The 28-year-old artist Anastasia Borovenska arrived in Azelo after a long journey from Ukraine. Alone. Leaving her at home. She takes memories, fear, hope and despair with her on a journey. As befits an artist, she records her feelings on paper. Not in clay, which this potter is used to. This material is at home. Far from where her bed is now. In Mary Mediatrix.
To face reality
A Dutch friend introduced her to Kulturhuset and program manager Laura Reymer. “We like to welcome new residents, so the Ukrainians are also our guests,” explains Reymer. Art is also a means of bringing people into contact with each other. “Art connects”, emphasizes the programmer. The idea to exhibit Anastasia’s work was soon born.
On Wednesday, she opened her exhibition with colorful drawings that fit into the naive art movement. With a comprehensive explanation, she took the visitors into her story. In four panels, she interprets her journey full of hardships. The choice to leave the country, to survive. The viewer is confronted with the reality of war. Here you can see and experience what war does to a person. It can hardly be put into words. But in pictures. As Anastasia shows us. This time not through TV, but raw for the eyes.
‘The fight for life’
The artist is a professional ceramicist. She studied art at university. Anastasia worked in Kiev as a potter and as a teacher. On the evening of February 23, she prepared the master class for Saturday. A day later, her world was completely changed by the Russian invasion (second photo in the text). At the beginning of the war, her male colleagues disappeared. The ceramics center closed. After living for ten days in a world of violent explosions and deafening noise (third photo in the text), she decided to leave her homeland.
Through a friend, she ended up with his parents in Enter. This first part of her reality can be seen in drawings on the first panel. The cat she had to leave behind, the loss of reality, the explosions, the feeling of being in a movie, the reception and the good care of a family in Enter. Her energy drained away. She received psychological help from Ukraine. Anastasia finds no words to express her feelings. The help from Ukraine stimulated her to capture the emotions in pictures. Don’t run away from emotions. But meet them on paper. Her emotions needed to be heard in order to deal with the trauma of the war. She felt emotionally crushed. On the first panel (top photo in the text) are the drawings of her first war experiences and ‘the fight for life‘ to find. Next to the views are texts in English and Ukrainian.
After a month, a room in Maria Medriatrix became her new home. Empty, with white walls. She signed and told herself, “Take back control of your life.” The prints were given a place on the pristine white walls. “Make a tiny home”, she decided. She experiences that with all the well-intentioned help pushed be does not suit her. This mantra keeps coming up in her explanations. Give people the space to take the next step themselves. These thoughts and experiences can be observed in the second panel.
Following the constant news and receiving information can drive you crazy. But you can’t live without it. She depicts this in a depiction of a person with extraordinarily large ears. The attacks and fighting in Mariupol can also be found in pictures. Land and homes for relatives disappeared. In this third panel, she illustrates that she needs time. She has lost her life. It is the pain that shows.
But the recovery is coming. She enjoys the many rabbits she sees hopping in the countryside. Something she did not encounter in Ukraine. She feels that this brings joy again. Anastasia can make plans again. But at her own pace. On the last board you can see her revival. Besides pain, hope, despair, anger, vulnerability, also comfort and the step out of the crisis. She is now taking the next step. Painting on canvas. Anastasia prepares existing paintings from the thrift store. To record her own observations of it. Unfortunately, she does not have the funds to buy new blank canvas and other materials.
The Koetshuis artist collective must now see how they can support her. Anastasia is not the only artist in Azelo and Zenderen. The collective would like to get in touch with more Ukrainian artists. To provide help and a stage for the emotions this war arouses. As Anastasia emphasizes: “It is a story of illustrations, not a cry or a manifestation. It is a story about how an ordinary person tries to be there.”
The exhibition in Kulturhuset’s foyer is freely accessible and can be seen until 11 September. (YD)