On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, and initiated an advance on Kyiv. The following day, Ukrainian photographer Pavlo Fyshar (b. 1990) moved from the suburbs of the capital city to a small and remote town in the surrounding region. “It did not have studios and other premises that I often use for filming,” the artist recalls. It was a turning point for Fyshar’s creative practice, marking a shift towards surrealism and an interest in themes of “habitat, discomfort, lack of familiarity and an unusual rhythm of life… internal sensations prompted by what was happening throughout the country.”
The featured series – which includes titles like Social Mimicry – is characterised by a pervading sense of discomfort. Playful pastel pinks and mint greens draw the viewer in, yet the world they find is distinctly off-kilter. This juxtaposition is intentional. “The works are filled with contrasts: soft and hard, heavy and light, angular and smooth,” the artist explains. “The main characters look like prisoners of mirrors without reflections. This emphasises the feeling of loneliness and the dissonance of form and content.”
Cushions balance precariously on top of heads. Faces shift in front of mirrors. Moths, butterflies and beetles are frozen in time, wings outstretched. “There is alienation, facelessness, lifeless forms and emotionless faces,” Fyshar says of the subject matter. “It illustrates sensations of discomfort and – at the same time – a feeling of abstraction from the news.” Texture and colour are defining factors of this unsettling visual world; they are employed skillfully with minimal post-production. Floral fabrics meet unreal gradients of orange, pink and purple. Elsewhere, pale hues are set against soft fleece and cool metal.
All images courtesy Pavlo Fyshar.
1. Silence is golden
2. Social mimicry
3. Butterfly catcher and gradient
4. Game of rhythms
5. Angular and soft
6. Noisy neighbours
7. Silence is golden