Green Sofa Gallery and the intimate resurrection of Ukraine by Petro Smetana
In the Armenian street, right in the heart of the centre of mediaeval Lviv, rises a building that once used to be a tribunal but today has a completely different setting. This particular structure is the Green Sofa Gallery, one of the most renowned art galleries in Ukraine that has joined the Personal Structures exhibition with Resurrection, an installation by Ukrainian artist Petro Smetana at Palazzo Mora.
Green Sofa Gallery in Lviv, Ukraine
The Green Sofa Gallery was founded in 2006 by Olesya Domaradzka, a restorer and graduate of the Lviv Academy of Arts. Located at a site that is today included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, the art gallery has achieved the greatest popularity over the last couple of years. Since its establishment in 2006 and thanks to the constant observation of Olesya Domaradzka, the gallery has had about 300 exhibitions of contemporary art both inside and outside the gallery, taking part in the most prestigious all-Ukrainian projects representing non-state art spaces.
This growth and the desire to present the gallery and Ukrainian art abroad encouraged Domaradzka to explore Venice as its next destination, a city that has always been close to her heart.
Green Sofa Gallery & Petro Smetana
Bringing Ukraine to Venice
Venice had been on the radar for a while and even if the initial idea was not seen through ー the idea of presenting the Ukrainian National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale ー, a new opportunity came forward. The gallery was invited to participate in the Biennial of Personal Structures by the European Cultural Centre which was gladly welcomed by Olesya and Ivona Loban as it meant participating in a multicultural event in one of the most historically artistic cities in the world.
The gallery immediately knew what artist to bring to Venice: Petro Smetana, an artist that has been cooperating with them since he was a student and who did the first exhibition in his life at the Green Sofa Gallery. The strong bond was not the only thing that convinced Olesya to choose Smetana. It was also an artistic decision. Petro’s art is deep and structural, he always raises important issues in his works. In today's world, where too many fleeting and infantile things exist, such unentertaining and timeless topics are sought after by intellectual and thinking consumers of the art product.
Artwork by Petro Smetana
Resurrection by Petro Smetana
The reflections of ‘Resurrection’
In his artistic practices, Petro Smetana refers to landscape and architecture not as a context of human existence but as a reflection of it. He considers the visible material world as a consequence of the transformations that humans and society have experienced, placing the impressions of this reality in his art. This is how he consciously experiences reality. The painter concentrates his work on the things that humans have implemented in the natural environment, turning them into fleeting urban landscapes. According to Smetana, “the scenery that we are contemplating every day is a consequence of humans’ ownership of the landscape.”
The works presented at the Palazzo Mora were created in the background of accumulating anxiety about the security of his country. The Resurrection Project was made before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine’s territory but now it can be read as a prophetic image. “When the paintings were sent to Venice, the Russians just turned the flourishing Ukrainian cities into apocalyptic landscapes and human lives - into dust. We understood this when the world saw the destruction of Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and devastated Mariupol, Azovstal, completely shifting the reality in front of us”, reveals Smetana.
'Resurrection' by Petro Smetana in Palazzo Mora
In his paintings, he portrays the merciless attacks on their identity which took various forms, and presents specific buildings of historical significance in Ukraine, which have suffered from inaction and lack of protection. On the other hand, we can also see some intact objects which, in Smetana’s words, are “the untouched material heritage that has passed into eternity acting as a reflection of the constant and a reminder of the invisible destruction of culture throughout the colonized history of Ukraine”.
Catalysing through art
Throughout history, art has always played an essential role in the portrayal, presentation and denouncement of reality. Today, amidst the unfolding crisis in Ukraine and as a response to it, art can help crystallise the message by taking it out of its complex system and its delicate context. As the artist underlines, “a work of art, even when transferred to another reality, keeps its authenticity and speaks more clearly and deeply than the exhausting flow of news.”
The image experienced by Petro and represented at Palazzo Mora allows visitors to ecologically experience, from a safe distance, the grief and horror of events that are happening in Ukraine. The images poured on the canvases asked viewers anxiety questions, questions he had raised to himself: “I had to find out whether I was seeing the decay of the past, or my current reality, or even the oppressive future. I was deeply anxious about whether a person was ready to take responsibility for the necessary changes.”
Installation Green Sofa Gallery & Petro Smetana | Photo credits: Federico Vespigani
The paintings touch on a complex reality and it is thanks to such an opportunity that the artist has been able to join the voices that share information about Russia's aggression on the territory of Ukraine and highlight the country’s artistic practices in the global context.
While preparing for the exhibition, Smetana explains how during the presentation of the project in Venice they were celebrating Easter in Ukraine. It was both an emotional and significant moment because it is a moment when people unite in waiting for the resurrection of Christ. This resurrection is seen through death, a concept that has now been completely turned upside down. “Today death is so close and ordinary. In fact, death is ahead of life and this is exactly how the painful birth of new spirituality takes place”, reveals Smetana. Green Sofa Gallery and Petro Smetana reflect on this new vision of reality and while the material images are about a difficult waiting in ruins, they are also filled with belief and confidence in the resurrection of Ukraine tomorrow.
You can visit Green Sofa Gallery's exhibition at Palazzo Mora until the 27th of November or discover their work by exploring the virtual tours online. Discover more about artist Petro Smetana and Green Sofa Gallery on their profile online and on Instagram.