The Pelican. Zhenya Oliinyk’s Personal Exhibition: a new exhibition in the Mala Gallery of the Mystetskyi ArsenalAbout Us

The Pelican. Zhenya Oliinyk’s Personal Exhibition: a new exhibition in the Mala Gallery of the Mystetskyi Arsenal

On May 30, the Laboratory of Contemporary Art Mala Gallery of the Mystetskyi Arsenal will present the exhibition The Pelican of the artist Zhenya Oliinyk.

The Pelican series of illustrations by Zhenya Oliinyk was created as part of the In Need Of Protection exhibition project organized by the Goethe-Institut in Stockholm in 2023. Its topic is the body as something both strong and fragile, something that protects and needs protection. In her works, Zhenya Oliinyk explores the sacrifice of those who defend Ukraine from the Russian invasion and hold the line of defense with their bodies.

Today’s war is just as brutal to the body and psyche as the wars of the previous century. Drones with artificial intelligence cannot save you from the need to hide in a trench during an artillery attack. A multi-purpose helicopter with a group of military medics on board cannot always evacuate the wounded from the front line in time. And while prosperous Western societies have the luxury of disregarding Ukrainian bodies (so far), both military and civilian, Ukrainian society sees and feels the price of freedom being paid every day. Everyone knows someone who is dead, missing, wounded, or wearing prostheses.

Zhenya Oliinyk uses the Christian iconography of martyrdom in classical art to speak about contemporary sacrifice. The pelican, a symbol of Christ, who, according to the biblical story, feeds children with his own blood, swallows fire from heaven. The empty Golgotha with a serpent-worm on the horizon stands for a premonition of catastrophe. St. Sebastian as a female is under fire, and St. Lucia and St. Agatha have taken on a single form: without breasts, eyes, and a hand.

The Pelican series was first exhibited in Stockholm’s central square in the summer of 2023. In the Mala Gallery, it is complemented by the latest graphic works by Zhenya Oliinyk titled Carnivores. Here, imaginary carnivorous plants serve as a metaphor for chronic and constantly renewed grief and anxiety that cannot be processed or neutralized.

Zhenya Oliinyk is a Kyiv-based illustrator and comics artist with an MA in Cultural Studies and Journalism. She works with such topics as culture, human rights, history, trauma, and feminism. Her illustrations and graphic stories have been published in The New Yorker and The New York Times.

The exhibition will be open from May 30 to June 9, 2024
Open hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 12:00—19:00. Monday and Tuesday — closed
Free entrance

❗ We care about everyone’s safety, so in case of an air raid alert, the exhibition will be closed. At this time, you can go to the nearest shelter. The exhibition will start working after the end of an air raid alert. In case of emergency power outages, we will additionally inform you about the opening hours on our social media.