It is not easy to make art in an occupied city, says Max Kilderov.
The painter and street artist lives in Nova Kakhovka, a southern Ukrainian city that has been under Russian occupation since the start of the war.
Russian soldiers are stationed everywhere, he said, and residents must abide by a strict curfew. There is very little coming in and out of the city and art supplies are hard to come by. He has already used all the canvases he had on hand before the invading troops rolled in earlier in the month.
So when he came across an abandoned and burnt out Russian tank, the inspiration struck.
“It is very difficult to make art in an occupied city when you do not have canvases,” Kilderov said. As it happens guest host Gillian Findlay. “IN [a] city where you can not get canvas, burned tanks [are the] best canvas. “
Remains occupied during occupation
With the help of some other residents, Kilderov transformed the ruined symbol of obsession into a work of art and spray-painted it with the swirling white pattern that is one of his signature looks.
He says that it was partly an act of resistance – to turn something ugly into something beautiful – and partly a way to ward off the monotony of the occupation.
“My whole life before the war was just painting,” he said. “After the war starts, I keep creating and doing some good things [for] the people because people [are] goes really crazy in the city due to [the] humanitarian disaster. “
Kilderov says his hometown has been occupied since day 1 of the Russian invasion. And unlike many other Ukrainian cities, there are no Ukrainian troops on the ground.
But there are plenty of Russian soldiers.
“They sometimes come into our stores to buy beer and cigarettes or something, but we have no interaction,” he said.
“I’m not trying to talk to them, but I hear some stories from my friends when they come to the Russian soldiers and say, ‘Gunner, go home. It’s not your war. You did not see … any Nazis, everyone. fascists. And your mothers are waiting for your return. ‘ And the Russian soldiers do not respond. “
Still, Ukrainians are resisting where they can, he said. Some have banded together to ensure that the most vulnerable among them have access to the limited supplies available.
And earlier this month, thousands of people in Nova Kakhovka and other occupied cities took to the streets in protest and came under fire from Russian troops.
“It was really strong. It was [a] really inspiring protest, “Kilderov said.
He says things have calmed down since the early days and he has not seen much conflict between residents and Russian soldiers recently.
He says he was a little scared to work on the tank for fear of reprisals from Russian troops, but at the end of the day he is an artist and he has to make art.
“It’s my way of communicating. It’s my way of showing what’s inside me,” he said.
“I do not provoke Russians, because I understand that well [under] employment. I have to minimize risks. I’m not doing Molotov [cocktails] or something and I do no illegal things you know not inclusive [the] tank. And by the way, is this illegal? It’s just a burned tank. Come on.”
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Chris Harbord.