Watching this war unfold is akin to watching helplessly through a glass wall as a bully bloodies the nose of a smart, younger kid on the playground. If only the Russian army’s strategy could surpass the courage of the Ukrainian people, well, then perhaps this war wouldn’t have dragged on for more than 100 days. But it has. And so it goes.
As America struggles to preserve its own fragile democracy, this war that the Ukrainian people are fighting represents a fight for freedom and justice. It’s a sign of the triumph of democracy and the beginning of an end to tyranny and false propaganda. It’s a fight for the world, but the Ukrainians are the ones fighting it. Many of the Ukrainian civilians have stayed to literally take up arms or assist, while others have emigrated with the clothes on their backs, carrying their possessions, their children and their beloved pets, out of their country and into Poland or Germany. But all of the individuals that I am writing about once called Kyiv their home, and all of them are talented artists whose creations remind us that Beauty Shall Save the World.
First we examined the work of artist Asya Kozina, who sculpts magnificence out of plain white paper. As a quick aside, Asya has remained in Ukraine to volunteer and stated, “Three months of war. Air raids continue daily. I read the news less and less. We all want to win soon, fall asleep peacefully, and wake up with the knowledge that there is no more war and no more death.” She added, “I don’t allow myself to create art because I feel like I’m more useful as a volunteer. The day will come when I return to my ocean of creation. Recently I had thoughts about art. I guess I’m slowly recovering.”
After Asya, I wrote about identical twin-sister photographer duo, Dasha and Mari, whose darkly erotic vignettes of female beauty inspire and provoke. The sisters, who stayed in Kyiv with their parents as long as they possibly could, have since left Ukraine for Germany and are hopeful that the war will end soon.
Today, we are going to look through the lens of Kyiv’s Artur Verkhovetskyi. Welcome to the world according to Artur. Verkhovetskyi’s motto is ‘When beauty meets power,’ and the artist finds beauty in each and every impeccable frame.
I’m crazy about the picture above, which is wickedly femme fatale and deliciously noir. This shot is everything. It’s just fantastic on every level. I love the concentric circle theme of the model’s stockings and headscarf. It’s so glam yet bursting with whimsy and coquetry, at once playful but filled with a strikingly dark intrigue. In addition, the photo is perfectly lit, masterfully framed, and ripe with sensual movement. The sheer beauty of this capture is an impressive accomplishment. Ditto for the work below.
Here, you see a glimpse of Artur’s remarkable range. Look at the expression of the model above. These kinds of shots don’t just happen. The uniqueness and technical skill of this photo are simply off the charts. I love all the elements of this black-and-white. Great texture; lighting is on-point…it’s mysterious, and deliberately so. Big love.
The ad above is actually a marketing piece for Rolls Royce. I adore the lyrical pose of the model–the longing, the languishing. It’s pure poetry from the tips of her toes to her outstretched fingers.
Beauty certainly meets power above. The model is perfection, her physical beauty matched perhaps only by the epic setting. The lighting is sublime. Erotic, yet classy.
Elements of surrealism and fantasy are a recurring theme in much of Verkhovetskyi’s work, but he is just as capable of profound portraiture, as seen below in the model’s exquisitely-lit visage from a humble test shoot in Verkhovetskyi’s own studio. The eyes are simply riveting. But if you think that Verkhovetskyi’s talent ends at documenting the female specimen only, just check out the clever portrait of Max Shkinder, Senior Designer at McLaren Automotive, that Verkhovetskyi shot for Vogue Ukraine. Verkhovetskyi reveals his subjects with a poignant wit and irreverence that’s refreshing, not stodgy; cool, not cloying. Shkinder has worked on several projects with Verkhovetskyi, and told me that Artur “never ceases to surprise people around him with his continuous 24/7 creative thinking. In fact,” he continued, “it’s his natural state of being and if he’s not letting his mind loose, he’s suffocated.”
“Demanding, determinated, a hostage of his ever-growing appetite to improve, (Arthur) never fails to search for new forms of expression through body silhouettes/postures and lighting. It’s always an adventure to go on when shooting with Arthur,” he added.
In addition, Shkinder said that it is Verkhovetskyi’s own curiosity which drives the creative energy of the shots you see here. “I’ve never met anyone who’s constantly curious about obvious things which in my view is crucial for artists, as it enables them to look at the same, every day things from different angles and therefore, find new perspectives,” he stated. As a creative individual, this statement resounded powerfully with me because beauty exists everywhere and Verkhovetskyi sees it and conveys it skillfully.
However, most of his body of work does indeed involve his interpretation of female beauty. The iconic shot below is ripe with curious cinematic suggestions and an air of mystique. This is the world according to Artur.