Remember Bucha.


War Diaries. Brussels

Danylo Movchan. Yaryna Movchan.

Gallery of Katarzyna Napiorkowska- Mont des Arts


Exhibition under the auspices of the Embassy of Ukraine in the Kingdom of Belgium

Gallery of Katarzyna Napiorkowska- Mont des Arts
Brussels, Mont des Arts 8

Exhibition: 12/6 -5/7.2023 (windows 7/7 and on appointments)

Russia’s ongoing unprovoked aggression against Ukraine has become a sad inspiration for many artists. The heroic Ukrainian struggle is mainly about culture. It is in the culture that Ukraine’s strength is rooted. It is also the culture that becomes a weapon of war. It draws on artists’ sensitivity and ability to give an individual experience a universal dimension.

This is what makes art so powerful.

Art can speak in a clear voice. We should believe in its potential to change the world for the better.
At the same time, creativity stemming from wartime experience is a crucial testimony. It is an expression of sensitivity and strength because creating always opposes powerlessness.

And Ukraine fights thanks to the power of its culture and identity.

Hence the presented exhibition of Ukrainian artists Danylo Movchan and Yaryna Movchan. Their works are a chronicle of Ukrainian days and nights, experiences that spilled over the entire nation and will constitute a narrative about Europe`s 21st century in the future.
It’s a literal chronicle. The works bear specific dates and refer to events the astonished world learned about daily as of 24 February 2022. They effectively transfer an individual experience to a more public space, transforming it into a timeless, synthetic and explicit testimony of the suffering of Ukrainian people, but also of their incredible courage and resilience.

In the works of the artists appear all the atrocities of war, the victims of which are civilians. The fear of violence, the bitterness of fleeing, the despair of death, and the drama of exhumation are tragically present. In June 2023, a catastrophic flood adds to the long list of war crimes committed by Russians.
Watercolours and paintings constitute a silent and sad commentary on crimes and rapes; it expresses opposition to the war lies used by Russian propaganda and the hypocrisy of the Russian aggressors.

At the same time, these themes somehow contaminate the form chosen by the artists. Pastel colours and the watercolour technique are a very innocent medium in the face of the brutality of the subjects. As if they wanted to talk about a sheer force that awoke as the power of David set against Goliath.
To prove that beauty, sensitivity, faith and hope, and nobility of attitudes will bring salvation from evil.

The exhibition was organized by the Gallery of Katarzyna Napiorkowska in Brussels as part of a series of events supporting Ukraine and above all, as an expression of solidarity towards the heroism of all Ukrainians. Slava Ukraïni! Слава Україні!

Justyna Napiorkowska, PhD
art historian and political scientist
Gallery of Katarzyna Napiorkowska

The exhibition “Bucha” came about as a direct reaction to the events we all witnessed in 2022

First, we all saw the images. In April 2022, more than a month after Russia invaded Ukraine, the world learned about the vastness of crimes committed by Russian aggressors.

Atrocities occurred in many places where the Russians, violating all rules, introduced brutality, rape, murder, terror and torture. Intimidation of the civilian population became a tool of this monstrous war, which made the invader’s behaviour reminiscent of the most sordid past. One of the war reporters in Bucha in the first days after liberation said it was a real Apocalypse.

The images we saw after the liberation of Bucha were a shock.

The power of evil is also expressed in its extreme form. Photographs of reporters, recordings of television stations, stories of survivors and texts of journalists – all this tried to carry the immensity of evil.
These testimonies suffice and need no further comment.

And yet they provoked – justified – an avalanche of reactions. Shocked poets wrote poems. Protesters took to the streets, wrapped in Ukrainian flags. And painters painted.

Andrzej Fogtt created the Bucha series immediately reacting to the atrocities he saw and heard about in various testimonies. He represented a materialised vision of evil, summarized to a minimum – the invaders’ animalism, cruelty, and barbarism taken from the worst images of the past. The Evil in its purest form, undistilled, unordered, uncontained by any rules.

More than a year after the aggression, we learn the details of the Russian modus operandi. We learn about the terrifying methods. We discover that the barbarism does not stop even while confronted with the death it brings: the bodies of killed civilians were left on the streets or buried in mass, anonymous graves.

This war has its image. It is an image of dug-up earth, from which emerge the faces of the murdered, thrown into pits. These are photos of hands bound with plastic wraps. It is an image of the door on which the civilians imprisoned in the cellars tried to record the day of their hard labour, among the fainting and dying of exhaustion, in the lack of water, in the cold, and hunger.

We know these images.

It seemed that in this part of Europe, they were assigned only to the pages of history.
But suddenly, they reappeared, terrifying as ever.
From Fogtt’s perspective, the memory of Katyn, coded somewhere deep in the DNA, certainly awoke where the disgrace of Soviet behaviour was the most evident. Russian version of racism has not changed its methods.
The one from Mariupol seems to be moving among the other voices that have appeared. Vasyl Lyakh, a young artist affected by survivor’s syndrome, started to paint after his city became a field of smoking ruins. The resulting images seem to breathe a disturbing calmness. Two men with their hands tied, their heads bowed in a bottomless collapse. Body – stretched on a long canvas frieze, arranged in a triptych – on one side a shovel, on the other – lush vegetation. Or, finally, the latest painting depicting the earth scarred by bomb falls.

The most important of the exhibits is perhaps a piece of metal – a tin shell, now blackened, bearing the fingerprints of those who later touched it – like signs of life on the messenger which brought death. It is a fragment of a bomb that brought a cruel toll. We list causalities meticulously: the rocket from which the shell comes killed four people and injured 16. These numbers must be translated into an immensity of concrete suffering, fear and grief.