Inspiration

Large Scale War: Paintings by Natalia Levitasova

Earlier on, Natalia Levitasova used to paint neat landscapes that were almost resembling naïve art. Now she depicts the destruction. Despite the content of Levitasova’s artwork, it doesn’t show any sorrow nor fear. We asked the artist to tell more about how she covers the war in such a way as to appeal to the audience.

Before the war, Natalia Levitasova lived and worked in Kyiv, painting landscapes of nature and the city from life. Her artwork used to be filled with lots of geometry, colours, and light. After the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, the content of her art changed. Now she documents the reality as it is, re-drawing the photos in her usual style – brightly and without a trace of pessimism. The artist spoke to Bird in Flight on how she abandoned the peaceful landscapes and why she isn’t going to get back to them.

Natalia Levitasova

An artist. Went to the Ukrainian Academy of Printing in Lviv. Has exhibited her works in Ukraine and Czech Republic.

— I dreamt of living in the Carpathians for long, so in late January my husband and I found a house and moved there in February. We started getting settled as the accommodation wasn’t quite furnished, but we didn’t make it. At first, I couldn’t believe the war had started, as I didn’t follow the news much. I mean, I knew that anything could happen, but I hoped till the end that it would be okay.

The first two weeks of war felt like a blur, I don’t remember what I was doing at all. They passed without art. I had a feeling that everything stopped making sense, my painting was no exception. It seemed totally absurd to hold a brush while I had to buy, collect and drag the humanitarian goods somewhere, had to receive and take in guests. It was hard as 10 people came to live in the house.

I had a feeling that everything stopped making sense, my painting was no exception.

At some moment, I had a lot of pain built up in me, and it wouldn’t be relieved, because I wasn’t painting. So I decided to create my first artwork, and felt much better. It was a small painting: I wrote “PEACE” at the backdrop of the stormy skies and, using the same strokes, another word “WAR” nearby. Before that, my paintings didn’t have lettering. But now at times when I look at the finished work and feel like I need to add words to it, even if it’s something completely irrational.

PEACE WAR
PEACE WAR
Modern Realities
Modern Realities
Fact Fake
Fact Fake
HELP (using the wrong writing for a Russian letter И so that it implies the letter Z when turned)

I don’t consider my painting to be mega-topical. But I have no intention of creating the most progressive and topical art anyway. I make paintings because I like oil paints, they are extremely versatile, and other art supplies just don’t give me that freedom.

Earlier on, I used to paint from life, but a year ago I started having a bad back, so now I hardly ever go outside to make études. I don’t like creating small scale art, and the large one is pretty hard to carry around, so now I mostly paint from photos. Before the war, I took all the pictures myself, but now I use the open-source ones; if it’s a copyrighted material, I ask for a permission to use it. I don’t think that painting from the picture could ruin the art, it is just one of the tools. Moreover, now it is the only way for me to see what I want to depict.

I re-paint the photos, using open-source pictures. Now it is the only way for me to see what I want to depict.

Window to the Russian World. Mariupol
Window to the Russian World. Mariupol
Let Us Breathe. Mariupol
Let Us Breathe. Mariupol
Bandera Smoothie
Bandera Smoothie
Mykolaiv
Mykolaiv
Patron
Patron
Do Not Forget Us. Chernihiv
Chernihiv Library
Chernihiv Library
You'll never destroy our souls
You'll Never Destroy Our Souls

My first wartime artwork was substantially darker than it used to be. But I don’t want to make up anything, and there are some bright spots in these pictures. I mean, I don’t say that this war has something good in it, but the reality is as it is – it’s colourful. People wish me to get back to my usual scenery, the peaceful one. But I don’t want it at all, it became pointless to me.

Now I run Instagram ads for the foreign audience. Horrendous pictures, like the photos of shot bodies in Bucha, can’t be promoted, unlike my paintings. And they will be seen, the attention will be drawn to the current events in Ukraine, as I would like more people all over the world to know what’s going on.

Horrendous pictures, like the photos of shot bodies in Bucha, can’t be promoted, unlike my paintings.

Volnovakha
Volnovakha
Train Kyiv-Rakhiv. Part 2
Train Kyiv-Rakhiv. Part 2
Military Base in Mykolaiv
Military Base in Mykolaiv
Lugansk Region
Lugansk Region
Trostianets
Trostianets
Civilians in Bucha
Civilians in Bucha
Kramatorsk
Kramatorsk
Train Kyiv-Rakhiv. Part_3

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