I always thought real artists (the old-world fiat money laundering types, at least) move in silence, reaching the public eye only when a piece sells for a record price. Something about prestige, exclusivity, mystique — dying notions in the age of transparency. Then, today, while seeking a Ukrainian artist to highlight in this column, I stumbled across Stepan Ryabchenko, who, with a mere 3k followers to his name, has been featured internationally in galleries as large as Saatchi & Saatchi. Apparently, Internet clout isn’t all we H0Rs believe it to be.
Stepan, turns out, renders both old and new styles of fine art impeccably. He sold his first and only NFT on the member-curated platform Foundation for an entire ETH. But it appears to have been a one-off experiment, fitting with the wide variety of forms he creates in. Traversing his Instagram feed is like bouncing around a random image generator, featuring everything from a corrupted take on Mondrian to steel obelisks shaped like the pile of half-finished books precariously balanced on my desk corner to architectural concepts quite literally elevating our own color scheme.
But above all (and fitting with the reason we’ve adopted a different one for today) Stepan embodies the proud Eastern European tradition of protest as art. The image pictured above was a proposed military structure, designed by Stepan in 2010 and shared again 4 days ago, with the caption: ‘You can show the authorities, it makes sense to finally pay attention.’ Surrounded by sheep, it stands now as a poignant monument to Ukrainians of the past and present, fighting for their voices to be heard, and as a reminder to the artists of the future: never be too silent.