Digswell Arts Fellow Veronika Peat has part curated the group exhibition, ‘A Corner of the Field of Mars’ at the Broadway Gallery, in support of victims of the war in Ukraine, with all proceeds from sales going to the British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal.
The title for the exhibition and for one of the works by Veronika Peat is drawn from Anna Akhmatova’s Poem without a Hero, begun in 1940 and then worked on for over 20 years until eventually published in 1965. The Field of Mars of Akhmatova is in St Petersburg (Leningrad in Akhmatova’s time) and has been successively swamp, pleasure garden, parade ground, burial place of revolutionary heroes, vegetable garden during the wartime siege, and site of protest. The poem addresses a century marked by wars and revolution. It offers both a memorial and a lament, and is an expiation for the sins of suffering and neglect through those times.
The works by all the participating artists function also as memorial – both in celebration and in regret – for a community of nations which is now torn by this war. As lament, they invoke a longing for redemption and for an end to this suffering. And as expiation they demand of themselves the question of what is to be done?
But this is also an exhibition of hope – hope that out of the urgent deeds and prayers of us all, and here in particular of these seven artists, can emerge a form of resistance that may bring the power to overcome the cruelties and futility of war, and that may suggest the way to win peace and heal this fracture in our world.
These are artists from Ukraine, from Russia or the Russian diaspora, and from England, all of whom are women and all of whom present their own form of opposition to this war but do so here, in this exhibition, as a community. Here, their works in painting, photography, collage, drawing and video are not separated from the political realities of our lives in the context of this war but are offered as what critic Timothy Hyman terms ‘historical witness, a reimagining’. Individually, each artist represents the experience of being a closer or more removed observer of the terrors and traumas of the war, and they all as witnesses make resistant meaning to counter the dangers of a sense of helplessness that may otherwise hinder our response.
It is on the Field of Mars, at the end of the lament that concludes Part One of Akhmatova’s poem, that the cry is heard: “Mercy, oh show mercy, Lord!”
In hope, this cry is what this exhibition asks us all to invoke.
In such times it is not enough to look, or only to look. It is time to feel, to respond, to act.
Exhibiting artists biographies:
Sofiya Chotyrbok (1991, Zolochiv, Ukraine) is a photographer based in Milan. Her research focuses on the theme of identity in post-Soviet society and on the archive as intimate and domestic memory, transformed into universal human matter through photography, video and print on fabric.
By contesting the division between the realm of memory and the realm of experience, Chotyrbok reflects on the closely related subjects of archive and memory.
Moments are depicted that only exist to punctuate the human drama in order to clarify our existence and to find poetic meaning in everyday life. By emphasising aesthetics, she tries to approach a wide scale of subjects in a multi-layered way, likes to involve the viewer in a way that is sometimes physical and believes in the idea of function following form in a work.
Her works directly respond to the surrounding environment and uses everyday experiences from the artist as a starting point. Often these are framed instances that would go unnoticed in their original context.
Her works have been exhibited at major international festivals and museums (Paris, Reggio Emilia, Chicago, Odesa, Milan).
Veronika Peat is a trans-disciplinary artist, based in the UK. She works across filmmaking, drawing, painting, print, and writing. Her practice draws on her experience as an immigrant to the UK (born in Moscow) and perspective as a woman artist, and explores themes of identity, displacement and exile (from country of birth, from one’s prior self, from family and language) and works between documentary and fictional modes. The processes of reimagining real events are central in her approach.
Veronika completed the Drawing Year at the Royal Drawing School, London in 2018. She also studied Digital Arts at the University of Hertfordshire, specialising in experimental narrative and film, gaining MA Hyperfictions in 2005.
Veronika has work in private collections, including the Royal Collection, UK. Her short films have been shown at Teatr.doc (Moscow), Sochi International Film Festival and Awards (Russia), The Eberswalde Film Festival (Germany) and as part of gallery exhibitions, alongside painting and drawing. Exhibitions include: PADA (Lisbon), Pushkin House (London), Luton Hoo and various London venues.
Drawing upon the rich folklore and colonial history of Ukraine, Olha Pryymak paints dramatically disembodied human and plant still lives that can also read as future history paintings. This necessary violence and entanglement with plants aims to
upset the received knowledge of hierarchy and provide the thrill of unbalance in perception and change. She asserts the power of the female form – challenging fundamental ideas around agency. The works leave to the viewer to imagine a world where autonomy and diversity thrives in re-considered relationship with its environment.
