Peace, a fireplace, books, silence ... 

Before this was seen as one philistinism. 

Now these are dreams of a lost paradise.

Erich Maria Remarque “Arch of Triumph”

The pre-war practice of Masha Shubina pursued identity issues and self-reflection. Her numerous self-portraits—sometimes glamorous, often ironic—are nothing else but an attempt to identify herself and to reflect something a mirror virtually cannot. 

Shubina belongs to the generation that took shape on the brink of the century. Those were the times of an endless limbo when History was imitating its own end with your country drifting in an uncertain direction surrounded by a globalised and open world. And you, young and beautiful, by all means have to find your place in it. And you keep looking for it, testing your limits incessantly, and finally start creating your private little cosmos. Every object in this cosmos has its place, its story, esthetics and meaning, and they all make you up. Your home, designed with love and attention, becomes an immutable foundation for all of your identities. 

When on the 24th of February Russia started a full-scale invasion, home and private space were attacked in the first place. 

“Leaving home I was mentally saying goodbye to my walls not knowing who or what would stand longer—myself or our house. So far we have all stood. But home ceased to be our fortress,” says Masha about her project. 

War is always about ruthless and inevitable intrusion into one’s intimate space, even when its tentacles have not reached you first-hand. And you can’t feel safe any longer. It is exactly this anxiety that Masha’s project is about. The ghosts of the Russian military machinery are now everywhere—on the table napkins, on the window curtains, on the dishes. So Masha started drawing them in order to calm down and restore psychological balance. 

“I could not do anything creative for long. First household tasks as well required sufficient effort. But it was exactly these everyday actions that helped me to make it back to drawing. If it’s difficult to walk, you just have to put your feet one in front of the other. That’s what I was doing”.

And it worked. The magical ability of art to neutralise fear worked this time too. Embroidered napkins intervened with oil miniatures are admirable and touching. They are… sweet. Menacing images of war machines are tamed by the artist’s imagination longing for peace. Tanks, fighter-jets and helicopters resemble a swarm, nothing more than stains that are annoying, but not scary. Private cosmos has taken over the chaos committed by the empire. 

The Russian war against Ukrainian Identity has similarly led us to an opposite result—the borders of our home have gone beyond the limits of our private physical space. 

The project is conceived in collaboration with Ukrainian Emergency Art Fund within the ongoing research project “War Time Archive” by NGO “MOCA” that presents works by Ukrainian artists created since February 24. The ongoing exhibition will last until the end of martial law due to our Victory.