Apocalypse Survivors/Tethys Sea Inhabitants

series, 2023


Due to the constant retraumatization, the mental gap between generations starts to disappear, and I’m realizing that fate lasts longer than one human life. In the case of my land (Ukraine), very often, the story of one family can showcase the whole historical dynamic of the people of this land in general. The time is rather moving circle-wise than straightforwardly: since Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, the generational traumas of the Ukrainian people from the past are coming back to life, and often, the historical scenarios do not change. The aggressor has remained the same for many centuries and uses the same well-known methods from the past. However, despite everything, life in Ukraine continues to go on as it has been for centuries.

So fundamentally, there are no new myths; the old ones are being renewed and are acquiring a fresh meaning, and there is a process of exchange between the ghosts of the past and the future. At the beginning of the full-scale war, as I was horrified by this realization, I created a series of paintings that highlight the cyclical nature of these traumatic events, such as the aggressor’s attempt to conquer our land, genocidal intentions, and mass killings of civilians.

According to my knowledge of different physiological phenomena, intuition is often instant logic. I want to be convinced repeatedly that the conscious and unconscious can coexist as an integral system. If that is the case, then there are certain unknown processes that cannot be fully measured but can be noticed and gasped intuitively. Intuitive conventionality; guessing sometimes leads us to similar answers as the long and conscious searching for the solutions does.

My painting series “Those who survived the apocalypse/ The inhabitants of the Tethys”1 was inspired by the neuropsychological study that claims that the brain’s processes of imagination and remembering are quite similar to each other, and so to imagine, we have to remember first. In my work, I highlight both the history and today’s condition of the southern region of Ukraine, specifically the Black Sea territory. The Black Sea itself has united a lot of crucial periods in the history of Ukraine. And still today, as always, remains a significant strategic point suffering from the major ecological and environmental disaster caused by Russia. I am referring to the research about the Odesa’s catacombs and the district in Odesa where I am originally from. Estuaries and the sea surround this district and have a hidden history that, under a significant influence of colonialist policies, was deliberately ignored and not included in the official writing of the city’s history. For example, the paradoxical phenomenon of limestone, which is constantly being washed away by the sea but can still preserve shells over 6 million years old. The ancient shells and little holes in the limestone remind me of the stories of the inhabitants from the past, which remained under a shadow. The traces of their lives are still present in the limestone dams and caves. I want to believe that some things can still be preserved despite constant destruction.

I am trying to recreate the invisible natural processes behind the formations of unobvious cause-and-effect relationships or movements of the time that cannot be measured. All of these aspects, however, affect the formation of fate and life in different forms. Being concerned about the region’s uncertain future and unspoken past, I put my worries in the polemic about the immeasurable time span from the oldest times of Tethys to a possible future apocalypse. The symbols of the transgenerational traumas are represented in my work: the imaginary inhabitants of the deep sea who carry on the memory of all of the events of the past along with the ability to survive in future catastrophes; the inhabitants of the self-made houses inside of the limestone dams (catacombs) near Kuyalnyk and Hadzhibey, which I created based on a real-life story; the souls of the lovers who survived and the remainings of the spirits that settled in the last trees and fishes on Earth.

The exterminated history of my ancestors and still alive relatives doesn’t stop bothering me. Mainly by the orally told fragments that have come down to me, I am filling the painful void of not knowing about my ancestry and origins. As I’m doing so, I’m remembering Vasyl Stus’2 words: “Instead of the land, our poet has an abyss under his feet. So, half of his efforts are spent on trying to feed the abyss to create a land under his feet”.

The text is written in collaboration with Oksana Briukhovetska (2024).

The statement was created within the Secondary Archive project and was first presented on March 15, 2024.

Secondary Archive

Artist’s Bio

Sana Shahmuradova Tanska – born in 1996 in the city of Odesa, Ukraine. Most of her childhood was spent in the village of Podillia in Ukraine. In 2010 she graduated from the school of ballet, and in 2013 she and her family emigrated to Toronto, Canada, where in 2020, she earned her bachelor’s degree of Arts in Psychology at York University. In 2020, Sana Shahmuradova decided to move to Kyiv, where she works in the field of painting and graphics to this day. She uses different materials in her work, such as wood, burlap, canvas, and oil paints. Sana is also exploring her origins and using trauma as a tool to communicate and connect with her ancestors. Her latest works highlight the violence and atrocities that were committed against civilians and nature by the aggressor state (Russia).

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