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War in Colours: Posters of Mykola Kovalenko

Mykola Kovalenko, a graphic designer, has moved from Kyiv to Bratislava a few years ago. Now every day he creates the minimalist posters on war to draw attention to what is going on in Ukraine. The artist told Bird in Flight how the daily news of his motherland turn into art.

Mykola is a native of Tokmak, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, which is occupied since the very beginning of Russian invasion. The artist’s loved ones stayed in Ukraine. So in his latest works he reflects on the war events. Thus, the artist’s attitude to the aggressor country is often indicated by his distortion of the Russian tricolour, elongating it, breaking or simply cutting to thin pieces that represent soldiers falling into the blue and yellow abyss, as if in an 8-bit game. Symbolically speaking, most of Kovalenko’s artwork is simple, making it easy to comprehend without additional interpretation.

Mykola Kovalenko

A Ukrainian designer. Graduated the Mykhailo Boichuk Kyiv State Academy of Decorative-Applied Arts and Design. While in Ukraine, used to work in advertising agencies and design studios, including Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis. His works were exhibited throughout the world. A recipient of over 150 international design festivals awards. Since 2015 living and working in Bratislava.

— The start of the full-scale war came to me as a shock. I don’t know what else to say. It added to the worries and work, I also draw a lot for various volunteer organizations. My prints use and sales proceedings go to different funds providing assistance to Ukraine. I arrange exhibitions in order to attract international attention to the war. Besides, I help the refugees coming here. Naturally, I don’t get much sleep. But I create posters each day and will go on with that until Ukraine wins.

It’s hard for me to describe them in the making, that depends. Woke up in the morning, watched news and then made a poster, or had something in mind during the commute. Indeed, it is quite hard to convey the idea, to express your feelings through very simple forms, without even using words at times. This simplicity is backed by the years of education and experience.

In terms of visual impressions during the war, the one of a foreign flag in my native land hit me the hardest. And it wasn’t just for a flag alone; it was that chaos, destruction, and death it leaves behind.

In terms of visual impressions during the war, the one of a foreign flag in my native land hit me the hardest.

One of my artworks’ exhibition is held now in Bratislava, two more to go. Also, a pop-up exhibition will soon take place throughout the cities of Slovakia as well as an exposition in Poland. As for the joint exhibitions where my works are presented, they were held in Canada, the US, Spain, Italy and other countries.

People’s reaction to my posters is diverse. Spectators in Slovakia sympathise and help in every way they can. TV-channels and radio ask me to give comments, get interviewed – they are interested in Ukraine. Online, the feedback is still mostly positive, though there are many dissatisfied bots and Russian patriots who get annoyed with my posters. But if there is a reaction, then it works, and I primarily consider my work to be an artistic contribution to the information war.

I primarily consider my work to be an artistic contribution to the information war.

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