“Man must know his weaknesses;discover himself and his negative sides, which is a very difficult task: Evil can hide in the deepest corners of the sub consciousness, flash up and disappear right away, and even have a resemblance to Good.”
Aftermath will feature a significant body of works by Ukrainian artist Vasily Sad (b.1948) shown in London for the first time. At the heart of the exhibition stands Sad’s metalwork ‘Aftermath -dedication to Chernobyl’ (1986), which sheds light on the artist’s profound reflection of this historic event, destiny, the human condition and the dualism of mankind’s soul.
26 April 1986 in the early hours of the morning the city of Chernobyl, 70 miles outside Kiev, went down in history as the reactor of the nuclear power plant exploded and released plumes of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere thirty to forty times that of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Traces of radiation were found in every country in the northern hemisphere and the health impacts of Chernobyl are still ongoing. Being known as one of the greatest industrial accidents and worst nuclear disasters in history, the Chernobyl tragedy demonstrated the disparity in the Soviet system and also became used as a metaphor for the collapse of the USSR.
Vasily Sad is a key exponent of Ukrainian abstract art. Sad graduated from Odessa Grekov College of Arts in 1977 and joined the Odessa school of non-conformism which was active during the so-called Avant-Garde of the ‘second wave’ in the 1960s-1980s. Beginning his artistic career as an impressionist artist, Sad later moved to pure abstract, doggedly believing that it is only with abstraction that one can ‘get through to the secrets of human existence.
In Sad’s search for a manifestation of Ukrainian national identity he found inspiration in folk craftsmanship from wood carving and Easter egg painting to the Lyalka-motanka dolls. The colour palette of the pictures also evokes the Ukrainian tradition of weaving and embroidery. Sad creates several layers of an image, like a carpet-weaver working with numerous colourful threads.
Sad juggles bright colours and delicate brush strokes with the weight of wood, carton, canvas and metal to reflect the dualism of the human spirit -all that is hopeful, light and tender in the human experience is inextricably linked to all that is dark, destructive and violent. He has found the ideal medium to convey these sombre emotions in the shape of torn and punctured metal. Sad’s metalwork shows the violence of the calamitous end of the Soviet Union; a sheet of metal is punched through as if by the radioactive particles from Chernobyl (1986); the piercing of the Opening Iron Curtain work (1990) has a bloody-red background; the rusting metal ugliness of the Map of the World (2011) recalls decommissioned Soviet industries, no longer world-leading.
Yet Sad’s metalwork, as ever, radiates subtlety and spirituality. At one level, punctured metal records the pain of a
collapsing nation; on another, it suggests the beauty of red rose buds, emerging against a metal-green landscape. Both visions compete inside the head of the viewer, but the question of which vision triumphs is left to be answered by each viewer.
Vasily Sad lives and works in Odessa. His art works are in the collections of National Art Museum (Kyiv, Ukraine); Museum of Modern Art (Kyiv, Ukraine); Khmelnitsky Museum of Modern Ukrainian art, Museum of Contemporary Art (Odessa, Ukraine), Odessa Museum of Eastern and Western Art and reputably collected in America, Canada, UK, Italy, Russia and Ukraine.
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