Three years ago, after living in several western European capitals, two French curators settled in Kyiv. Excited to discover an art scene that felt freer and more alive than any they’d seen before, Clara Malet and Sonia Gaspard set up the Socle collective, a project dedicated to supporting emerging Ukrainian talent.
“Alternative and underground projects were booming, artists exempt from regulations and norms were freer, spontaneous initiatives celebrated,” the duo told The Calvert Journal, recollecting their first impressions of the Ukrainian capital. “The recent opening of the country to Europe gave contemporary artists a taste of hope and new beginnings that we have long forgotten in France.”
Three years on, Malet and Gaspard have also seen the other side to the local creative scene: the lack of state financial support, leading to economic instability for both artists and art spaces, and the conservative art education system that means that contemporary Ukrainian art relies on “autodidact geniuses” with no connections on the art market. But such realisations have only made their work with Socle feel more needed than ever before.
Featuring artists working in a range of media, from collage to art installations, @socle.collectif spotlight the Ukrainian scene concerned with reinterpreting the Soviet past and Ukrainian nationalism. But they say they are particularly interested in a young art trend that mocks good taste in a bid to “question the paradoxes of our hyper modern era with ironic detachment”. The collective even organised an exhibition titled Uglification in 2019, dedicated to the works of Yuriy Bolsa, @vikadovhadze, @fabiengrt, and others.
In the future, the curators hope to strengthen French-Ukrainian collaborations, and set up artist residences for Eastern European creators, in France. You can follow their findings on Instagram account @socle.collectif.