Kyiv, April 30, 2016. An exhibition by a French art photographer Yuriy Bilan “Projection” will open on May 4 in Mystetskyi Arsenal, an art center in Kyiv. The author intended to make the photos an artistic projection of stories and events from the past of the West Europe to modern Ukrainian realities. “I came to Donbas a year ago on Easter. After the worship service was over, the men and the chaplain sat at a table, and an image of the Lord’s Supper came to my mind. I understood I want to depict these soldiers similarly to the masterpieces of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Leonardo da Vinci and other great artists. The heroes deserved it. […] It was really important for me to exhibit this series. I wanted to show that these people are not fascist, they simply want to defend their country,” said Yuriy Bilan speaking of the story of the exhibition creation at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
The exhibition displays 16 staged photographs. All of them, except one, were taken immediately in the ATO zone. Rather intense combat activities were taking place in that period. Two pictures were taken in Pisky, quite literally, under fire. “These pictures are something incredible. We travelled along the entire contact line, some 350 meters from the enemy, Yuriy was taking pictures of the soldiers and processing them in artistic manner,” said Andriy Pavlenko, volunteer of the 30th brigade, founder of the charity foundation “In memory of the Hundred of Heaven”. “This photo shoot was absolutely spontaneous… People were engaged in their own business, many of them were resting after the night fighting. Yuriy managed to engage everyone and convey emotions so that it really looked similar to a painting. It lasted only several seconds, and he managed to capture them,” said Volodymyr Olenevich, deputy platoon commander, howitzer battalion of the 30th Novograd-Volynsk-Rivne brigade. Olenevich become one of the characters of the photo “Zaporizhian Cossacks are writing a letter to a Turkish sultan”. Most people in the pictures are Ukranian troops, but there also are other characters – a “Little Prince” – a boy from a near-front area, and a Ukrainian “Girl with a pearl earring” – a combat nurse, and volunteers.
It is not the first opening of the exhibition. Previously, it was displayed in the Administration of the President of Ukraine for some time. “Over two dozen of world leaders saw the exhibition – Joe Biden, Radoslaw Sikorski, Tony Abbott, Andrzei Duda and many others,” said Gennadiy Kurochka, co-founder and member of the Board at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. Children from the near-front area, scouts from NGO “Plast”, and a number of cultural delegations, Ukrainian and foreign mass media saw the exhibition. “Bilan’s picture will be accessible for the general public in Mystetskyi Arsenal. I believe the transformation will be no less interesting for Mystetskyi Arsenal than it was in the corridors of the Presidential Administration, when the gallery turned into intimate small space where all the attention is drawn to the photos and our heroes,” said Natalia Popovych, co-founder and member of the Board at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “We presume there will be a large-scale excursion program for soldiers. We invite combat veterans, lyceum students, cadets and students of military institutions to come and draw inspiration from these incomparable works”. The exhibition will be open for visitors from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. until May 14, with free admission. Following this, the exhibition will travel to different Ukrainian towns and then abroad – to Toronto, New York and other biggest cities.