‘There is no light without the dark’: bringing Alina’s art to life

Like many others, Ukrainian national and artist Alina Maksimenko has been forced from her home. Axle Arts hopes to tell her story in their newest exhibition.

By Amber Hill

The Ukrainian war, although happening many miles away, has shook the UK to its core. It has reminded us of what it is to be human, encouraging us to extend a sympathetic hand and show our support for a suffering nation. If you turn on the news, it is full of statistics and figures detailing the death toll of those that continue to fight on the front lines, as well as those that have been rendered homeless as a result of the attacks. While there is nothing wrong with this, what is lacking is personal stories. These Ukrainian nationals are more than just that: they are people, with thoughts, feelings, and different experiences.

This is what Axle Arts hopes to show us in their newest exhibition, taking place in the Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa in the scenic city of Bath. Running until the 5th of June, the exhibition will showcase the work of Alina Maksimenko, a Ukrainian artist, who is well-renowned for her use of figurative paintings and hauntingly dark colours. According to Axle Arts’ website, her large paintings ‘dominate the walls in which they sit’. With her work commanding space and attention in this way, Alina gives a nod to the individualism of each Ukrainian citizen that has been displaced and grouped together in a collective and somewhat demeaning term: ‘refugee’.

Alina’s work encourages contemplation in its audience. The director of Axle Arts, Bridget Sterling, can’t help but look at Alina’s art and feel thoughtful. She says that it is difficult not to “ponder the questions of life” while observing her “unapologetically large” pieces. For example, in her series ‘The Cherry Garden’, she uses the idea of a garden as a place of refuge, with shadowed figures sitting in floral alcoves, their features blurred in an effort to emulate the process of self-discovery.

We need the personal stories as well

Bridget Sterling, director of Axle Arts

For Bridget, this exhibition means a lot. Not only does she value Alina as an artist, but also as a dear friend. When she heard about the chaos taking place in Ukraine, she was anxious for the wellbeing of her companion, and confused as to how the invasion had been allowed to happen in the first place.

“I don’t know how it happened, in this day and age”, she said. Upon hearing that Alina had spent seven days travelling to the safety of Vienna, Bridget knew that she could help. Selling Alina’s art would not only give her greater publicity, but also the financial support she needs to rebuild her life. After all, she had left her art studio, abandoning projects that she had spent significant time perfecting. It is hoped that, within time, she and many others can return to their homes and resume their lives.

For anyone that is interested in hearing the specific details of Alina’s story, a 2,000 word autobiography will be documented at the exhibition, as well as on the Axle Arts’ website, the link to which can be found here.