Ukrainian artist Vlodko Kaufman hopes one day he will be able to stop scribbling portraits of troops killed by Russia on utility bills and old tram tickets.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“Every day I keep track of what is happening at the front, how many are killed, wounded, missing or captured,” the 65-year-old said.
He matches each grim report with a quick biro headshot of the same brooding soldier on whatever paper is lying around.
On a table in his gallery in western Ukraine, Kaufman spread out hundreds of identical images of the combatant in a helmet. The most recent stretched out in rows on furniture assembly instructions, a photocopy of his passport, or a plane ticket.
“This work is a requiem that will be performed as long as the war lasts,” he said.
“I will only stop drawing when the conflict is over, so who knows how many more there will be.”
The artist started his project in 2014, when fighting first flared between Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists in the country’s east.
But since Moscow launched a full-scale invasion of his country on February 24, he has been drawing with increasing regularity, he says.
Kaufman is only one of many Ukrainian artists in the relatively sheltered western city of Lviv employing their talent to record the horrors of war, call for the world’s attention, or simply support those affected.
A short walk away, at the top of a winding wooden staircase, 49-year-old Serhiy Savchenko stood in his paint-splotched studio next to one of the few paintings he has managed to create in recent weeks.
“It’s called ‘Green’,” he said, after the military shade that has pervaded daily life.
Dozens of tiny abstract figures representing the civilians who have signed up to fight parade across the canvas.
Savchenko said he needed to paint so he could “breathe”, but these days art had taken a backseat. Requests for paintings and exhibitions would have to wait.
“We are at the top of Western interest, but we have to use it to get more aid,” he said.
The established artist has transformed his gallery in Poland into a logistics centre to ship in supplies.
He spends much of his day on the phone, and his new profession sometimes involves stuffing tactical boots with medical supplies and chocolate.
“I try to invest all my artistic knowledge, all my contacts, all my time, all my health into the situation,” said Savchenko, one of many improvised go-betweens hooking up donors with Ukrainians in need.