On Thursday, what had previously been unthinkable, became reality: Russia invaded Ukraine. While we anxiously await for what happens next and how European and American leaders will respond, Ukrainians are already in the thick of conflict or attempting to flee their country.
As soon as news of war reverberated around the planet, the crypto and NFT space has rallied together in support of Ukraine as fast as anything else gets around on the internet. Outpourings of support for our fellow Web3 pioneers have been overwhelming, and Ukrainian NFT artists have been put in the spotlight. Some NFT collectors have even gone on a buying spree to support Ukrainian NFT artists.
So we’ve decided to celebrate some great NFT artists who are contributing to contemporary Ukrainian culture and enhancing the wonderful art that populates the space.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of Ukrainians making art and creating NFTs in the crypto space. So while we’ve chosen to highlight a few who are doing remarkable work, there are many, many more. If you want to support other Ukrainian artists, check out this list that’s been circulating around Twitter if you haven’t already.
Photography is thriving in the Ukrainian NFT space. Here are just some of the photographers that caught my attention.
Nude photography is big among Ukrainian photographers in the NFT space — but none are as big as Artem, whose inaugural NFT collection embodies the fat-positive slogan “big is beautiful”. Called “Giant,” the award-winning photographer from Mykolayiv, Ukraine, photographs himself in the nude in stunningly orchestrated scenes. You can find his work on Foundation.
Kyiv resident Kristina Podobed’s photography ventures into the otherworldly, playing with light, color, and patterns to render the real world strange. Her Secret Garden collection features photographs of flowers cast in an ethereal glow, and Salty Earth, available on Foundation, features images that could have been taken on a beach or perhaps on Mars.
James Horizon, a young artist from Odessa, recently listed his first collection on OpenSea with the help of Irish artist James Truett. This genesis collection features incredible shots of the sky, which are beautiful and poignant considering current events. Hopefully one day, sooner rather than later, Ukrainians like James can once again look up to the sky with a sense of peace and wonder.
Malka Napas, another relative newcomer to the NFT space, is a face painter and photographer with a penchant for both the theatrical and the ordinary. Her first collection on OpenSea is a series of self-portraits in elaborate makeup and costume. One of these pieces, Freedom, was sold for 0.3 ETH, with proceeds to support the Ukrainian army. Her other collection, Life before the war, consists of photographs of everyday life rendered in black and white, creating a sense of nostalgia and a time long past.
Sergey Melnitchenko is an artist and photographer who composes evocative images reminiscent of film stills, hinting at a larger story happening beyond the frame. His current NFT collections document various scenes from China, depicted with an empathetic and intimate lens. While he may be best known for his photography, Melnitchensko has also ventured into 3D animation with the science fiction-like Fundamentals of Space Exploration.
Performance and Digital Artists
IrinAngles, the handle for geometric dancer Irina, is bringing something different to the NFT space. Her work, available on Foundation and Known Origin, can best be classified as dance and performance art, in which she puts herself into seemingly impossible poses to convey various themes and emotions. Her pieces set an example for how dancers, historically reliant on live performance, can bring their art to the digital space in a post-Covid world.
V4W Enko, also known as Yevhen Vashchenko, creates algorithmic soundscapes paired with abstract glitched-out images. A self-described multimedia artist, Vashchenko is an innovator in the new frontiers of digital art, where digital entities themselves are actively involved in the creative process. His works are audio and visual feasts for the future. You can find his NFTs on Ethereum, Tezos, and Algorand-based marketplaces.
While I don’t usually go for large-scale pfp NFT projects, Motanka is something special. Each image depicts a Motanka, a traditional Ukrainian doll with a deliberate crafting process and symbolic meaning. The paintings are reminiscent of folk art, in the spirit of the traditional crafts used to make the dolls. As a woman-led project celebrating a feminine aspect of Ukrainian culture, I would place my bet on this. The collection is now available on OpenSea.
Ireen (going by the Twitter handle @MoonIreen) is an eclectic artist. Her work ranges from the hand-drawn to the purely digital, from representational to abstract, from somber grayscale to kaleidoscopic color. We love an artist who likes to experiment and doesn’t tie herself down to one style. And apparently, so does Benjamin Bitcoin, who bought “Futuristic City” for .13 ETH. You can view most of her work on OpenSea.
Maks Denysenko’s mediums of choice are VR and spraypaint on canvas, and the abstract works he creates have a textured, polychromatic quality. But whether done by paint or digitally, his color palette is neon-bright (and only sometimes dark), echoing the retrofuturistic vaporwave aesthetic. If the web3 world is neon, count me in! You can find his work on Rarible and Teia.art.
How you can help
First of all, you can buy their art. Many of these artists have fled their homes and maybe even the country, and they’ll be in great need of funds in order to have all the basics. Giving them money now will also help ensure they have money later to start their next project when war dies down — hopefully sooner rather than later.
If you aren’t able to buy for any reason, but like their art, you can share it or send a supportive message. Artists love it when you tell them that you love their work, so it’ll brighten an otherwise dark day.
While it’s best to give money to people in need as directly as possible, there are organizations that you can donate to (crypto or fiat) that will help Ukrainians. You can check out Ukraine DAO (founded by Pussy Riot member Nadya Tolokonnikova and Trippy Labs), or donate directly to organizations like Come Back Alive, Proliska.org, and the Red Cross. As always, watch out for scams looking to take advantage of a tragic situation to make a quick buck.
Once the war machine starts rolling, it’s easy to feel powerless. But as long as we support artists and other creators, who keep culture alive even in the face of barbarism, solidarity will prevail.