A personal fight for morality in the black and white reality of the grotesque world

A personal fight for morality in the black and white reality of the grotesque world. Confrontation of Ukrainian history and normality with absurdity and injustice of modernity. The mixture of the sacred and commercial influences. The author of these works is the Ukrainian artist Serhiy Kolyada.

Kolyada is getting increased exposure, earning fans among Ukraine’s international community.  Kolyada’s works enjoy broad and stable popularity among foreigners and arouse suspicion and bewilderment among the Ukrainian audience. The national gallery owners flatly refuse to exhibit his works. One reason might be Kolyada’s bleak vision of life in modern Ukraine, as he portrays what he sees happening in the country by combining images from mass culture with those of classical art. That vision can be grim. But depicting social and political problems is not acceptable either for commercial galleries or for state institutions.

The characters of his works are modern-day Ukrainian politicians and demons of the past who changed the face of humanity. His works also include prostitutes, packages of cheap cigarettes and dilapidated constructions. Kolyada incorporates brand names, such as Coca-Cola or West cigarette labels. By turning to black ink and shading the result is a drawing that resembles grainy black-and-white photographs.

Each drawing takes Kolyada one-two months to complete. The ideas of drawings come to him in his sleep. Kolyada often writes down the subjects of his future creations in a notebook and purposefully does not name his works. Kolyada began drawing in 1989. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the USSR, was depicted in one of his first drawings. The amazing thing is that all of his works are done using a ball-point pen. Kolyada calls himself a post-modernist and admits that Salvador Dali had a great impact on him. The subjects in the majority of his works evoke an association with the works of the genius Andy Warhol (of Ukrainian descent by the way), who raised industrial production to the pedestal of high arts.

He earned a teaching degree in Berdyansk. Armed with degrees in art and education, Kolyada headed for Kyiv at the age of 25. Like many people he wanted to experience life in the capital and knew that it was the best place for to try break into the world of art. Kolyada soon discovered that making it in the capital was not easy. He tried to sell his art at local galleries, but he found the process demoralizing. Like many aspiring artists, Kolyada has managed to support himself by other means. Using his fluency in English and his education degree he worked as a Russian-language teacher. Ironically, that boosted his career as an artist. Teaching put him in touch with members of the foreign community who’ve become fans of his work.


The maniacal evil-eyed Hitler and tyrannical Stalin with his bushy moustache. Depictions of some of today’s Ukrainian politicians, including President Yushchenko with a piece of skin stripped off his face and his rival during the last presidential election Viktor Yanukovych with vampire fangs. Another ten representatives of Ukraine’s political high society are also in the picture: former president Leonid Kuchma with his pear-like nose, Petro Poroshenko with gloomy stare, Yulia Tymoshenko with her braids and protruding ears and other former and current government officials. The monument symbolizing Ukrainian independence on Maidan Nezalezhnosti rises above them. It is a lady holding a wreath and wearing the mask of death. And Life is a mobile phone company.

The national Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, Coca Cola and other brand names of modernity. Non-standard use of classic historic and literary figures. Taras Shevchenko with a hole in his forehead and his heroine Kateryna. This image is so often used appropriately and inappropriately without any idea of what Shevchenko was like in reality… 

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Politics, elections, beer and vodka producers. It was the Orange Revolution inspired him to create series of works with Ukrainian politicians. And then this passion passed on. Kolyada decided not to return to this subject because all politicians made him sick. Now he is more interested in the mystical side of life and religious subjects.

Ukraine’s apocalypses. A fight for morality. Or is it too late already?

Prostitution and impoverishment associated with post-Soviet “capitalism”. A call for the Anti-Coca-Cola-isation of society.

Post-modern world’s new religion. The artist’s protest.

Ukrainian national writer Gogol with his characters in the midst of modern filthy mixture of politics and aggressive marketing. The interest in politicians began in the times of perestroika – then Kolyada had problems with the authorities and even sought political asylum in Switzerland in 1991. He was afraid of returning to the old times.

Dreaming like in Russia. Welcome to Siberia.

Taras Shevchenko’s Kataryna unwanted in a society of commodities and market names. Ukrainian literature had a crucial effect on Serhiy and he does in art what local postmodernists do in literature.

A young democracy’s transition path. No cheery landscapes of Old Kyiv here. But a harshly explicit vision of reality.

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