Immersive Shevchenko: Soul of Ukraine

Immersive Shevchenko, installation view, courtesy of Lighthouse Immersive

Taras Shevchenko (1814-61) was a master painter, etcher and a visionary. He is considered by many to be the father of Ukrainian literature and the modern Ukrainian language. Now, for two nights, Lighthouse Immersive, and the producers behind Cleveland’s mixed-reviewed, Immersive Van Gogh exhibit will transform the space to host an exhibition highlighting the Ukrainian artist, poet and national icon alongside Immersive Van Gogh.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visiting the exhibition in Odessa

The Immersive Shevchenko: Soul of Ukraine exhibition premiered in Odessa August of 2021 and was praised by Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his wife, Olena before the Russian, Ukrainian conflict. The exhibit had raised over $200,000 from viewings in Toronto, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston, the funds from which will go towards aiding the Ukraine and the needs of its people.

This exhibition specifically is being produced by Ukrainian-born, Valeriy Kostyuk along with Ukraine-based team including: Producer Natalia Delieva, Creative Director Tais Poda, Composer Timur Polyansky, and Curator-Consultant Dmytro Stus. With the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine, aside from the cultural significance expressed in its inception now there is an additional humanitarian significance attached. 

Immersive Shevchenko, installation view, courtesy of Lighthouse Immersive

“I always wanted to find a way to use my experiences producing in North America to promote Ukrainian artists,” comments Kostyuk. “Ukrainian culture is as beautiful and moving and important as the culture of any other country in the world, and Shevchenko is, in many ways, a father of the independent Ukrainian nation. I have been moved and inspired beyond words by the endurance and resilience of the Ukrainian people in this moment and I am deeply thankful to the incredible team in Ukraine who partnered with me on this project, as well as to the producers at Lighthouse Immersive for standing with me in this moment.”

The exhibit features over 200 of Shevchenko’s works which were being stored in Kyiv. With the ongoing invasion of the Ukraine by Russian forces, The National Museum of Taras Shevchenko used the exact same containers which housed his works to protect them from invading Nazi forces in 1941 according to Lighthouse Immersive. To encapsulate the time period Shevchenko was most active, Polyanskiy has analyzed the musical compositions which Shevchenko listened to during his life and has created a fully original music track which reflects Shevchenko’s times and emotional state.

Shevchenko was born a serf and was a homeless orphan by the age of 11. Later in life while a student at the St. Petersburg Academy of Art his emancipation was purchased in 1838 with the help of friends, painter, Karl Briulow and Poet, Vasilii A. Zhukovsky along with a lottery for a portrait by Shevchenko of Zhukovsky.

In addition to being a painter and etcher, Shevchenko was also a significant poet and writer. His first collection of poems, entitled Kobzar (1840; “The Bard”) was written more in the Romanic vein. His work, Try lita (Three Years) discussed the inequity of serfdom, ideas of a populous democracy and other controversial topics.

He and some of his contemporaries who were part or the secret Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius were apprehended by the Secret Police while in possession of this book, some of whom were then exiled to compulsory military service.  Shevchenko received the harshest of sentencing and during his exiled military service was ordered not to paint or compose. The poems “The Dream,” “The Caucasus,” and “The Epistle,” were among the most controversial and therefore of the most politically condemning.

Immersive Shevchenko, installation view, courtesy of Lighthouse Immersive

Between 1856-57 and in the time of his cruelest imprisonment he created 8 sepia paintings which by some are considered to be semi-autobiographical and commentary on the degraded merchant class as well as the cruelty of the Russian Empire at the time. The works were based on the allegory of the Prodigal Son. The titles of these masterworks were: “Last Stake Lost”, “In a Tavern”, “In a Pigsty”, “At the Cemetery”, Among Robbers, Running the Gauntlet, and “In Prison.” His life, works and ethos are seemingly haunting reminders of a history of political tensions between Russia and the Ukraine.

“Like millions around the world, we feel shocked and helpless in the face of what Ukraine is experiencing right now, and I happen to have a particular lens on this with core members of our team being from and with family in Ukraine,” says Lighthouse Immersive Producer Corey Ross. “On behalf of the entire company, I am grateful to have the opportunity to bring this show here and to be able to help in any way I can.”

According to a press release: all proceeds from ticket sales go directly to First Theatrical Charitable Foundation, which focuses on humanitarian needs of Ukrainians with a specific focus on elderly arts and culture workers and other social priority groups who have been left without adequate support at this time and to the National Bank of Ukraine Fund. Patrons may select which charity to allocate their contribution.

Tickets for Immersive Shevchenko: Soul of Ukraine are on sale now at Lighthouse ArtSpace Cleveland, the home of Immersive Van Gogh, is located at 850 E. 72 nd Street.

IMMERSIVE SHEVCHENKO: SOUL OF UKRAINE will be available for viewing at Lighthouse ArtSpace Cleveland on April 29 at 6:00 p.m. and at 7:00 p.m. and on April 30 at 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tickets to Immersive Shevchenko: Soul of Ukraine will also include the Immersive Van Gogh experience. For those not able to attend, there is an option available to see a virtual screening of Immersive Shevchenko from their home computers or tablet. See ticket link for details.

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.

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