‘ATLANTkY’ solo show by Liza Obukhovska

13 Apr 2024 – 12 May 2024

Free admission

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The Korshun Projects proudly presents "ATLANTky," a solo show by emerging Ukrainian artist Liza Obukhovska. This exhibition brings our attention to prominent pioneers of Ukrainian literature who facilitated the birth of the feminist movement at the turn of the 20th century.


The Korshun Projects proudly presents "ATLANTky," a solo show by emerging Ukrainian artist Liza Obukhovska. This exhibition brings our attention to prominent pioneers of Ukrainian literature who facilitated the birth of the feminist movement at the turn of the 20th century. Obukhovska attempts to interpret traditional narratives via large-format, unstretched, colourfully painted canvases resembling ancient scrolls. She uses ancient mythology, symbolism, and hints of art history to both idealize and contemporize themes and contributors who have been historically overshadowed. 

Obukhovska uses the figure of "Atlant", also known as "Atlas," as a metaphor to construct a conceptual framework to celebrate the seminal works of Ukrainian artists and writers Lesya Ukrainka, Olha Kobylianska, Nataliya Kobrynska, Sophia Yablonska, and Sonia Delaunay. "Atlants," best known for bearing the weight of the sky on his shoulders, becomes Obukhovska's muse, as she cleverly creates whimsical compositions which reimagine Atlas as female. Each painting is a different writer or artist, whether Ukrainka, Kobylianska, etc, whose central protagonist illuminates a tale of historical progress and an optimistic commentary for a more inclusive future. According to Liza, we see the best of the world today through the eyes of her Atants and the strength, resilience, and courage they embody.

In "I am my own goal," Liza is inspired by Sofia Yablonska, a Ukrainian writer, photographer, and solo world traveller, which had been absolutely forbidden. She championed the freedom to live life beyond societal expectations. Within "I am my own goal," an unconventional Atlant, with lips where a head should be, elevates two globes—symbolizing the power of speech and expression in shaping a Utopian world where equality is a foundational truth. In a desire for freedom, the centre figure rises to the Atlant. It leaves behind her a group of diverse reclining female figures, art historically known as Odalisques, leading the path to their liberation. The inclusion of women of colour reflects Yablonska's international encounters from Morocco to Indochina and the author's solidarity with feminist movements worldwide.

Further, Obukhovska's representation of the odalisque introduces commentary on the art's historical portrayal of women by male artists, reimagining it from the feminist perspective. The vivid blue, reclining nude perhaps references Yves Klein's "Anthropometry" series, which used the female body as a brush. By dressing the odalisque and Atlant in blue, Obukhovska captures the essence of their transformation into powerful, liberated women. "I am my own goal" marks a new freedom from the societal influences of our time, in the same manner as Yablonska did in her own time.

"Mavky" is inspired by the poem "The Forest" by Lesya Ukrainka, writer and political activist for Ukrainian independence. "Mavky", also known as nymphs and fierce guardians of the forest in Ukrainian folklore, are portrayed dancing in unity, much like Matisse's dancers, under the protective gaze of Atlants, who forges the path to freedom, a variation on a similar theme worked out in "I am my own goal." Obukhovska invokes the Mavky to serve as guardians of Ukrainian cultural heritage, particularly in regard to oral tradition and nature. Lesya Ukrainka's "The Forest" is manifesto-like as it encourages a unified goal of protecting and promoting the nation's language and traditions in the face of Russian Tsarist assimilation. Perhaps the painting is Liza's self-portrait as a "Mavky", a guardian in today's Russo-Ukrainian conflict.  

"Trinity" is inspired by Olha Kobylianska, who used the theme of a love triangle in the most controversial of her prolific writing, Valse Meloncolique, 1898. Three women live together, united in an unconventional desire to live outside their time's romanticized ideals of feminity. Its reception was far from accepted– it was banned, and Kobylianska stood trial for this rebellious statement.  

Obukhovska reimagines the essence of Kobylianska's support for women's independence and portrays her as the Atlant at the top of the painting. The Atlant holds a burning skull in each of her hands, proclaiming the themes of female independence, same-sex love, and the fire it took to get there. The Atlant shines light from burning skulls, which are symbols of the burden of resistance to gender inequality, on the three women below, freeing them to live lives by their own choices. Beneath this scene of liberation, three additional figures are constrained in circles, symbolizing the societal restrictions that women of Kobylianska's time faced, and highlighting those who are still struggling. In this way, Obukhovska demonstrates her support for Kobylianska's courage and her lasting legacy as a pioneer of Ukrainian feminism.

"The Pearls" celebrates the birth of feminism in Ukraine, marked by the publication of "Pershyi Vinok" by Nataliya Kobrynska in 1887. The title translates to "The First Wreath," and the wreath acts as a symbol of religious faith and the light brought into the world by God. In the painting, Liza equates this light to faith in the liberation of women nurtured by Kobrynska. The central figure, the Atlant, is positioned similarly to Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" and embodies modern feminist ideals, showing women as powerful beings with the freedom to choose their paths. The painting suggests that understanding feminism can lead society to a more accepting and supportive view of love, which values intellectual and spiritual qualities as much as physical beauty, similar to how Venus's physical beauty inspired Renaissance viewers to think about divine love. The pearls throughout the piece represent enduring feminine strength. At the same time, the inclusion of odalisques at the bottom of the painting critiques the historical objectification of women, contrasting passive beauty with the empowered, active figure.

Obukhovska pays tribute to Sonia Delaunay and her pioneering art practice through two small-scale geometric abstracts, executed in a subtle color palette ranging from grey to light purple. These works emphasize form and colour, utilizing geometric shapes in a style reminiscent of Delaunay's. A woven net covers the canvas, both a homage to Delaunay's textile innovations and an allegory for the constraints she faced in a male-dominated art society at the time. Liza Obukhovska's ceramics and works on paper also celebrate women's strength.

The show "ATLANTKY" captures the essence of these artists' struggles and triumphs, reimagining traditional motifs like the Atlant to highlight women's resilience and significant societal contributions. By merging historical and mythological references and symbolism like burning sculls with contemporary feminist discourse, Obukhovska celebrates the legacy of these pioneers, such as Lesya Ukrainka's literary activism, Nataliya Kobrynska's role in the birth of the feminist movement in Ukraine, Sofia Yablonska's adventures and advocacy, and Sonia Delaunay's innovative artistic practice. The Korshun Art Projects believes that Liza Obukhovska's courage and bravery are achieved, and she truly stands on the shoulders of these pioneering women of Ukrainian culture.


Anna Korshun

Exhibiting artistsToggle

Liza Obukhovska


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