Artists Against War: The Visual Language of War. An Interview with Viktor Hrudakov

Artists Against War: The Visual Language of War. An Interview with Viktor Hrudakov

Svidomi in collaboration with Artists Against War, an online gallery of posters created to support Ukraine after the Russian full-scale invasion, tell the stories of the artists who help Ukraine by means of art. Read an interview with the artist Viktor Hrudakov in the carousel.

What did you do before February 24?

I worked in graphic design. Me, my wife, and three partners of ours created Once Agency, an agency that developed brands, communications, and websites. That was my main activity.

Well, I studied to become a designer, an artist, I took classes, and that's why I know how to make art. When the war started, I switched to creating posters, and I was very active in doing it. Before the war, I did not create posters; after the war started, I was active in doing it.

Can you describe your day of February 24?

It's quite a funny story. The day before, we were hesitating for a long time whether to have an office party (as we hadn’t had one for the New Year). We  were thinking about it over and over again, and still decided to have a party. We rented Planeta Kino in Kyiv and had a little celebration. In this way we wanted to distract ourselves from all the thoughts that were adding more and more pressure, everything was getting weirder and weirder, so we decided "okay, let it be, let’s have a party." And at about five in the morning, a friend of ours started calling us. We were sleeping because we had gone to bed late.

I had gotten a little paranoid before, so I had my go-bag packed. And I needed five minutes to get up, take my bag and go out. We wanted to leave Kyiv right away, but it didn't happen that way, because our friends had been a little less panicky and didn’t have their go-bags packed. So we went to our friends’ place in Obolon to help them pack. When we came back, we realized that it was too late to leave: the traffic jams were too long and heavy. We decided to wait, to see if the situation could get more clear, or everything would be over.

In the evening, when the air raid sirens were more frequent, when we received more news that the battle was starting in Hostomel, we decided to leave. We got together, packed a full car of our friends, and left.

How has the full-scale war affected your work?

We spent the first few days trying to figure out what to do. We organized the Internet forces of Ukraine. During one of our first online work calls, I was sitting and waiting while the people were speaking, and I took my tablet and started drawing. I drew a Kyiv cake. I uploaded it on the net, and the next day I saw a whole bunch of likes. At that moment, I realized: this is what I want to do now, and what I will be most useful for.

I started depicting the events. At the same time, we reset the work of the agency.

The things you draw, is it a reflection or rather a way to distract yourself?

This is something completely new. I mean, my inspiration mostly comes from certain events: I see something, and I want to depict it, to show it. So, it is a combination of everything — both a reflection and a simple desire to do something.

How does art help in a war?

People of all creative professions have a cool skill: they absorb information, and then give it out with apt messages. So, they take in all this chaos, pack it, and give it out. And in the times of information war, this is important.

Have you noticed the interest of people from other countries on your page?

Yes, I have. A woman from Australia wrote to me; first, she commented on my post, and then she wrote: "I'm very glad that I’ve found you, I really like what you are doing." It surprised and pleased me. I started communicating with her, and she told me how her father had moved to Australia, how she was not interested in politics and believed that peace was the only right solution. Now she has changed her attitude, and understands that peace must be "with fists", that you must fight for peace.

Many people are trying to do something abroad: to print posters, sell them, send money to funds.

Is it important now to build communities in order to attract more attention from abroad?

It is still difficult for me to answer this question. I don't understand the format of this community. What I do notice though, is that in general our community has already risen up. Many people have started communicating with each other; they take each other's works and create their own. For instance, one illustrator took the Coat of Arms for the Armed Forces, which I drew, and used it in her illustration. We already have this kind of collaboration, and it's cool.