Ceremony for Twenty People

Acrylic and oil on canvas

On the evening of February 23, we came home from the studio. Over the previous several months, we did preparatory work, developing sketches and preparing canvases. The 23rd was our final stage—all three paintings were made that day. Tired and exhausted, we went to bed, unaware that the Great War[1] would begin in 4 hours.

While working on these pieces, we explored the topic of burying homeless people and the industry of funeral services, which has become a profitable business, but also one denying humanity. After death, the bodies of the homeless are stored in the morgue for up to six months, and if no relatives are found during this time, they are given to the earth. Burials without a priest, plates with numbers and trenches for batches of 15–20 bodies. In our opinion, the ritual of burying homeless people is important from a humane point of view-regardless of whether such a person had relatives or friends, they still deserve dignified treatment.

When the Great War began, there was no room for art in our lives, and when it appeared again, it became clear that our perception transformed greatly, and the usual practices and methods of reflection common to us began to disappear. This series of artworks became the last breath of that former life filled with aspirations until reality began to cause so much pain, and war crimes revealed to us the horrors of inhuman nature.

After the counteroffensives of the Ukrainian troops in the de-occupied territories, terrifying facts and places of mass burials are revealed. Mostly the victims of war are buried in these graves: brutally killed, tortured to death, killed by artillery fire or died due to lack of medical care. Trenches, plates with numbers, and mass graves seem to repeat the same ritual. As a symbol, ritual is devoid of humanity. This artwork seems to be a premonition of the genocide of the Ukrainian people.

[1] The Great War — Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine since February 24, 2022; the third stage of the Russo-Ukrainian war.

Photos by Yevhen Vshyvtsev.

Three practices of realism. Ceremony for Twenty People

Three practices of realism. Ceremony for Twenty People

Three practices of realism. Ceremony for Twenty People