proponent of the benefits of art therapy, and says it provides residents with a creative outlet to express what might otherwise stay bottled up. 

The talented group of senior artists at Chartwell Allandale Station Retirement Residence. Contributed photo by Lisa Harpell

“This allows them to escape from reality, even for a little bit as they immerse themselves in their art piece in that moment,” says Dever. “Art therapy encourages seniors to use their creativity and gives them a sense of control and independence, which are essential qualities as you age.”

Not every brush stroke is smooth, and not every day was wrinkle-free for Harpell while she taught lessons in retirement homes. From outbreaks and whiteouts to loss of confidence, the behind-the-scenes training and coordination to make the exhibit happen meant clearing several hurdles. 

And yet, Harpell says, it is during the most trying circumstances that intuitive art therapy has a larger role to play, especially among the community’s vulnerable ones. Art has played such a role in Sumner’s life, after he picked up the brush in his 90s. 

“Painting puts you in a different mindset. Takes you away from everyday things,” says Sumner. “My perception of things has changed. The sky is different every day… and it intrigues me. I am observing things more critically, in more detail…and painting has encouraged that.” 

The exhibit is supported by the Wasaga Society for the Arts, in part because it helps accomplish the society’s mandate of making art accessible. 

The society’s interim president, Steve Wallace, said the group aims to introduce the community to all kinds of art, and to promote diversity and inclusion for artists and patrons. 

The Inspired by a Lifetime exhibition runs at the Stonebridge Art Gallery until March 27 on Thursdays and Saturdays and on Monday, March 27 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Lisa Harpell at the Christopher Cutts Gallery in Toronto where she attended an event honoring her late mentor Canadian artist William Ronald. Contributed photo by Antoine Adeux

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