Transformation and fragility instead of depictions of war

Press Release Ukraine Exhibition

A platform for emerging artists and curators from Ukraine opens in the Czech Republic

The Ladislav Sutnar Gallery in the Czech city of Pilsen has been temporarily transformed into a studio of two Ukrainian artists and a curator. Mariia Ralemska, Alyona Tokovenko and Kateryna Tsyhykalo from Kyiv are participants of зараз [zaraz], a Czech project that allows selected artists to continue their artistic activities even in the current difficult situation. 

After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, cultural and educational institutions across Europe launched new programmes supporting artists and other professionals in the field of culture who were forced to relocate. One of them is зараз [zaraz], which means “now” in Ukrainian, developed by the curator of the Ladislav Sutnar Gallery in Pilsen, Jan Van Woensel, with the support of Björn Geldhof, artistic director of PinchukArtCentre, Kyiv. 

“зараз describes itself as a platform for emerging artists and curators from Ukraine. In the current time of geopolitical war, it establishes a free space for artists to work on their projects and research, and to interact with students and professionals of the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art,” says curator Van Woensel. 

Two artists, Mariia Ralemska and Alyona Tokovenko, and a curator, Kateryna Tsyhykalo, have been selected out of an open call that was that was organized by the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art and that received more than 150 portfolios and applications. All three participants of the зараз programme are working on their artworks, site-specific projects and research at the Ladislav Sutnar Gallery which has been temporarily transformed into their studio for the month of September. 

“In my selection, I consciously didn’t include artists who depict images of the war; a current trend that often results in sensationalism and superficiality. Instead, each in their own way, Mariia Ralemska and Alyona Tokovenko deal with the subjects of transformation and fragility, of a nation and as humans. Kateryna Tsyhykalo focuses on the research of Ukrainian art of the 1960s, and engages in in-depth conversations with the artists in зараз,” explains Van Woensel. 

In her art practice, Mariia Ralemska covers the fields of painting, photography, performance, installation and design and acting. Ralemska studies human trauma and its potential permanent influence on a person’s psyche and personality. She works with subjects such as transformation of memory, loss of home and innocence, life and artificiality, sexuality and the process of recovery from abusive relationships, the role of women in contemporary society, and her body. 

“In the current situation, you just think of completely different things and you even forget that you are an artist. I haven’t created any work of art in the last six months, not until now. I don’t know when I would get back to my artistic activities without this project. I feel safe here,” says Maria Ralemska.  

The artworks of Alyona Tokovenko originate from elaborative thought processes on deconstruction and transformation, the human and the computer, the identity and the societal image of the victim, religion and rituals. Her drawings titled “Human material” were shown at the Lviv Biennale 2022. 

“It’s a paradox, but leaving Ukraine allowed me to find out a lot of new and interesting things about its art scene. It’s difficult for me to establish new contacts, but thanks to the project and the cooperation and long talks with Mariia and Kateryna, I view the situation in Ukraine from a new perspective now,” says Alyona Tokovenko about her participation in the project. 

Kateryna Tsyhykalo is an art historian, researcher, and curator of exhibitions and projects. She researches art of the 20th and 21st centuries as well as of contemporary Ukrainian artists. She is a Research Fellow at the Stedley Art Foundation in Kyiv, and co-founder of a journal dedicated to contemporary art and culture: VONO. 

“I would like to explore the city of Pilsen, its inhabitants and the Czech art. And working with the exhibition-in-progress concept, which means that I observe the artists during their work and simultaneously have to think of how to create an exhibition from it at the end, is a challenge for me as a curator,” adds Kateryna Tsyhykalo. 

The зараз programme is designed as an “exhibition-in-progress”, meaning that the project evolves and changes as the artists progress in their work. Visitors can thus see the зараз Ukraine exhibition already during the process of its creation. The opening of the exhibition will take place on Tuesday, September 27.  

The gallery, named after Ladislav Sutnar (1897–1976), an American designer of Czech origin born in Pilsen, is an important part of the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art of the University of West Bohemia, Pilsen, Czech Republic.


Kateryna Tsyhykalo, Mariia Ralemska, Alyona Tokovenko. Photo: Martina Havlová

Maria Ralemska. Photo: Alexander Dym

Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art

Martin Bečan

21. 09. 2022