A Broken Pot: The wartime ceramics of Kinder Album

Before February, Lviv-based artist Kinder Album addressed sexuality in her works, but now she is more interested in death. She models clay into bones and explosions — basically expressing the thoughts she has these days.

Ukrainian ceramic tradition goes back hundreds of years. First associated with making kitchenware, ceramics also became the art of decorating it in the 17th and 18th centuries. The central hubs of Ukrainian pottery were the cities of Kosiv (in the Ivano-Frankivsk region) and Opishnia (in the Sumy region). Kosiv ceramics are characterized by a distinct pattern-scratching technique and yellow, green, blue, and brown colors. Kosiv pottery is UNESCO’s cultural heritage. Opishnia ceramics, easily recognizable by their light-yellow color, are covered in flowers, leaves, and berries.

Moreover, the village of Havarechchyna in the Lviv region is known for its local masters, who create heavy-duty black kitchenware. Just like hundreds of years ago, the dishware is seared in wood-fired ovens, which gives their distinct coal-black color.

Lviv-based artist Kinder Album works with ceramics too, bringing new shapes and ideas into it. Instead of pots and dishes, she turns clay into bones and explosions, thus stripping the material of its practical value and filling it with topical meanings.

Kinder Album

Anonymous Lviv-based artist.

— I enjoy expressing my thoughts through various media: it gives me an opportunity to materialize my ideas in more planes. So I draw, paint, make sculptures, take photos. And I switch between these media as one does between, say, languages.

Sculpture and ceramics have been popular in Ukraine for eons. They have had an important place in our cultural tradition. My interest in modeling started with soft clay, which is a sort of children’s plasticine. I made a series of miniature sculptures of famous people who died unnatural deaths.

Then I decided to try another material. I chose clay because I like that it’s natural. Besides, working with it is a pleasant tactile experience. Hand-modeled sculptures reflect an artist’s energy.

The series on bones is a result of the war and my reflections on what will be left of our civilization. My works are basically the image of my current thoughts. They are not symbolic objects. They are my thoughts and feelings that found a visual expression. Some things I just cannot put into words. I believe words are a material for writers. As for me, I’ll be expressing myself in painting and sculpting.

I also create works depicting explosions, which became a usual part of our lives. So, with images from Telegram and news feed fresh in my memory, I rely on my feelings and try to find a way to convey flames in sculpture. I experiment with glaze a lot. Actually, much of my work is done for me by the chemical reactions occurring during firing.

Eros and Thanatos, life and death are facets of the whole, which change and complement each other. I don’t know when I get back into the theme of sexuality. The war makes it impossible to plan ahead. I think I’ll just follow my feelings and say what I want to say here and now.

Much of my “artistic” work is done for me by the chemical reactions occurring during firing.

Some of my works are criticized. But I don’t react to insults on social media. Art is not supposed to be appreciated by everyone: it rather has to encourage one to think, create in response, and join a discussion. Besides, I don’t believe certain art can be ‘canceled.’ Only if you chop artist`s hands off.

I like the works of all contemporary Ukrainian artists who are devoted and willing to grow. We must create new things to maintain a balance especially now that the aggressor is destroying our culture and heritage.

I don’t believe certain art can be “canceled”. Only if you chop artist`s hands off.

I started to work more because I don’t know how much time I have left. I feel this to be my mission, and this is the change in me brought by the war. When it comes to everything else, it’s crucial that artists remain all that they used to be before the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Just like doctors remain the same, only with much more work to be done.

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