Artist cre­ates bullet shell Putin por­trait


A young Ukrainian artist has cap­tured global media at­ten­tion by cre­at­ing a strik­ing por­trait of Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin out of 5,000 bullet shells col­lected in the sep­a­ratist east.

Daria Marchenko’s “The Face of War” — a re­mark­ably re­al­is­tic and po­lit­i­cally tinged de­pic­tion of Putin in a dark suit and red tie — stands more than two me­ters tall and dom­i­nates the artist’s stu­dio apart­ment.

“Sleep­ing in the same room with him was a bit scary at first,” says the 33-year-old artist and graph­ics de­signer. “But I got used to it.”

She draws the win­dow cur­tains and picks up a hand-held lamp to re­veal how the 62-year-old Rus­sian leader’s face changes ex­pres­sion un­der dif­fer­ent light.

His deep-set eyes turn from gloomy to more light­hearted as Marchenko — her own right eye­brow pierced and fin­gers weighed down by heavy me­tal rings — shines the lamp around her un­usual work.

“He can be proud, con­fused or se­ri­ous,” says the artist. “He can look like a per­son on a Soviet poster or he can be Su­per­man.”

Her story has been cov­ered by the UK’s top media out­lets as well as ma­jor Euro­pean and Aus­tralian pa­pers and tele­vi­sion chan­nels.

But the artist has re­ceived barely a men­tion in Rus­sia — Ukraine’s gi­ant neigh­bour where Putin’s ap­proval rat­ing is huge and de­nial of any in­volve­ment in the 16-month con­flict is ever-present in the state­dom­i­nated media.

Only Rus­sia’s pop­u­lar Moskovsky Kom­so­mo­lets broad­sheet broke ranks by de­vot­ing a two-sen­tence para­graph to March­neko’s work last month.

In­ter­rupted Life

Marchenko does not con­ceal her deep-seated sus­pi­cion that Putin per­son­ally in­sti­gated a con­flict that has killed nearly 7,000 peo­ple since break­ing out af­ter Kiev’s ouster of a Krem­lin-backed pres­i­dent.

“When peo­ple see his ex­pres­sion change, it re­veals cer­tain things. To me, this war is dif­fer­ent from all oth­ers be­cause it is built on a lie.”

Buck­ets and wooden crates filled with bullet cases oc­cupy the cen­ter of the artist’s small room.

Her first hand­ful of shells came from her boyfriend — an ac­tive mem­ber of the Euro­maidan move­ment that top­pled the cor­rup­tion­stained and deeply un­pop­u­lar pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych and forced him into self-im­posed Rus­sian ex­ile.

But her pe­cu­liar art sup­plies now come from friends fight­ing across the war zone in eastern Ukraine’s in­dus­trial heart­land.

“A bullet shell is a sym­bol of an in­ter­rupted life,” she says gravely.

“The world does not re­al­ize just how much my coun­try has lost. So this de­sire to work with more and more shells came nat­u­rally.”

Putin’s por­trait is the first in a se­ries en­ti­tled “The Five El­e­ments of War.” Two oth­ers — to be pos­si­bly con­structed out of weapons or other bat­tle rem­nants from the dev­as­tated front — will be ded­i­cated to the “heart and spirit” of war­fare, Marchenkpo says.

Another might be called “The Brains Be­hind the War” but she says the fi­nal work’s ti­tle is still a se­cret.

“Un­for­tu­nately, war gives artists like me a lot of ma­te­rial to work with,” she says.

Putin of­ten de­nies pay­ing much at­ten­tion to the media or think­ing about his his­toric legacy.

But Marchenko is cer­tain that the Rus­sian leader — more and more por­trayed as a hero in Moscow’s art gal­leries — has al­ready seen im­ages of her work.

“I might be too naive, but I do hope that he at least thinks about it and asks him­self whether this is how he would like to be re­mem­bered,” she says.


Ukrainian artist Daria Marchenko holds bul­lets in her hands in front of her por­trait of Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in her stu­dio in Kiev, Ukraine on Fri­day, Aug. 7.

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