Interview with Helen Labartkava-Verdi

Stylе Expert and Image Maker for the past 12 years “before the war”, and the founder of the UART.Gallery art project for the past year. Ukrainian. Man of the world

@helenlabartkava_verdi | Gallery website | @UART.Gallery


What inspires you and gives you wings?

You know, the search for what people call “harmony” inspires and gives wings the most. Every person at different periods of his life needs something new to realize, different spheres of life. And here is this search path – it gives strength, and when you find what makes you happy, the wings appear by themselves, like the support of the universe.

This is all art: photography, drawing, and the man himself – because he is the highest work of art and the whole world.

You mentioned that you have been nurturing the idea of creating a creative and cultural platform for more than 4 years. How did thoughts about art on canvases not only appear among activities in the direction of fashion and style? Were you a collector, or was it one of your passions?

Yes, the idea for the project was there a long time ago, but something always got in the way. What happened next happened. And when your whole life is reduced from the open world to the size of a bomb shelter, 17 hours a day, there is no chance to procrastinate. And I will not say that art is something new for me. After 8 years of art school, years of work as a creative director of TV and radio projects, stylization of fashion campaigns and shootings for brands, work with private clients in Ukraine, Italy, and the USA, hundreds of kilometers covered in museums around the world.

How did the war give an impetus and make the UART.Gallery project relevant for the implementation?

As I said before, the war did not leave any time for reflection. You know, all this horror that every Ukrainian has experienced, when your life is destroyed daily, it needs drastic actions. We sat with my husband in a bomb shelter in Odessa with all our neighbors, children, and dogs, and we did not believe that it really happened. And when “Bucha” opened a month later… – when hearts froze from horror and pain, and there were no more tears because you are the one crying blood from the photos of the killed civilians, it became clear that this is the genocide of the nation, they want to destroy Ukrainians and everything called Ukrainian. This is how the UART project was born.

I asked my husband: “Do you think we can? Can we do this project so that the whole world knows what modern Ukrainian is and what kind of spirit, strength, and freedom there is in our artists and their works?”
He immediately answered – “Yes, let’s do it!”.
And we started to write to artists, communicate, build relationships, make deals (from the same bomb shelter), and made the first joint insert with partners in New York at the end of March of that year. This is where the really cool story of our art platform began.

The list of exhibitions and the variety of locations are impressive. What, in your opinion, was achieved during the year of painstaking work, and what are your plans for the future? Will the course of action change after victory?

You know, our project comes from all the stages that our country is going through. Starting with the fact that most people in the world had no idea that such a country even existed… And now, when there is no doubt that this is a unique country with a strong spirit, incredible warriors, and together with very original people, young, modern, active, and intelligent. It was the same with our project. When we were first asked: what, are there Ukrainian artists?

We haven’t heard… it can’t be… is this really what your young people are doing? We understand that the general art world has not delved too deeply into pressing issues recently. When everything is fine with you, everything is fixed, then the question of life and death of other nations does not arise before you because why not. But Ukrainians shook this art world with their power and highlighted these issues very brightly. Picking up and looking for answers is crucial.

And as soon as possible, because there is no time because rockets fly and every day can be the last. That is why Ukrainian art is now being talked about more globally, and people are starting to pay more attention to it. There is still a long process ahead, which is also clear to us. Where will it take us, our team, and our project? We don’t know exactly how it will be. The war showed us this. But when you believe, do, and are passionate about your work, you can move deaf walls and huge mountains. This is what we do 🙂

Are you planning collaborations within the framework of your own projects or as part of something large-scale? Haven’t you thought about starting your own painting biennial?

We constantly collaborate because we believe that this is the future. Our DressX alone is worth what. Virtual state-of-the-art clothing designed by our Ukrainian artists can be bought worldwide in one click and put on your avatar. It is natural how to fly into the future, which is already here, nearby, and this is a time when the country is at war, cities are being destroyed, businesses are closing, and we are building an art future.

One of the most recent projects is a selection of works of art for the anniversary of the tragedy in Bucha and Mariupol. To convey real emotions from the events in space at that time through the works of artists. The project is a selection of artistic creations of that time, created just before the anniversary of the tragedies. This is a web page that opens our “sensitivity content” to the general public from abroad through art.

Unfortunately, this is almost impossible to do as an offline exhibition. We see from our own experience direct rejections because the artistic events of our time take place with a very, so to speak, “gentle” content, in contrast to the reflection of those real emotions that Ukrainians received during the first months of the war. In general, our main forces are directed towards Europe and America, where we represent and promote our artists and introduce people to the modern art of Ukraine.

May this cursed war end with a speedy victory! Then it will be possible to do great things in our country. Because there are such ideas, don’t doubt it!

What would you advise those who want to launch their project?

Believe, listen only to yourself, and do not lose yourself from the course with other people’s advice.
Also, to cooperate with professionals. And the most important thing is to be human, to treat people humanely, and to see the good because then people will respond in kind. Honesty should be the foundation of any project. And when there is no such humanity and honesty… No matter what you build and how hard you try, it will all fall apart sooner or later.

Therefore, develop your projects from the heart. And they will be the most beautiful and the most beloved. The artists and the UART team, and I believe it, and we know it.

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