Ukraine's destroyed mosaics recreated for London exhibition

'Discover Ukraine: Bits Destroyed' will project images of some of the country's works of art as part of the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival

Mosaics are an important architectural feature of Ukrainian public spaces but many have been destroyed by Russian shelling.  PA
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Aspects of Ukrainian culture that have been shattered since the Russian invasion six months ago are being recreated at an audio-visual exhibition in London as an “urgent reminder” of the damage to the country’s heritage.

As part of the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture by the British Council and the Ukrainian Institute, the instalment called “Discover Ukraine: Bits Destroyed” will project images of 56 Ukrainian mosaics on to the walls of the Old Royal Naval College in London.

Running from August 26 to 29, the exhibition is part of the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival.

The immersive motion-activated spectacle will display mosaics created by Ukrainian artists between the 1960s and 1980s and photographed by Kyiv-based photographer Yevgen Nikiforov.

Organisers say the “brightly coloured, hyper-intricate” digital projections mask the “alarming message that most of them have been destroyed by the ongoing war.”

Creative Director of the Ukrainian Institute Tetyana Filevska said that hundreds of cultural objects around the country have already been destroyed since the Russian invasion and she fears for the preservation of others.

“This part of our heritage is difficult to preserve during the devastating war. A significant part of mosaics will not survive in it,” said Ms Filevska from Ukraine.

“[This exhibition] is a way to keep at least a memory of it as part of Ukraine’s rich heritage that the world has just started to discover.”

The United Nations' cultural protection agency has already verified damage to 179 sites in Ukraine since the war began on February 24, including 77 religious sites, 13 museums, 34 historic buildings, 29 buildings dedicated to cultural activities, 17 monuments and nine libraries.

The fleeting projections will be accompanied by sounds of war produced by Ukrainian multi-genre instrumental duo Ptakh Jung and will draw attention to both Ukraine’s cultural legacy and losses.

Discover Ukraine: Bits Destroyed is part of a year-long UK/Ukraine 'Season of Culture' which will be projected on to the walls of the Old Royal Naval College in London. Photo: Greenwich+Docklands International Festival

Among the works on display are the Tree of Life and Boryviter (Kestrel) by Alla Horska, a significant figure in the Ukrainian dissident movement of the 1960s. Created in Mariupol in 1967, the originals of both were destroyed by Russian shelling on July 22.

Mosaics have been an important architectural feature of Ukrainian public spaces for decades, with many political, social and cultural meanings interlaid in the works of art.

The current installation was originally created in 2019 as a celebration of the country’s cultural tradition.

Exhibition curator Yevgen Nikiforov says the purpose has now turned to raising awareness about its destruction.

Photo of 'Boryviter' (Kestrel) by Alla Horska, before and after the shelling. PA

“Three years ago, we collected dozens of the most interesting mosaics for an animated projection to take a new look at the monumental art of Ukraine in the 20th century,” said Mr Nikiforov, who is also an monumental art researcher.

“Now, these unique objects are under threat, like the entire Ukrainian heritage. Through the display of these works in London, we will inscribe this layer of Ukrainian culture, still not sufficiently studied, in the history of world art.”

The exhibition is being held under the umbrella of the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture, a year-long programme of activity launched by the British Council and the Ukrainian Institute in June to mark 30 years of diplomatic relations between the countries.

David Codling, a director at the British Council, called the installation “an urgent reminder both of the danger to Ukraine’s cultural heritage and the vitality which sustains it.”

Updated: August 23, 2022, 11:46 AM