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Ukrainian artists stretch their creativity to continue making art during war

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, HOST:

Ukrainian artists have been finding ways to continue creating work despite the war ravaging their country.

OLIA FEDOROVA: My name is Olia Fedorova, and I'm 28 years old. I'm an artist, a conceptual artist. I do the performances and the photos and videos. I was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and I live here with my boyfriend, two cats in the center of the city where we are now hiding from the Russian bombs.

FOLKENFLIK: Olia and her friends are hunkered down in a basement for most of the day. She usually takes photos and creates art using the world around her - fields, farms and other landscapes. But now she's turned to writing as a form of expression.

FEDOROVA: It's artistic text because there are a lot of emotions and expressions and metaphorical stuff. I think these texts are my art now because obviously I cannot work with the landscapes because I don't go outside.

FOLKENFLIK: She read us some of her work.

FEDOROVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

FOLKENFLIK: I miss the silence, she writes, the real silence of calmness from which you don't expect something terrible to come. Here, we don't trust the silence anymore. If we don't hear the explosions for a while, we immediately ask ourselves, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

FEDOROVA: I think I just very much concentrated on this work like informational warrior, I call it, informational resistance warrior. And it inspires me a lot.

FOLKENFLIK: But Olia says she's worried about how her art may change after the war is over.

FEDOROVA: It scares me because I used to work with landscapes around my city. And I had one special field where they used to grow different stuff like corn, like wheat, like sunflower. But I don't know what is there now. I bet there are a lot of burnt Russian tanks.

SANA SHAHMURADOVA: My name is Sana Shahmuradova. I'm from Odessa, and all I do is painting and drawing. I'm a full-time artist. And what happened recently kind of broke my dream life.

FOLKENFLIK: Sana had to escape her home to the countryside, where she has family. She says that the invasion left her in a state of shock and that it's hard for her to fathom creating any kind of art at first.

SHAHMURADOVA: My brain got very much blocked. I heard first explosions, and it took me a week maybe to get back to at least, like, to drawing. I think I'm in some sort of survival mode where I'm not fully feeling (laughter) what's happening because my brain is trying to defend itself.

FOLKENFLIK: But as soon as Sana felt ready to go back to drawing, she realized she needed to get creative because she had left all of her art supplies back at her house.

SHAHMURADOVA: Every time I come here, I would sketch on wallpaper leftovers. I found some charcoal, and then I found my younger brother's crayons, his guache paint. I found some paper, too, in the store nearby. But then I would also experiment and use, I don't know, like leftovers of the beat. Like, the boiled beet is very - it's a beautiful pink color.

FOLKENFLIK: Sana now posts her drawings on Instagram. And a common theme in her work is a woman holding a baby to her bare chest as ghostly figures around her reach for the sky.

SHAHMURADOVA: I just imagined that there is this mother, like an archetypal mother or just regular mother feeding her baby, and there are people around who are trying to metaphorically save this new life, new generation.

FOLKENFLIK: Sana says hope was one thing she refuses to give up.

SHAHMURADOVA: Despite all of the disaster and horrors and bloody losses that our country is experiencing at the moment, there is still a baby being born in the bomb shelter. There is still a woman that is feeding her entire family with the meals she used to cook before everything has happened. And she continues doing that. Like, there are still miracles happening, and I guess we somehow have to find ways to bring our attention to those tiny sunlights.

FOLKENFLIK: We heard from Ukrainian artists Sana Shahmuradova and Olia Fedorova.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRAMBLES' "TO SPEAK OF SOLITUDE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.