Zhanna Kadyrova. Anxiety

When fear brings silence, anxiety is a rumble of thunder. When the dream seems unreal, wakefulness shoots into the light. When freedom is concealed, speech gives glory to the soul. When art is presentation, when art is denunciation, when art is survival, when it is weapon, when it is flower, when it is hope, when it is rebirth, усміхнеться доля (destiny will smile).

Zhanna Kadyrova, “Anxiety”, exhibition view, Galleria Continua San Gimignano, 2024, courtesy the artist and Galleria Continua, © photo Ela Bialkowska OKNO studio

There has always been a relationship between art and war, between depredations and destructions, between representations and reprisals, but creating art from war is little known. Zhanna Kadyrova – Ukrainian artist born in 1981 – is the messenger of a painful aesthetic, of art that speaks of the present, that presents rather than representing, as it is, without interpretation or allusion, naked and totally raw. Questioning the role of art in a conflict is movement over static, acting differently, without defence, but with courage. War machines against everyday objects, pacifism against brutality. Salvation in fleeing does not make one forget, resistance in rebuilding does not make one abandon. Kadyrova arouses her artistic sensitivity towards her tormented homeland from the first post-Soviet conflicts, where culture, memory, tradition were filters that could be shared with others. But it is since the invasion of the Russian Regime on 24 February 2022 that the artist chooses to convey a more direct message: the fire of battle will not prevail over freedom. Like a relay race, she carries her message with ardour, with the bitter smile of one who lives in that butchered Ukraine, going and coming back, to show and feel reality.

Zhanna Kadyrova, “Shot”, ceramic, plaster, particle board, glue, 100 x 100 cm, 2010, courtesy the artist and Galleria Continua, ph Duccio Benvenuti Art Store

Galleria Continua in San Gimignano gives her space in Piazza della Cisterna for a personal – touching – exhibition entitled ANXIETY. A limited number of works on show, themes that look different, but which, in truth, unite under the same resilient movement. Perforated ceramics, chipped asphalt, stickers, embroidered words, polished stone: ready-made objects taken and declared as art, lawful in their conformation, declarative and transparent in their Duchampian teaching. Shots is a series of black and white monochrome square and round tiles, cracked in their subtlety by Kalashnikov shots: these are the coverings of Soviet-era buildings in “colonised” Ukrainian cities, some recovered as shot, others made by the artist’s own blows. Data Extraction is a piece of asphalt, cut and taken from the bombed streets near Kiev. In it, a crater radiates out, leaving a void in the heart-rending silence of those who did not survive, the subtitle of each serial work representing the exact coordinates of its extraction and memorial preservation.

Zhanna Kadyrova, “Anxiety”, hand embroidery with hand-made and machine embroidered text, 40×30,1×1,1 cm, 2022, courtesy the artist and Galleria Continua, © photo Ela Bialkowska OKNO studio

And if the cruelty of the place is brought out, with the Russian Rocket Project stickers the idea of invasion arrives even where those who see war from safe places live. Anxiety is a series of works with more vivid colors: they are embroidered images of rural landscapes, of rural Cossacks, of animals, on which Kadyrova adds the words повітряна тривога (air raid warning). Here the feeling of despondency and danger reverberates from the works to the exhibition hall and makes one reflect and weep, arousing an emotion that one wants to reject, but which must be accepted and with struggle overcome. Palianytsia is not just a work, but a concept. In Ukrainian it means ‘bread’ and the artist, like all her compatriots, uses this word to recognize friend from foe (because Russians cannot pronounce it correctly). Bread was, and unfortunately is, the only food that those who fled, those who took refuge elsewhere, could find and receive from the hands of others. An element as sought after as it is synonymous with survival and existence. The artist recreates the idea of it with stones naturally polished by the courses of rivers, which from their color and cut conformation recall its features.

Zhanna Kadyrova, “Anxiety”, installation view, Galleria Continua San Gimignano, 2024, courtesy the artist and Galleria Continua, © photo Ela Bialkowska OKNO studio

Zhanna Kadyrova’s unrelenting determination is heartbreaking in its love of hope. The present of art is the present of life in her works. The military conflict is not over, the regime has not won and art is not over either. Archaeology of objects as contemporary memory, history of a justice that will win through gestures, voice and writing.


Zhanna Kadyrova. Anxiety
13/04 – 15/09 2024
Galleria Continua
Piazza della Cisterna 26, San Gimignano (SI)


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.