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Exhibition “Icons on Ammo Boxes”

February 29 – August 25, 2024

The exhibition “Icons on Ammo Boxes” by Ukrainian artists Sofia Atlantova and Oleksandr Klimenko consists of 19 icons from the Pietitus series.

In 2014, when Russia’s aggression against Ukraine started, two Ukrainian artists, Sofia Atlantova and Oleksandr Klimenko, conceived a highly original and eloquent artistic project: they started painting icons on ammunition boxes. The artists noticed that the lids and bottoms of the boxes were very similar to the boards on which the icons were painted. This strange coincidence inspired them to start the project. Speaking about the idea, Klimenko said: “The New Testament idea of ‘reforging weapons to ploughs’ was born from the Old Testament motif of getting out of hell (…). However, the exodus from hell could only take place as a victory over death, a victory through death.” The icons created on the parts of the ammunition boxes, like the cross, symbolise the transformation of death into life.

The message conveyed by the icons in the exhibition is multi-layered. On the one hand, they are the work of talented Ukrainian artists. The icons combine modernity and tradition, focusing on the work of Byzantine-era icon masters. On the other hand, the story these icons tell is important. One could even say that the icons tell many stories, forming a single narrative of war and peace, human suffering and hope. In addition, the icons are sold, and the authors donate the proceeds to charity, supporting various medical institutions that save the lives of Ukrainians fighting for their country and their survival.

The exhibition of these icons is travelling the world. They have already been exhibited in more than a dozen countries and in more than 120 locations (including the European Parliament).

Sofia Atlantova (b. 1981, Kyiv) is an artist, icon-maker and writer. She studied at the Kyiv State Taras Shevchenko Art Lyceum and the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture. 

Oleksandr Klimenko (b. 1976, Kyiv) – artist, icon creator, art critic and writer. He studied at the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture and the M. Rylsky Institute of Art History, Folklore and Ethnology. He taught at Kyiv State Institute of Decorative and Applied Art named after M. Boychuk. 

The exhibition features a video installation by director and cinematographer Sergej Orlov (Lithuania), specially created for this project: images of the destroyed cities of Kyiv County, Chernigov and eastern Ukraine; artist O. Klimenko searches for ammunition boxes and paints near the front line in eastern Ukraine; artists S. Atlantova and O. Klimenko create icons in the studio; priest Mikhail Lysenko sings in a hangar among the artillery shells left after the massive shelling of Kyiv County.

Organisers – the Polish Institute in Vilnius and Kaunas Ninth Fort Museum
Curator – Vytautas Petrikėnas
Designer – Renata Vinckevičiūtė-Kazlauskienė
Press production – JSC “Cyanus”
Information partner – “Kauno diena”

Icon “Taking down from the cross”, Sonia Atlantova and Oleksandr Klimenko. Photo by Renata Vinckevičiūtė-Kazlauskienė