Last year, we partnered with Aleksey Postulga, a Ukrainian artist, to develop a number of murals reflecting the struggles and hopes of his country’s people. A year on from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we spoke to Alexey, as well as to members of MAG Ukraine, about the significance of these murals for communities affected by conflict.
In conversation with Alexey
What inspired you to paint the first mural? What do you see when you look at it?
I wanted to be useful as an artist, to do something that would inspire people for the future.
In this mural, I see a girl with a strong character, symbolic of Ukraine. She is strong and purposeful. The path of war is immeasurably painful, but victory and revival await. Mines, rockets, shells - these are the "seeds" that cause death and destruction. But we have to clean our land and sow peace and new life. I hope that the mural will inspire, but also remind people of the danger that war leaves behind for many years to come.
How has the war affected artists in Ukraine?
The war has affected everyone in different ways. Some artists began to actively depict through their work the horrors they had seen and felt, while others continued creating as they did before the war. Some set aside their artistic creativity until after the war, at times trading their brushes for weapons.
As for me, in Kharkiv, at the beginning of the war, all my thoughts were on how to protect my family, my children, and how I can be useful as an artist - to offer my skills for charitable projects.
For me, there was no inspiration to work as an artist. We had experienced too much pain to portray it on canvas or walls. Instead, there was a desire to create a project that would bring peace and support. So, I was very happy to meet MAG and begin our mural project. Security in the mined territories and throughout Ukraine is a very important topic for everyone and for me personally.
What role do you think art and artists have in a time of war?
A very important one. The main task is not to close in on yourself, but to understand it is a time to reveal your full potential. In general, art conveys the spirit of the time in which it was created. And now, more than ever, it is important to raise and carry the spirit of Ukraine. Whether it’s a small canvas in a gallery, a large mural, a digital post or an art installation: everything matters.
How did you discover a passion for art and especially murals such as the ones painted with MAG?
I’ve always had a passion for creative expression and looked for meaning and ideas in everything, whether it was a still life or a portrait. Ever since I was a student at Kharkiv University, I’ve explored the idea that the space in which we are located, which shapes us, is a larger reflection of past moments and ideas. I wanted this also to be a reflection of the present time and the ideas that would help change things for the better and shape the future. Therefore, painting walls became that creative expression for me. My work is aimed at forming a space in which people would feel warmth, and with the help of images, discover a special story for themselves.
In conversation with MAG Ukraine
Can you explain why you decided to use murals?
We realised that Ukrainian people adore murals, and it was really inspiring to see them throughout Ukraine. We thought that murals could be used as a complimentary activity to the risk education sessions we run, which provide communities with life-saving information on how to avoid and report landmines and unexploded bombs. Murals serve as a reminder of the danger posed by explosive remnants of war while looking to a more hopeful future – one where, after clearance work is completed, Ukraine will once again be free from this deadly threat. We also added a QR code on the mural linking linking to our Facebook page, where we publish useful safety information and give simple reminders to people on what to do and who to call if they find a dangerous item.
Have you received feedback from communities on their experience of the murals?
We have received very positive feedback from the local community and local government in Makariv. Among them, Oleksandr Riabtsev, Head of the Humanitarian Demining Sector within the Ministry of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories, told us he was really impressed with the mural and asked for MAG´s assistance to create more of them in newly liberated areas of Kharkiv Province. He appreciated how the murals act as a complimentary measure to share information and remind local communities about current contamination, while clearance operations are ongoing.
What do you see when you look at the murals?
At MAG Ukraine, we see hope for a life free from mines and unexploded ordnance for Ukraine, which we hope will become reality soon. We want these murals to give hope to others too and bring positive thoughts in this difficult time for the people of Ukraine.
More about our work in Ukraine here.