Recent shows and projects include: Pi Artworks for Art Basel Hong Kong OVR, May 2022; Sensorium at Verv Lab, London, 2020; Herbal Tea Labo at AIR-Yamanashi, Kofu, 2019; London Creative Network, Space Studios 2018, studio residency at Florence Trust, 2015-2016; Bulldog Bursary with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 2012, BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery 2011.
Kristina Razumova is a visual artist from Moscow, currently exploring the themes of personal trauma (infertility and its impact on a couple’s relationship), and place through personal perception. In addition, Kristina is interested in the concept of propaganda, the phenomenon of post-truth and their influence on society. The artist works with photography, graphics and installation.
Kristina writes: “The projects I was working on before February 24 were put on pause, because my life has changed beyond recognition. The main medium of my creative work is photography. But after February 24, in this new reality, I had absolutely no resources to create a photo project. But the need to record my experiences and emotions was simply vital. Therefore, I created my works in the diary with my hands, they are drawings. Handwork is a kind of art therapy. It helped me to cope with the incredible stress of these three months. In the future, I will most likely come back to photography, but only when I am able to comprehend all this experience.”
Sophie Smith is a multimedia artist who recently graduated from the university of Hertfordshire with a BA in Fine Art. She works in a range of media including paint, animation, and video work. A keen musician, she also creates the audiotracks for her video pieces, believing sound to be as integral to the content as the visuals are.
Smith’s work seeks to explore the emotional complexity inherent in living in a 21st century culture; the way we are manipulated by mainstream and social media, whilst trying to keep up with advances in technology, alongside changes in political, cultural and ecological narratives. Though deeply personal, the artist drives her pieces towards the universal in an attempt to elicit a genuine response in all who come into contact with her work.
Sophie writes: “The Ukrainian poet Galina Rymbu was a fundamental influence for this work, examining, as she does, the crippling anxiety that consumes those living within a destructive society. Her portrayal of the brutality of war and economic struggles is greatly important within contemporary concerns.”
“The Dance of The Locust shows images of nature/man made buildings/animals/ dance and body/ ritualist movements which aim to recreate the multitude of overwhelming ever changing, fleeting moments in life, dominated by creatures all seemingly fighting for power and meaning in modern society. Seen in the spiritual body movements, is a demonstration of the repetitive internal struggle to maintain
mental balance and innocence of the human form. Stripping away the features which make those indifferent and focusing on the raw presence of being.”
Julia Soboleva (b. Latvia) is mixed-media artist based in the UK. Her processes involve painting and collage on found photographic imagery. Being born and
raised in a post-Soviet era Julia explores the notions of madness and reality, family, taboo and trans-generational trauma in her work. She obtained a Master’s Degree in Illustration at Manchester School of Art, and has gone on to work as a freelance illustrator.
Julia writes: “Being raised in Post Soviet Latvia as part of the Russian speaking community, I’ve always struggled to identify the meaning of home and where I belong nationally. Neither Russian nor Latvian, I’ve adapted the stance of an outsider. I’ve been exploring the notions of alienation and displacement through my early work, and some of them are showcased at this exhibition.”
Anna lives and works in London. She studied at the LSE (2005-2008) and at the City & Guilds of London Art School (2013-2014), specialising and winning a prize for her work in sculpture, film, and installation. She completed the Drawing Year at the Royal Drawing School (2015-2016). Her painting practice developed further at Turps Art School (2018-2020) and began to encompass drawing and collage. Recent exhibitions include 2021 Turps Show at Thames-Side Studios Gallery in London, 2020 36th Annual Open Exhibition at Southwark Park Galleries in London, 2020 ‘Of Streets and Monsters’ show at Okna Cultural space in Portugal. Anna was awarded The Moritz-Heyman Residency to Pignano, Italy in 2018, and a residency to Dumfries, Scotland, by the Royal Drawing School in 2017. She received a Young Artist Award at Society of Women Artists Summer Exhibition in 2017.
Anna’s paintings and drawings deal with flickers of thoughts, associations, gestures related to fictional worlds and objects, spaces and characters. They begin intuitively and are open to improvisation and reflection, they remain open ended and go through stages of transformations until they begin to materialise into realities that hold their own ground. The images are fragments of a larger drama unfolding beyond. They explore theatrical narratives as well as tactility of materials.
2 The Arcade
Letchworth Garden City
A Corner of the Field of Mars – Broadway Gallery (broadway-gallery.com)