June 27, 2023

Work of acclaimed Ukrainian-Canadian artist Taras Polataiko examines Russian-Ukrainian conflict

UCalgary Founders’ Gallery launches summer exhibitions with public reception June 28
Taras Polataiko, Oleh (Dniepr), War. 11 Portraits. (Detail). 2014. Digital print, 64" x 42.7" - photo portrait by Pavlo Terekhov.
Taras Polataiko, Oleh (Dniepr), War. 11 Portraits. (Detail). 2014. Digital print, 64" x 42.7" - photo portrait by Pavlo Terekhov.

A photo series depicting 11 hospitalized Ukrainian soldiers is the largest body of work in the new exhibition DEFIANCE by acclaimed Ukrainian-Canadian artist Taras Polataiko. It’s one of two summer exhibitions in UCalgary’s Founders’ Gallery at The Military Museums to be launched at a public reception Wednesday, June 28. But Polataiko won’t be here for the occasion. He returned to his hometown of Chernivtsi, Ukraine, last year to care for family members in the wake of the Russian invasion.

While Polataiko is unable to appear in person, the event will include a pre-recorded video address from the artist and remarks from guest curator Wayne Baerwaldt.

“Fundamental conflicts that have set individuals and groups against one another are still front and centre in Ukraine,” explains Baerwaldt. “Polataiko shares the problem of perception of forms and proposes radical departures to confront the attempted erasure of Ukrainian culture.”

Through video, painting, sculpture, photography and text, Polataiko examines Russian-Ukrainian conflict in the context of land, language, migration, independence, historical revisioning and cultural genocide. His work is a critique of cultural representation in reaction to political instability from historic and current Russian aggression.

Baerwaldt will give a tour of DEFIANCE Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. He says Polataiko’s art conveys and critiques “sustained waves of cultural genocide.

“His works in this exhibition consistently draw attention to the ideological forces that affect what remains of, and what is erased from, historical memory.”

DEFIANCE runs until Sept. 24. The reception and exhibition tour on June 28 are free and open to the public.

Christmas Day, 1917, at Granville Canadian Special Hospital, Buxton, UK

Christmas Day, 1917, at Granville Canadian Special Hospital, Buxton, UK. (Detail). Canadian War Museum: CWM 19930003-607

History of war-related post-traumatic stress disorder

Exhibiting alongside DEFIANCE is Shell Shocked: The Long Road to Recovery, organized by the Canadian Centre for the Great War.

This exhibition examines post-traumatic stress disorder and how our understanding of PTSD has evolved over decades. By the end of the First World War, more than 10,000 Canadian soldiers suffered from “war neurosis” that later became known as PTSD. Many suffered without ever receiving help or an official diagnosis.

Shell Shocked enhances our understanding of the hidden tolls of warfare. Photos, infographics and artifacts give insight into the harsh realities faced by frontline military personnel.

Join Caitlin Bailey, executive director of the Canadian Centre for the Great War, for an exhibition tour and presentation on June 29.

The mission of UCalgary’s Founders’ Gallery is to explore human conflict worldwide through art and artifacts from local and international, historic and contemporary sources. Programming gives context to Canada’s military and its global contributions, informs viewers’ knowledge, and expands our understanding of conflict. Founders’ Gallery hosts at least three exhibitions per year.

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