Stronger Than Arms

BSMT Gallery’s latest exhibition showcasing Ukranian artwork almost never happened
By Bailey Slater | Art | 19 August 2022

As Ukraine’s Independence Day celebrations loom without any resolve, Dalston’s premiere street art gallery, BSMT, wanted to extend an arm of solidarity. “The atrocities of the war in Ukraine have created a chasm, separating people from families, families from their homes and has directly affected the lives of both of our gallery assistants whose families have suffered loss and a complete change in living circumstances since the war began,” the gallery shared in a statement.

Enter Olga Fedorova and Polina Usenko, two artists (Fedorova is Russian and Usenko is Ukrainian) who have joined together to curate the space’s latest exhibition, Stronger Than Arms. Taking its name from an old film which deals at length with war in Eastern Ukraine, the exhibition finds beauty in the tenacity and passion of the Ukrainian people, and is keen on setting itself aside from a rhetoric of devastation and loss with careful translations of urban and contemporary art from around the country.

Above: Courtesy of Anastasia Belous and BSMT Gallery

But planning an exhibition that pays tribute to the visionaries of a country besieged by war is not an easy nor inexpensive feat. Wartime restrictions meant that many of the participating artists would be unable to leave the country, meaning Usenko had to make the journey by car over an exhausting five days (50 hours!) to retrieve the works. Within three days of setting up a fundraiser to cover the costs of such an unpredictable journey, the duo raised over £1000 for their effort. Usenko took with her a bag full of school books to donate to refugee children in Lviv, a city near the Polish border, and returned with the work of six different artists Stronger Than Arms is beyond proud to champion.

Above: Courtesy of Michael Corobcov and BSMT Gallery

Amongst the mix of participating artists, Anastasia Basou has contributed a surrealist imagining of a rifle-toting Jerry (of Tom and Jerry fame), causing a ruckus at a floating dinner table, while Michael Corobcov’s abstract collages of pin-up girls transposed across harsh, tubular instruments and dripping graffiti flowers speak to the familial innocence of a close relative’s living room. One watercolour composition by Serhii Greh (Ferosone) even features a bouffant-ed poodle and his shell-suited companion, made over in a sheen of lurid watercolours.

‘STRONGER THAN ARMS’ opens with a private view on August 17th and runs until Sept 4th

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