Potsdam – Artem Voloketin doesn’t want to talk about one thing: Germany’s Ukraine policy. “We don’t want to be rude,” says his wife, painter Tatiana Malinovskaya. In the built-in studio of the Potsdam Data Center, an East German building from the late 1960s, she pours coffee and distributes toblerone, or bread with sliced cheese. She is a good hostess. Nearby, a controversial garrison church tower grows, the studio is small, but the view from the window is far away. She says, “We’re fine.” “We have been very well received here.”
Voloketin and Malinovskaya do not want to say anything that they might see differently tomorrow. They’d rather rave about the ESC-winning Kallush Orchestra’s concert at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, where they had been the day before. Countless Ukrainians in one place, that was intoxicating. “It was like a vacation,” Malinovskaya says. Leave from the country where you live now? Since March 14, 2022, this is Germany.
With five children in the car to Germany
That day they arrived in Potsdam after a 15-day journey through Moldova, Hungary, and Austria. In the car with them are their five children. The oldest of them is 17 years old and the youngest is five years old. You are the reason Volokitin is exempted from military service. Three of the children now go to school in Potsdam. They say over and over again: “It’s all right.” “we are here.” security.
Artem Voloketin, born in 1981, is considered one of the most important artists of his generation in Ukraine – but he’s not someone with that aura before him. Whoever meets him meets a calm man. Who struggles with humor with English, which must now be his. In recent years, he has exhibited his works in London, Vienna, Basel and New York. He participated twice in the Venice Biennale, in 2011 as the winner of the Pinchuk Art Center Prize in the accompanying program, in 2015 in the main program as part of the Ukrainian pavilion “Hope!”
The beauty of irreversible destruction
At that time, shortly after the annexation of Crimea, Artem Volokitin began to work artistically with bangs. The cycle is called “irreversible beauty”. It is about the beauty of irreversible destruction. You can see huge clouds of baroque smoke against a fine-grained, microscopic, finely organized background.
The opening of Irreversible Beauty was a sign of Voloketin’s preoccupation with the war. At that time he was already angry, but from Kharkiv he seemed far away. Now, the war has caught up with him and his family, rips apart his life like so many others, but the cycle is over. Voloketin has now experienced the blasts himself, and the physical experience is deep in his bones. He describes it like this: when he starts drawing explosions again, something tells him that this explosion is happening here and now – even if the experience is long gone.
Where do you run from the war? The main thing away
When Artem Voloketin heard the first explosions in Kharkiv, he was in his parents’ apartment. It is next to the airport. After the first explosion he thought: it’s over. It’s not over. He spent whole days with his family between the apartment and the air-raid shelter—and in between, he says, they went for coffee.
When they left Kharkiv, he and his wife had no idea where they were going. Freiburg? Back dam? The main thing is gone. It was almost impossible to get gas. When they drove off, the car was rated at 20 liters of fuel. It was Potsdam. Voloketin and his wife have known the city for a long time, and Malinovskaya has friends here.
At first, Artem Volokitin and his family lived in the open air, a large area with studios for artists not far from the main train station. However, there was not enough space, so the studio was added in the data center, this politically controversial art and creative center in the immediate vicinity of Garrison Church. A third studio recently opened. Artem Volokitin goes back and forth between these places, usually with one of the children. “If I can’t work, I get nervous.”
Where it is the brightest, it is also the darkest
The image he is currently working on in the computer center is small by Volokitin’s standards: three meters wide and one meter high. couple. Reproduction of a drawing he made in Kharkiv before they boarded the car to Germany. He couldn’t take his art with him – he would need a truck for that. Delicate black stripes can be seen on a white canvas, a battle between color fields of yellow and black.
It’s a variation on the theme that he held for two years and has now replaced the “Irreversible Beauty” course. It’s about the paradox that where it’s brighter, it’s also darker. If you look directly at the sun, you will see a black spot. And if you close your eyes tightly, you will see bright colors again. The course is called “After the Picture”. It’s about catching the sun.
Visual proximity to entertain and erase
Also in the motive for the explosion was voluketin Contrasting interests: the destruction and splendor of colour. Near the fireworks with a bomb blast. How close is the amusement and erasure, purely visual. Volokitin also dedicated a series of fireworks: he called them Pictures of Gardens. Time and time again over the years he has changed his approach to business cycles. On his computer, he displays all the photos now stored in the basement of the Yermilov Center in Kharkiv – fortunately he escaped the destruction.
photo. Naked bodies. And then, as of about 2010, the objects were as unidentified models, and fragments of geometric formations. The human as a hyperrealistic element in an inhuman construct. At the same time, Voloketin and his wife are working on another cycle that is of particular interest to him: abstract shapes, fields of black and white color that dynamically flow into each other. In doing so, he says, they want to associate with the art of the Ukrainian avant-garde of the 1930s. “A movement destroyed by the Russians then.”
“We are not tourists here”
Artem Volokitin loves contexts. The old is next to the new, the known is next to the unknown. If you ask him about reference points, he calls Cranach and Bruegel, but also Botticelli. If you ask him of any open desires, here in exile in Potsdam, he thinks for a long time. A long week. Then the answer. “We are no longer tourists here. We want to do research. We want to get to know other German artists, learn about exhibition spaces. Create contexts.” In Germany he has to find the collections first.
The image has grown in the data center in the meantime. What first looked like a landscape on the map became a cloud world again. It is now clearly recognizable: the sun’s rays break the path. Now it’s all about them, says Artem Voloketin.