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27 April - 2 September 2023


Curator Lilia Kudelia


The installation at the Ukrainian Museum includes early works from the Count down series

(2011), in which Khomenko reimagines prominent and widely reproduced socialist realist battle

paintings by Soviet Ukrainian artists who witnessed World War I. Her highly abstracted copies

of Chornomortsi (Landing on the Black Sea, 1947) by Victor Puzyrkov  (2) and Vidpovid

Hvardiitsivminometnykiv (The Response of Mortar Guardsmen, 1949) by Fedir Usypenko (3) stand as a

keen investigation of these original paintings, which exemplify the propaganda and fake narratives

of the Soviet visual tradition. In her canvases, Khomenko eliminates the valorous figures of soldiers

and military equipment, foregrounding instead the depopulated terrain.

Painstaking confrontation of the monumental socialist realist aesthetic has been the core of

Khomenko's practice for over a decade and set her on a path to exploring abstraction. In her

new series Fragmented Surveillance (4), created for the Ukrainian Museum exhibition, Khomenko builds

upon the haze of war in cyberspace. The intentional, protective technique of blurring soldiers' faces,

strategic sites, and landscapes on photographs from military zones finds its way into Khomenko's

portrayals of unidentified armed figures (as if in the crosshairs).

The artist sees the practice of obfuscating wartime photographs in social media essentially as

layering. She emulates this protective photographic layer to experiment with the surface of painting.

At this stage, abstraction signals immunity. Khomenko's blurred pictorial language is further

compressed by rolling the canvases into scrolls. (Trans)portable, archivable, the paintings in the

MPATS series capture Khomenko's own experience of living through war and evacuation, and

witnessing warfare in real time. With a limited palette evocative of military colors, the canvases melt

into the space, disguising as architectural interior elements. They also become kinetic obiects that

transgress their own pictoriality to stand in for mockups of manportable air-defense systems,

anti-tank weapons, or other artillery projectiles (MPATS = manportable anti-tank systems) (5).

In her new series AJS (After Janet Sobel) (6, 7), Khomenko initiates a dialogue with the Abstract

Expressionist painter Janet Sobel, whose early works are concurrently on display at the Ukrainian

Museum. This installation bridges decades of narratives that were fragmented and concealed due to

forced migration, resocialization, ruptures, and survivals. Aiming to connect with former generations

of expatriates, Khomenko adopts a confessional approach, which allows her to articulate the

question: What signifies the artist's presence? Does it overlap with the artist's physical body or

political body, or with the produced images? And where is Khomenko as a person, in the moments

of offering her artistic gestures in institutional spaces, grappling with her own unresolved

displacement, and taking care of her

"social body" in Ukraine?

Recalibration of the scale for Khomenko - on both the pictorial and the conceptual levels - is a

direct outcome of the Russian military aggression that has changed civilians' lives irrevocably. The

artist's turn to abstraction also reminds us how contemporary society is structured by the

photographic image and dependent on its uses. Trained initially as a stage designer, Khomenko

uses painting as a tool to articulate the surreptitious logic of orchestrated spaces and grand

narratives. The works in this exhibition prompt us to investigate the borders of pacifism, passive

witnessing, and voluntary involvement in a politically present social body.

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