Kseniya Bilyk's Chimera is the artist's first solo exhibition in Ukraine. Textiles, mouth-blown glass, tapestry, ceramics—Kseniya mainly works with "decorative and applied" techniques but applies them to embody rather rigid or even reversed images.
Over the past few years, Bilyk has explored the mechanisms of constructing collective memory and visual propaganda. Her images, instantly recognisable, but at the same time devoid of context, act as a trigger that sets off the process of manifestation of the visual unconscious. In addition, the aesthetic seduction of the works themselves immerses a viewer in a world of fantasy, sensuality and pleasure.
Ksenia has an academic background in architecture, which is why for a long time her studio medium was drawing. And it was with drawing that her conceptual work began. Interested in the topic of social mythology and propaganda images, Ksenia started working on a large project called Material. It was when she first turned to weaving, although she had never sat down at a loom before. In the dozen tapestries the artist has created since 2017, we see scenes from either Soviet punitive medicine, or Hollywood horror movie, or Richard Prince's paintings: nurses in short scrubs with somewhat eerie faces next to the disfigured bodies of patients in a state-run hospital interior. Within this series, the nature of Ksenia's practice is already evident. It emerges at the intersection of a rigid conceptual framework and a warm, tactile form of work embodiment. In this mismatch between the beauty of an artwork and its theme and imagery, the critical and aesthetic potential of her craft is actually realised.
Reflecting on the role of propaganda during Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the artist turns to folklore and totalitarian aesthetics as the main sources of understanding war and its consequences. For the exhibition at The Naked Room, Ksenia creates a space full of "chimerical" objects—tapestries, drawings on found textiles that form a symbolic "board of honour" and the central object—the Fountain which constantly produces muddy water of propaganda. This comprehensive pseudo-memorial serves both to deconstruct the memory policies of totalitarian states and to remind us what we should be wary of when creating our own in the context of the full-scale war.