Invaluable monumental artworks, created by a group of Ukrainian monumentalists led by Alla Horska, a dissident artist and one of the Sixtiers movement’s founders. These panels incorporated elements of Ukrainian folk tradition, contemporary world trends, and Soviet art.
BEFORE FEBRUARY 24, 2022. PHOTO: BIRDINFLIGHT.COM. LIFE TREE.
BEFORE FEBRUARY 24, 2022. PHOTO: BIRDINFLIGHT.COM. Kestrel.
Mariupol, a Ukrainian port city on the coast of the Azov Sea, is rich in objects that are of high architectural and artistic value. Among them is one of the biggest and most diverse collections of Ukrainian monumental mosaics, created between the 1960s and 1980s by prominent masters of this style.
Monumental art is extremely vulnerable due to its highly visible exposure to the public since it is always present in public space. For this reason, stories about particular works of art in this style are often unusual and even dramatic.
The year 2008 brought an outstanding artistic discovery to Ukraine. During a major renovation of the Mariupol restaurant ‘Ukraine’, which was built before WWII, two mosaic panels were found behind one of its walls. These panels were created by a group of Ukrainian monumentalists led by Alla Horska, a dissident artist and one of the Sixtiers movement’s founders.
In 1967, Alla Horska, joined by a group of co-author artists including Viktor Zaretskyi, Halyna Zubchenko, Borys Plaksii, Hryhorii Pryshedko, Vasyl Prakhnin, and Nadiia Svitlychna, arrived in Mariupol. In less than two months, they created the ‘Tree of Life’ and ‘Kestrel’ mosaics in the ‘Ukraine’ restaurant. Mariupol researchers of monumental art Ivan Stanislavskyi and Oleksandra Chernova call them the most valuable mosaics in the city.
The artists sought to combine Ukrainian folk tradition, contemporary world trends, and Soviet art in these panels. Hence, they used non-standard materials such as slag ceramics and metal. The ‘Tree of Life’ shone due to sheet aluminium, and the artists even used fragments of aluminium spoons in the ‘Kestrel’. Bold combinations of materials and rhythmic alternations of reliefs and counter-reliefs resulted in an optical effect of movement and a new plastic language. The subjects of these aesthetically balanced works were not tied to any specific time period as well as devoid of any signs of social realism that were then dominant in the artistic world.
AFTER FEBRUARY 24, 2022. PHOTO: FACEBOOK ІВАН СТАНІСЛАВСЬКИЙ. LIFE TREE.
AFTER FEBRUARY 24, 2022. PHOTO: FACEBOOK ІВАН СТАНІСЛАВСЬКИЙ. Kestrel.
AFTER FEBRUARY 24, 2022. PHOTO: FACEBOOK ІВАН СТАНІСЛАВСЬКИЙ. Kestrel.
Even before the ‘Tree of Life’ and ‘Kestrel’, Alla Horska and Viktor Zaretskyi, due to their active civic stance, were marked by the Soviet authorities as ‘Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists’. This status became an actual stigma for social and cultural figures in the USSR who dared to diverge from the party doctrine. Horska’s and Zaretskyi’s artworks were routinely destroyed, and most of Alla Horska’s works in Kyiv were lost forever. Since Horska was a prominent Sixtier artist and a human rights defender, the Soviets persecuted and brutally killed her in 1970.
The Soviet authorities also ordered the destruction of her mosaics in Mariupol. However, the locals did not obey and hid the panel behind a brick false wall, effectively preserving this priceless work of art.
Surviving mosaics, paintings, and graphic works by Alla Horska are kept not only in the national art museums in Kyiv and Lviv but also in the Berlin Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie. They are also an adornment of the collection of Norton and Nancy Dodge at Rutgers University in the USA, one of the largest collections of Soviet nonconformism in the world. Some of the artworks had also been preserved in Mariupol until the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
Endless shelling and bombing by Russian troops from the air, sea, and land were ruining and razing the city to the ground day by day. As a result, the unique mosaic panels by the Ukrainian monumentalists have been completely destroyed.
The city that once held memories has now turned into a memory itself.
Formerly Palace of Culture of the Azovstal plant. The building of the former Continental hotel (1887–1910).
A unique monastery complex of the XVI–XIX centuries with natural caves.
Historical buildings reflecting the Mariupol architecture of the late XIX and early XX centuries before the Bolshevik Revolution.
Donbas Arena is the home stadium of the Ukrainian ‘Shakhtar’ football club, which became the first of the ‘elite’ category in Ukraine and in all of Eastern Europe.
An ancient building of 1902 in the Northern Art Nouveau style, which comprised under its roof the works by respected Ukrainian landscape painters, as well as world-famous marine and realist artists.
Formerly prospering trade and then a metallurgical centre of Ukraine that has become the symbol of the bloody Russian invasion of Ukraine and the genocide committed by the Russian army and government.
The only church in the world entirely decorated with Petrykivka paintings, an ancient style of folk Ukrainian decorative painting included in the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.
The museum was established at the Faculty of History of Mariupol State University. It has become an important cultural and educational site bringing together students, professors, and citizens around the native land’s history.
The manor of Mariupol City Council’s mayor, having more than 150 years of history behind. Its architecture incorporated elements of the Stalinist Empire, Neoclassicism, and Baroque.
One of the oldest and largest Ukrainian museums, which collection comprised over 180 thousand exhibits, including the monuments and artefacts of world importance.
One of the biggest steam mills in the German Mennonite colony that existed in the Donetsk region at the turn of the 20th century. Built in 1903, this mill had been feeding people of New York and all of its suburbs for decades.
The central church of the Sviatohirsk Lavra’s convent, erected in the neoclassical style with baroque elements in 2005 in the site of a stone church of 19th century dismantled by the Bolsheviks.
The house was built in the constructivist style in 1929. It has been the centre of the city’s creative life for almost a hundred years.
Former State Bank’s building, constructed at the turn of the 20th century. In 2019, this site housed the city library, which history began back in 1904. An intellectual and educational centre of the city.
A two-storey manor in the classical style with a neo-Gothic tower, built in Mariupol 125 years ago. The state was a property of respected doctors.
Part of the Sviatohirsk Lavra. All the skete’s buildings are made of massive pine trunks. The All Saints Church, the main skete’s sanctuary, used to be the biggest wooden church in Ukraine.
The Azovstal plant in Mariupol was one of the largest iron and steel producers in Europe. In 2022 it became a symbol of resistance to brutal Russian aggression and the incredible courage of Ukrainian fighters.
Educational institution with more than 140 years of history where many generations of Mariupol citizens studied.
Center of spiritual life of Muslims of Donetsk region.
Two buildings are a monument to an entire era. They were the last buildings in Mariupol designed in the Stalinist Neoclassicism style.
One of the oldest theatres in the Left-bank Ukraine.
The mosque was built in 2007 on the site of a mosque built in 1906 and destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1936.
St. Demetrius Church dedicated to the holy martyr Demetrius of Thessaloniki is one of the oldest in the region.