My sculpture for Ukraine
An invitation from the Ukrainian embassy
At the end of May I received an email from the Ukrainian embassy in Berlin.
The embassy councilor for culture, Alisa Podolyak, invited me to take part in an art project to support Ukraine.
This was preceded by an offer from me to hold an exhibition of flowers from my shelter exhibition (also here in the blog) in air raid shelters in Ukraine, as a sign of solidarity.
I believe that the people responsible in Ukraine thought this was too risky or not te right timing or they simply didn't see how to make it happen.
What ever was the reason for a long time I did not receive an answer.
Art that saves lives
Instead I received an invitation to the ArtArmor project.
In this project, bulletproof vests, or parts of them, that saved lives on the battlefield but were no longer usable for use afterwards, are to be converted into art objects.
These art objects will be auctioned off and all proceeds from the auctions will be donated to the purchase of protective equipment for Ukrainian soldiers and demining equipment.
In this way, art would literally save lives.
I was excited about this idea and agreed immediately.
Choosing the protective vest
From a range of used protective vests I could choose a vest that I would transform into a work of art.
Hint for my artist colleagues: There are still vests available.
How Ukrainian artists answer to the war and what that has to do with the protective vest I chose
Shortly before I received the invitation from the embassy, a Ukrainian artist colleague who had to flee from Mariupol sent me a link to a video in which Ukrainian artists speak about how the Russian war of aggression had completely changed their lives from one day to the next.
Of course, what was particularly interesting to me was the part of the video in which steel sculptors talk about how they use their skills to make bulletproof vests instead of creating works of art.
In the video the part with the sculptors starts around minute 8:00.
I chose a vest from just such an artistic/handicraft production. On the one hand, because I liked the idea of taking up the work of my Ukrainian sculptor colleagues, from art to protective vests and back to art (you could say, a modification of the swords to plowshares idea).
On the other hand, these first hand-made protective vests were made of steel and not of a high-tech material, such as for example kevlar, which I wouldn't know what to do with.
The heart of the sculpture, the protective plate
It took a while for the protective vest to get to me from a depot in Poland.
Ultimately it turned out that, at least what I had chosen, it was not a complete protective vest, but a steel plate with an apparently splinter-repellent textile layer (a bit like felt in appearance, but considerably more resistant), which was placed in a carrying bag, like a small backpack worn on the chest.
To be honest, I had never thought about how a protective vest works before and was therefore amazed at first.
Ultimately, this didn't detract from my work; it actually made it easier.
The first flower blanks made of marble
My idea was to grow marble flowers behind the protective vest using a steel plate as a base.
In a sense, these marble flowers grew under the protection of the body armor (or in this case, behind the bulletproof steel plate). At the same time, they should grow over and around this and lift the protective plate.
I already knew the dimensions of the steel plate and, while I was still waiting for it, I had started making some marble flowers of the same size.
The flower stems are welded onto the base plate
There should be 16 different flowers in total.
So I had 16 flower stems welded onto the base plate, arranged the protective plate to my liking, and then had it welded to some of those stems.
With that I had the basic structure and could start creating the rest of the flowers.
Which are then stuck onto the stems.
A typical Ukrainian flower?
When it came to the flowers in my shelter exhibition, I based myself on flowers from the Allgäu and the foothills of the Alps in general.
Of course, I thought about whether it would be possible and useful to find typically Ukrainian flowers. However, my research wasn't very fruitful.
Ukraine is really a very large country with a wide variety of climate and vegetation zones and apart from the sunflower, which can be considered the national flower, I did not find any flower typical of the whole of Ukraine.
Ultimately, I liked the idea of depicting this diversity in flowers, symbolizing the diversity of Ukraine, its people and landscapes.
And now of course the sculpture needs a name
There was another problem to be solved, that of naming.
My basic idea was that the marble flowers, symbolic of Ukraine, could grow and bloom protected by the protective plate, but that they should grow beyond it and carry and support it.
A parable, if you will, for Ukrainian society (or at least the vast majority of it), which is also defending itself against whatever probability was assumed by many at the beginning of the Russian war of aggression together and with remarkable success.
Ultimately, I decided on an English title that briefly and succinctly expresses my idea. "Against all odds"