University of Cumbria to host Photography Degree Show next month

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“I want to brand people with disability more visible in art,” the Ukrainian artist Anna Litvinova tells
The Art Paper
over Zoom. She is speaking lying down on her bed — her condition, called myopathy, a genetic weakness in muscles, makes sitting for more than a few hours per day tiring for her. She is currently living with a host family in a Moldovan village in the Anenii Noi commune, where she fled, together with her married man, who is also in a wheelchair, and her parents, on the eighth day of the Russia-Ukraine state of war.

“We saw that the Russian army was coming so shut to our town, that nosotros feared that we wouldn’t be able to leave afterwards. We heard the sirens everyday. It was very scary,” Litvinova recalls. Fleeing from Odesa, Litvinova is one of more than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees who take institute shelter in neighbouring Moldova, a small country of 2.v million people. Like Litvinova, the vast majority of these people are staying in private homes.

“I want to contribute to creating a civilization where people tin have others who are not like them”

The Ukrainian-Moldovan border is only 60km away from Odesa, and then Moldova has become Odesans’ main destination on their route to prophylactic. Yet, if during peacetime, the journeying would only take a couple of hours, the traffic jams and the long queues at the border meant that it took Litvinova 20 hours to make information technology to Moldova, where she had to wait in the line of cars for seven hours. Information technology was 2AM when a volunteer approached Litvinova and her family unit, and took them to his home, 150km away. They have stayed with his family for more than a calendar month at present. “They take been extremely kind,” Litvinova says. “They have even bought me a bed which changes heights, from a relative working at the hospital. [Without such a bed,] I can’t sit or get up without aid. This bed allows me to move on my own. I didn’t fifty-fifty dream that I could accept a bed like that outside my home,” she adds.

Anna Litvinova, The Border of Sexuality (2021)
© Anna Litvinova

Litvinova used to brand more than traditional landscape and portrait painting only for the past two years, she has focused on depicting disability in her work. “Choosing to speak well-nigh disability has been very therapeutic for me,” she says. “It helped me stop being fearful and aback of my trunk.” Her new artistic direction came post-obit two years of therapy to care for depression, which she describes equally “an important step” in her life. “I want to contribute to creating a civilization where people can accept others who are non like them,” she explains. In her pursuit of visibility, Litvinova cites two artistic influences on her: the Young British Creative person Jenny Saville, for her large-scale realist female nudes, and the New York-based Jennifer Packer, for her commitment to black representation in art.

With shades of pink, blueish, and grey, and often using pointillism, Litvinova’s figurative oil paintings are tender depictions of her own body and her husband’south torso. Wanting to take the same mission into the realm of photography, even so physically unable to work with a camera herself, Litvinova searched for a photographer with whom she would capture her nude body. She found fellow Odesan Vitaly Rushinksi online. “I met up with him for a java and nosotros discussed the concept of the photoshoot, making certain we were on the same folio,” she says. In Dec last yr, they rented a studio. “The male gaze was important for me, considering, while feminism has achieved a lot, commercial civilisation is even so very powerful, and the pressures of an ideal body are still great,” Litvinova explains. The feel was empowering for her. “When I saw the photographs, I felt proud that I did not fear the camera, that I can fight for the acceptance of my torso and my illness.” Side by side, Litvinova wants to go on the series by working with photographers on the nudes of other people with disability: her husband, friends, and others.

Anna Litvinova, The Border of Sexuality (2021)
© Anna Litvinova

Litvinova says that she decided that she wanted to become an artist at the age of ten. She asked her parents to accept her to art school. Physically unable to travel to school, she received art tutors at abode instead, and then went on to practise an art degree at the Ukrainian University of Uman through distance learning. This is considering Ukraine’s infrastucture is still poorly developed to enable the access of disabled people in the public places — although, just before the state of war, that began to change.

Anna Litvinova,
Reconstruction of beauty
© Anna Litvinova

“I just started seeing people in wheelchairs on the streets of Odesa in the past two years,” she admits. “The roads became better, and they added platforms on cobblestones, so that I became able to cross the road in my neighbourhood, and get to the park.” Nonetheless, unable to use public transport, Litvinova says she has relied on her father’s motorcar and help picking her up the stairs whenever she needed to go into town. While the artist has had two solo shows and took part in several other collective exhibitions in Odesa, Uman, and Moscow, there was one case she remembers where a local gallery owner refused to host her evidence because “the works of a disabled artist would bring a bad aura” to the place.

Litvinova fears that following the state of war, life for her volition become fifty-fifty more difficult in Ukraine. This is why she is applying for a Talent visa in the UK. “I promise that in the Great britain, I can realise myself as an artist. I accept friends who are artists there and I hope to see them merely I also think that as a person with disability information technology will be easier for me at that place, given the country’s more than developed infrastructure.”