After the heartbreaking events of the past years during Ukraine’s crisis and revolution, Kiev needed a revival more than ever. The capital as well as its dwellers craved for the renovation not only in a social and political field, but also in a city landscape that still carries scars of the past. The solution local authorities came up with might not be the most obvious one. The decision was to turn Kiev into a street art capital, reconsidering urban spaces and inviting local and foreign artists to partake.
“This world is but a canvas to our imagination,” as said by American author Henry David Thoreau; for street art every wall is a canvas full of possibilities. The aim was to turn this crisis into a productive and relevant force reinventing the city, lightening it up with the power of art. It might seem an easy task, but there were some pitfalls, as usual.
Being part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was isolated from all external influences and trends, just as many other countries of the USSR were. But during the Perestroika in the mid 80s the Iron Curtain loosened its tenacious grip, and information and trends from Western countries rushed in. There were some things that amazed people the most; among those were the hip-hop and break-dance culture, which were totally new and fresh for the Soviet people. These music trends are closely related to graffiti and street artists. That’s how those concepts first landed in Ukraine.
People trying to cope with the new trends, started adopting them to their own mentality and environment. In regards to street art, it is a universal type of art that can be both global and local at the same time. Ukraine was no exception and adopted it, adding some national flavor.
A perfect example of this type of mixture is street art duo Interesni Kazki (Interesting Tales). Their oeuvre is the combination of Ukrainian folkloric characters, traditional stories, and completely surrealistic motives. It is a perfect example of the relevant, authentic style that shows an excellent correlation with Kiev scenery. The subjects vary from the complete abstraction to the depiction of famous Ukrainian personalities and interpretations of folklore and history. It is supposed to reflect the city’s history and interact with the surroundings on the proper level.
They sure look beautiful, but sometimes when a lot of bureaucracy is involved in a process it is hard to conclude whether the style choices are truly suitable for the city. Right now murals are growing all over the capital, transforming the historical center as well as the suburban areas. Difficult to guess where this undertaking will go, it is safe to say that this enterprise can truly embrace urban spaces, giving the streets back to the people, to the artists and create new opportunities within Ukrainian creative scene. As for the aesthetics and relevance – only time will tell.
Images from the website / initiative Kyiv Mural – http://kyivmural.com/ An interactive map exploring murals on streets of Kiev. Words by Liza Gasyuk