Vlada Ralko
Ukrainian artist, member of the National Union of Artists of Ukraine, laureate of Women in Arts 2019 award. Prize-winner of Ukrainian triennial art (2001), CCN Graz (2007) scholar. Her artworks were exhibited at Lincoln Center (New York, USA), Rebellminds gallery (Berlin, Germany), Kunstlerhous (Vienna, Austria), Saatchi Gallery (London, United Kingdom).
Projects should appear under such circumstances when thought is shining right through them
I need solitude and space while I work on my projects. However, there are no special conditions, and there could not be any that could guarantee an artwork to be born. Emotions are, probably, standing in the way of the work the most. Because of that, it was difficult for me to work on the 'Kyiv diary' (art project, which included a series of drawings about events in 2013-2016 in Ukraine), where it was almost impossible to dissociate from your own views and emotional attachment.

An artist has to create art, not to the extent of his abilities, but to the extent of the impossible. Artist's position is not in his intention, but in his artwork, and it could be clear or incomprehensible, or untimely. The creation of identity is impossible to direct from outsideit is always an inner effort, that for me is mostly possible through art.

During school, I was repelled from the upbringing in line with official propaganda. Once, during a family holiday, I was struck by how my grandmother's friend, always cultured and strict, was talking Ukrainian to her little grandson––not to show off or to educate, but during a quiet intimate conversation. I also felt interested in Ukrainian poetry early on.
'The Forest Song' by Lesia Ukrainka (Ukrainian writer, translator, folklorist, public and cultural activist, and a pioneer of the Ukrainian feminist movemen) touched me on a personal level not because it was a love story, but because of the prism of the national myths. She created a universal formula, through which I was able to perceive the world
In 2014 I made several artworks where real monuments like Shevchenko's statue were replaced by axes. In this way, I wanted to clarify the personality of the hero––he is an embodiment of constant struggle, resilience, will, energy and freedom
During Maidan protests (mass protest movement in 2013-2014 against corruption and in support of the European direction in Ukraine's foreign policy), I was impressed by the way of expressing resistance through endless singing. When it was clear that no words would work, songs were giving strength to the protesters.

I remember very well that during Ukraine's independence referendum I had no doubts about my political choice, I had absolute inner confidence. The fact that I started studying at the Art institute that was a Soviet establishment, and finished studying in an independent Ukraine, is a true gift.

However, we have a lot of work to do when it comes to communication between the government and the creative field. In order to build a foundation of national identity, it is not enough to appropriate vyshyvanka (the casual name for the embroidered shirt in Ukrainian national costumes) or the composition of a national icon.

The creation of developed establishments in a field of contemporary art also has to become a national tradition. At present, we could consider а revolutionary fact that the 2021 Shevchenko National Prize was received by Oleksandr Hliadielov (Ukrainian photographer documentalist, photojournalist, known for his coverage of and photo reports from military conflict zones) and this year by Boris Mikhailov (Ukrainian artist, art-photographer, representative of Kharkiv school of photography).

While declaring a complete rejection of Soviet legacy, independent Ukraine often follows previous methods of ideological struggle. The country needs its heroes, however, in the heat of heroism we are at risk of falling into the same trap, made of establishing old symbols and officially approved values.
Painting, as well as music or dance, is one of the first forms of art which existed even before writing. At the same time, this genre is quite tangible, and it is based a lot on the physicality of an artist: his hands or handwriting.

Contemporary media, which seem to deny painting, are only rediscovering its relevance. Something that is perceived as its weakness, like painting reproduction, where genre loses its essence in a digital copy, is in fact its strength. Painting demands a direct presence and acts as a force of gravity.

None of the creative ideas is going to be realised until you start to work on them and develop them through actions. Sometimes, ideas about future projects exist without any development for years. A push for the realisation of these ideas could be a fascinating event or an insignificant moment from everyday life.
However, freedom to choose your views and path is a basic right not only for an artist but for every human. I believe that academic education experience is extremely important and beneficial, but only in cases when a student is able to comprehend it
I was lucky that my parents supported my childhood desire to paint. Since I got an opportunity to do what I liked the most, I never had a thought of stepping away from this path.

Apart from the academic rules and restrictions, Soviet art school students were implanted with an ideology of social realism. This coercion, which was executed by the system starting from childhood, was in fact subtle violence. As kids, we felt it intuitively, but an understanding came later. We, as future artists and executives of socialistic orders, had to recognise the only true way of understanding reality.
The axe cuts knots that are impossible to untie. At first glance, it may seem like a bunch of brute force, however, I consider it to be an embodiment of poetry. The first drawings with this artwork were done within the 'Kyiv Diary' project. Later, I recreated this concept through different forms and techniquesfrom paintings to ceramics.

There is a ceramic sculpture with an axe, named 'Kolyskova' (Lullaby). I came across a collection of old Ukrainian lullabies, and they became a background for my work with the scariest visuals, documentary photos and videos that I used in the project. It is still hard for me to listen to this sound of monotonous, lingering singing.

The popularity of 'Kyiv Diary' is based on its seemingly clear plot, to which every person could add their own impressions or attitudes from their experience. Paintings from this project became the only possible long-lasting statement during the events in Ukraine in 2013-2016. It was not only about Maidan, but also about the beginning of the war, occupation of the Eastern part of Ukraine, and Crimea. This project is like a constant reminder of Brecht's words: "A sound opinion must be brute".