Olexander Klimenko | Virgin and Child


Virgin and Child, 2023
Tempera on fragment from wooden box for AK cartridges brought from the battle field in Bakhmut, Ukraine
41 x 34cm | 16.4 x 13.6 in

© Olexander Klimenko

A classical icon painting is built on very subtle associative and symbolic principals. It is not always possible to grasp the cause-and-effect relationship between the events of the Sacred History and iconography. The “Softening of Evil Hearts” icon, as well as the “Seven Arrows” icon (the images differ only in one iconographic detail), is a symbol of mother’s suffering, female grief from the torment and death of her own child. Swords and arrows pierce the mother’s chest, visualizing her mental torment. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian women are also wounded in the chest by the sharp weapon of sorrow, experiencing the pain and grief of loss every day. The folk legend describing this icon is about the nomadic invaders who, having captured an ancient city, decided during the robbery of one of the churches to practice throwing weapons at the icon of the Virgin Mary. Parallels naturally arise with numerous facts of barbaric “entertainment” by the Russian military during their occupation of Ukrainian cities, towns, and villages. Sculptures, paintings and peaceful, innocent people became targets, as if in a shooting range.

Icons on Ammunition Boxes ™

From 2014, Ukrainian artists Sofia Atlantova and Olexander Klimenko have been using wooden fragments from ammunition boxes abandoned by Russian soldiers on the battle fields in Ukraine to paint icons and donating all sale proceeds to mobile hospitals that provide urgent medical care to wounded Ukrainian soldiers and civilians. Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in late February, 2022, their work remains more relevant than ever.