WORLD – ART
Viktoria Protsyuk draws sex. She donates part of her profits to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Her paintings hang in dugouts at the front. A DW correspondent was able to view them at an exhibition in Berlin.
In 2022, Berlin became a haven for almost a hundred thousand Ukrainians, many of whom are professionally engaged in the arts: among them are musicians, actors and artists. Creative people from Kiev, Odessa and other Ukrainian cities have filled Berlin and become an integral part of it.
If you put together a calendar of cultural events in Berlin that are connected to Ukraine in one way or another, it will cover all days of the week – without interruption. Yet, the Ukrainian cultural boom in Berlin does not take place in isolation from the war. Art helps people to survive traumas, raise money to help the country and introduce Germans to Ukrainian culture.
The Berlin press has named Viktoria Protsyuk, a fragile young woman who arrived in March from Kiev, the most provocative Ukrainian artist (and there are several competitors for this title). She paints watercolour and oil paintings, which are blocked by Instagram. Her erotic small-format paintings won’t surprise you with their subject matter.
It’s usually two or more mostly naked people of different genders and colours having sex – if you consider the term as broadly as possible. The bodies (or parts of bodies) are depicted as naturalistically as possible and their interaction is shown unambiguously – not to be confused with anything else. This is sex, with great pleasure for all involved.
"I only paint what I have lived"
On 16 December 2022, Victoria’s exhibition opened in Berlin’s Repeat Bar (holding exhibitions in basement bars with their winding corridors rather than in galleries has long been a Berlin thing). “I started painting erotica back in Kiev, but it wasn’t so easy with exhibitions there,” she says, standing a stone’s throw from the DJ (what Berlin exhibition is without one). – People there were not quite ready for explicit scenes. It’s the opposite here. They say, please do us something even more promiscuous.”
A DW correspondent has already seen the exhibition and understands that “even more promiscuous” is not easy to do: compositionally, Victoria’s paintings resemble screenshots from porn. But they don’t stop there. Sex can be depicted in many different ways, and the artist chooses such a caustic and exciting combination of colours and shapes that one involuntarily becomes nervous when watching. This is done on purpose: Victoria abandons the distance between the viewer and the image, bringing the observer into the thick of the action.
“I only paint what I have lived by myself. If I don’t understand how to get there, all I get is a pretty picture without emotion or passion. I show desire and play between people – often real people, just changing faces,” she explains. You could say that an intimate diary of Victoria is hung on the walls of a Berlin bar.
In fact, one is constantly confronted with faces that resemble those of the artist. It is not so important, who Victoria was during her work – a spectator, a participant, or everything happened only in her fantasy. What matters is that the viewer feels the nerve.
Paintings in the trenches
Another story in the life of Berlin’s most provocative Ukrainian artist is her involvement in defending her country. “When the war started, I thought my art had come to an end. Who would want it? It would just fade into oblivion. But it didn’t. And it can help,” she says.
Almost immediately, Ukrainian soldiers at the front began writing to Viktoria. They said her paintings were inspiring, and asked for more. Reproductions of paintings hang in soldiers’ dormitories and dormitories, and she herself has organized exhibitions and sales, the proceeds of which are sent to the needs of the AFU.
“It excites and excites me a lot, I am madly in love with the men and women who defend our country,” she says. If you think Victoria has brought innovation to the art market in the German capital, it is clearly not the subjects of her paintings. Berlin has seen more.
But there is a real, unflinching passion and a real desire in her paintings. And that makes a fresh impression – even in over-saturated Berlin. “And desire is what makes us live and do something,” she says.