Roman Pyatkovka and Lesia Maruschak anchor their ambitious collaboration in Ukraine's history and their attempt to address a global issue related to totalitarian regimes – the erasure of memory or ‘memory failures’ – a phenomenon prevalent throughout history and without boundaries. Maruschak and Pyatkovka met in the summer of 2017. Their single mindedness concerning lakyny pamyatiy or ‘memory failures’ was evident immediately and led to this collective exhibition.
Pyatovka’s series GOLODOMOR: Phantoms of 30 Years sets the tone for the exhibition. Seen for the first time in North America these large-scale stark chiaroscuro portraits are an artistic depiction of victims of Stalin’s 1932-1933 repressions and artificial famine. Some faces paraphrase portraits of the heroic portrait style typical of this period. Others resemble yellowish photos from a family archive, normally displayed on the walls of a countryside house, in the form of an iconostasis. Each points to an individual history: executed priest, Kolkhoz Collective Farm Chairman, rich peasant Kulak parents betrayed by their son and given up to the KGB, a revolutionary group chief or Komissar killed by starving peasants, a shepherd condemned for stealing from a harvested Kolkhoz field, and a cannibal woman who killed her mother. These phantoms are the collective – the approximate 6 million people who perished under Stalin’s reign. Pyatkovka leads the spectator to an arena of genetically programmed fear – one where myth reigns.
Maruschak’s works from the series ERASURE: DAMNATIO MEMORIAE delicately weave among Pyatkovka’s phantoms. A box of photographs - the last remnants of her mother-in-law’s life - is this series’ muse. At twelve, the state police took her father; the rest of her family was lost soon after. As with Pyatkovka’s Phantoms these too were victims of Stalin reign and Hitler’s war. Fragile images with pieces missing, parts torn off are combined with other vintage photographs from her collection and recent work in Ukraine. She explores the position of the individual within the historical mechanisms of public ideology, touching on the subject of Ukraine under Soviet rule incorporating profoundly engaging personal narratives of vulnerability, betrayal, identity, family, aging, and death.Mounted on Kitakata paper - the delicate fragments are bathed in pools of egg tempera combined with lapis, ochre, 24-carat gold and encaustics - mediums dating back to 1st century BCE Fayoum - an artist language - mystical and ancient. These colors - associated with the divine - are punctuated by cadmium red, which often appears as a fingerprint, a symbol of personal identity. Many photographs are enclosed in an elegant wood box, preserved and protected - reliquaries exuding peace and conciliation.
MEMORY FAILURES: Lakuny Pamyati is an offering of meditation and lacrimosa, personal and collective, history invisible and unspoken. It is both hopeless and hopeful. Pyatkovka and Maruschak create an opening for the seer. One presenting an intimate exploration of a fragile visual presence giving voice to those erased throughout history. The rhythmical visual dialogue