Elena Subach and Viacheslav Poliakov at Galeria Szara 3–17.09 2022
by Maya Hristova·
We are happy to announce last weekend's opening of the the exhibition 2022 at Warsaw's Galeria Szara featuring the photographic works HIDDEN by Elena Subach and ı.|.ı 2022 by Viacheslav Poliakov, both related to the artistic community of Lviv. Elena Subach watched restorers securing works of art in places threatened by bomb attacks. Photos documenting concern for material heritage are full of sadness, but also hope and tenderness. Viacheslav Poliakov's photographs correspond with the war's destruction, although he began to take them much earlier. The artist uses scraps of an ever-decaying world and builds his story out of them. Elena Subach and Viacheslav Poliakov are both recipients of EEP Berlin's Research Grant for Ukrainian Lens-based Artists and Researchers.
At the center of the HIDDEN project are the conservator-restorers working on protecting the art and cultural artifacts in the public space from possible missile attacks and destruction. For me these photographs contain much sorrow, but not without much hope and tenderness. The ubiquitous feeling of love that emerges when one’s world is crumbling down is rarely mentioned in the context of war. A compelling need to care for something truly important, protecting it, is one of the most powerful feelings that motivates Ukrainians today. News about another museum being shelled or artworks being stolen on the occupied territory appear almost daily.
Part of the project photos shows the process of evacuation of the works of Johann Georg Pinsel, a famous baroque and rococo sculptor of the 18th century. Pinsel was a founder of the Lviv school of sculpture. In 2013 his works were exhibited in the Louver, and in 2016 — in Belvedere. Losing those artworks would have been a cultural disaster for the entire world. Preserving our cultural heritage is the process all the Ukrainian museums are occupied with at the moment. Museum staff relocate the exhibits to safe places. This process is not highlighted in the media due to safety reasons.
Elena Subach — visual artist, photographer, curator at the Lviv National Art Gallery. Elena was born in Chervonohrad in 1980, a coal-mining town in western Ukraine. Elena was largely influenced by her grandfather, who was an icon painter for local churches, and by her father’s library. Elena obtained a Master's degree in Economics from Eastern European National University in Lutsk. Later she spent some time working as a textile designer in Kyiv and Lviv.
Elena came to photography around 2012 joining the 5x5 / Dzyga art community. Since then, she has participated in dozens of exhibitions, projects and residencies around Europe and USA. Elena was published in the GUP magazine, The British Journal of Photography, It’s Nice That, Lensculture, Sandwich Magazine, Der Greif. Elena is a member of Ukrainian Photographic Alternative, a participant of Futures Photography Platform 2019, winner of the Grand Prix Gomma grant 2019, Poland’s Ministry of Culture programme Gaude Polonia 2019 scholarship holder.
When I just started as a photographer, my pictures looked dim and dirty to me, especially compared to the top artists I was trying to follow. I was sure that my lack of skills and talent were the reasons. When I went abroad for the first time, it was a surprise: my photos instantly started to look more professional. It took years of travel to start seeing my home from the outside. A grey faceless soviet heritage, which never looked great, was falling apart before my eyes during my entire childhood in Kherson. When I moved to Lviv, it became even more obvious: there was a layered mix of Polish, Jewish, Austrian, and Soviet remains in a state of half-life.
Pop culture knows Ukraine as a place of Chernobyl, and I can't blame it. My environment is a result of the ignorant russian intervention into nature and other cultures, and the consequent decay of its artefacts. Things were slowly changing over time, but a new war renewed the chaos. I started to make this series long before the full-scale invasion, but the torn-apart human bodies from my current newsfeed appeared native to my images. Now I know — they were always there. I was photographing the same war, but its previous iteration. All the generations of my family suffered from the same aimless russian aggression. Now it is my turn. Nevertheless, it’s my home, and I love my Pompeii. I use the remains of my forever-falling-apart world as building bricks for my story. I want to leave things in a better state than I’d found them. It's time to break this ugly loop.
Viacheslav Poliakov is a visual artist, photographer, graphic designer. He was born in 1986 in Kherson, Ukraine. He obtained a master’s degree in art education from Kherson State University. He works as an interaction designer. Based in Lviv, Ukraine.
Viacheslav is a finalist of Foam Talents, Vienna Photobook Festival, Circulation(s), Krakow Photomonth Showoff, Fotofestiwal Lodz Grand Prix, Prix Levallois. His works were published in Foam Magazine, The British Journal of Photography, GUP Magazine, LensCulture, The Washington Post.
1st image: from Hidden (2022) by E. Subach, 2nd image: from i.|.i 2022 (2022) by V. Poliakov