Decolonization (2023)

Decolonization I, acrylic on canvas, 70×100 cm
This painting explores how colonial powers can appropriate cultural images to assert their dominance over other societies. An example of this is the image of St. George, which appears on the coat of arms of Moscow. This painting from the series Decolonization aims to challenge the notion of a claimed symbolic monopoly on this figure, to reappropriate it and return agency to St. George as a protector against evil, which is deeply ingrained in East-Central European visual culture and beyond. Seen through the lens of decolonization, the figure of St. George counterattacks what is seen by many in Ukrainian society as the Russian cultural and political imperial and colonialist legacy. It aims to break down Russian imagery associated with colonial power structures, reflecting on the “Pushkinfall” and the opposition to the utopian Soviet avant-garde construction advocating for world communism, exemplified by Tatlin’s Tower of the III International. Through this process, the painting challenges us to reconsider the ways in which cultural images are manipulated and controlled by those in power and to recognize the potential for resistance and liberation through the reappropriation of these symbols.
Adding to the context of the St. George figure, the origins of the particular image used in the work can be traced back to a Renaissance piece of jewelry on display at the Dresden Green Vault, which reflects on another imperial notion from Central Europe. Interestingly, it was in this very same gallery from which Carl Fabergé appropriated many ideas for his Imperial Eggs, iconic for Russian aspiration for imperial domination in the region and beyond. This painting belongs to the series that further highlights the complex history of colonial entanglement and appropriation and emphasizes that symbolism and cultural imagery cannot be confined to one particular culture or society, especially in the face of aggression. 

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