Street artists give Kiev a col­or­ful makeover

The China Post - - ARTS - BY OLGA SHYLENKO

In a mu­ral splashed across a four-story build­ing in cen­tral Kiev, a small boy non­cha­lantly throws pa­per planes.

The peace­ful im­age is just one ex­am­ple of the col­or­ful street art spring­ing up across the Ukrainian cap­i­tal, re­flect­ing a new mood of op­ti­mism in a city once criss­crossed by bar­ri­cades.

The artist, 28- year- old Olek­sandr Kor­ban, is a for­mer miner who fled the armed con­flict in the sep­a­ratist Don­bass re­gion of eastern Ukraine.

His mu­ral de­picts a small boy called Lev, the son of friends of the artist who gave him shel­ter in Kiev and “helped me in dif­fi­cult times,” said Kor­ban.

“When I came up with the idea of a boy with pa­per planes, my first thought was of Lev.”

Kor­ban pre­vi­ously worked as a coal miner for five years and Pa­per Planes is his first ma­jor mu­ral in the cap­i­tal.

In Kiev, he found him­self in the

right place at the right time.

Ex­plic­itly Po­lit­i­cal

In just a year, Kiev has ex­ploded with dozens of street art projects cre­ated by both Ukrainian and in­ter­na­tional artists.

Aus­tralian artist Guido Van Hel­ten painted a por­trait of a Ukrainian woman poet Lesya Ukrainka, while Span­ish artist Zosen Ban­dido trans­formed a fa­cade with col­or­ful myth­i­cal crea­tures inspired by Ukrainian folk art.

Some of the im­ages are ex­plic­itly po­lit­i­cal.

Ukrainian artist Olek­siy Bor­dusov cre­ated a mu­ral show­ing a fig­ure in Cos­sack dress with the head of a fal­con, a na­tional sym­bol of Ukraine, hack­ing at a two-headed snake.

The snake on the mu­ral ti­tled “Ukrainian Saint Ge­orge” sym­bol­izes the dual threat from Western NATO mem­ber coun­tries and Rus­sia, Bor­dusov said.

“My idea is that Ukraine has be­come a bar­gain­ing chip in the geopo­lit­i­cal game of the West and the East.”

“When thou­sands of peo­ple die in your coun­try, you can’t just pre­tend noth­ing is hap­pen­ing and cre­ate some­thing that doesn’t re­flect that re­al­ity,” the artist said of his de­ci­sion to com­ment on pol­i­tics.

Oth­ers opted to de­pict the Maidan upris­ing that swept away the pro-Rus­sian pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych.

Ar­gentina’s Franco Fa­soli painted a fig­ure wav­ing a Ukrainian flag sur­rounded by Molo­tov cock­tails and men in bal­a­clavas.

Mean­while, a Por­tugese street artist, Alexan­dre Farto, de­picted the first per­son killed in shoot­ing dur­ing the Maidan protests, Ser­hiy Nigoyan.

And much more is yet to come.

New Euro­pean Look

The peo­ple of Kiev mostly sup­port the young artists who are giv­ing the city a col­or­ful facelift.

“Dur­ing work on one of the latest mu­rals, the res­i­dents of the build­ing brought us tea and cook­ies,” says Ukrainian or­ga­nizer Geo Leros.

Leros launched the City Art pro­ject, which aims to cre­ate an art dis­trict in the city cen­ter and is work­ing to find in­vestors and in­ter­na­tional artists.

Ban­dido said that lo­cals re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated his col­or­ful mu­ral and a kinder­garten di­rec­tor even asked him to dec­o­rate its walls.

“There are peo­ple with energy who try to open this city and cul­ture more and more to the world,” Ban­dido told AFP.

Not all Kiev res­i­dents are fans of street art, how­ever, Leros ad­mit­ted.

“When we were work­ing on Le- sya Ukrainka mu­ral, an old woman from the build­ing came up to the artist and started shout­ing that she would only al­low a por­trait of Lenin on her house,” he re­called.

Nev­er­the­less, street art is be­com­ing an in­te­gral part of Kiev’s new Euro­pean look.

Since Au­gust, sight­see­ing tours have taken in the col­or­ful works of art, which are be­com­ing a must-see for city visi­tors.

“The new art ob­jects fit per­fectly with the new, mod­ern and Euro­pean style of the city,” said Kiev mayor Vi­tali Kl­itschko.

(Left) Span­ish artist Zosen Ban­dido poses in front of his un­fin­ished mu­ral on a residential build­ing in Kiev, Ukraine on Sept. 9. (Right) Peo­ple walk in front of a mu­ral on a Kiev build­ing on Sept. 19.


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