The power of art: Zhanna Kadyrova

In the week of the unhappy anniversary of the outbreak of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, we report on an important contemporary artist with Ukrainian roots: Zhanna Kadyrova.

“For the first 2 weeks of the war, it seemed to me that art was a dream, that all twenty years of my professional life were just something I had seen while asleep, that art was absolutely powerless and ephemeral in comparison to the merciless military machine destroying peaceful cities and human lives. Now I no longer think so: I see that every artistic gesture makes us visible and makes our voices heard!”

These are the artist’s words on the war that can be found on her website at the voice: “PALIANYTSIA 2022”. The word means “bread” in Ukrainian and is the work presented last year during the Venice Biennale. In the gallery placed in Castello, you could buy these concrete ‘loaves’ and donate the money to volunteers and friends of the artist who remained in Kyiv during the Russian attacks. 

Palianytsia, Zhanna Kadyrova, 2022 – Courtesy Il Giornale dell’arte

Born in Kyiv in 1981, Kadyrova is a name on the international art scene for her ability to create works that explore the limits of material and form, often using recycled materials and found objects such as concrete, ceramics, glass, or metal.

Ranging between sculpture, installation, and performance, the artist’s most investigated themes are architecture and the city. 

One of Kadyrova’s best-known artworks is “Park Avenue” consisting of several ceramic sculptures reproducing asphalt roads. Using a technique that involves printing asphalt directly onto ceramic, the works capture the texture and cracks of the road surface, bringing the observer’s attention to an element often considered insignificant and trivial. 

Zhanna Kadyrova: Second Hand , Kyiv, 2015, serie of 13 unique Soviet period tiles, wood variable dimensions, Courtesy: the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana, Photo by: Christian Vorhofer

Another project developed concerning the territory and local culture is ‘Animalier’ which involved several artists in the area of Santa Croce, Tuscany. Invited by curator Ilaria Mariotti for the ‘Art – Enterprise – Territory’ project, Zhanna Kadyrova studied the leather manufacturing tradition and interpreted this luxury craft in environmental terms. She created costumes for animals – geese, cows, horses, etc… – that imitated the features of their predators: pythons, leopards, and so on. Seeing a goat with a leopard-skin coat might make us smile, but the artist aims to highlight the fragility of the world as we know it, a world where we take it for granted that the predator or, even better, the super-predator meaning the human, wins.

Zhanna Kadyrova, Animalier, 2019. Villa Pacchiani, Santa Croce sull’Arno 2019. Photo Nataliia Dyachenko e Denys Ruban – Courtesy Artribune

Zhanna Kadyrova’s talent is her ability to communicate profoundly and engagingly. While her capacity to use common materials and objects give life to works of great impact and beauty; her focus on social and environmental issues makes her a contemporary artist to keep an eye on.