Taras Polataiko: DEFIANCE

Taras Polataiko: DEFIANCE

May 26, 2023 – September 24, 2023

Exhibition Details

DEFIANCE features Ukrainian-Canadian artist Taras Polataiko, whose critique of cultural representation is in reaction to political instability attributed to the historic and current Russian aggression in Ukraine. Through video, painting, sculpture, photography and text, Polataiko revisits the ubiquity of Russian-Ukrainian conflict associated with land, language, migration, independence, historical revisioning and cultural genocide.

Each artwork is tied to the confrontation of truth and meaning: a proposition to challenge viewers with questions about who we are, how we are socially constructed, and what we understand about our relationship with power against the backdrop of the conflict in Ukraine.

What lingers long after one comprehends the familiar in Polataiko’s art, is the inexplicable visual and emotional impact. Each work is filled with a tension of immediacy, and the incomprehension of a war of perceptual and literal endurance.

Guest curated by Wayne Baerwaldt, assisted by Dick Averns.



The largest body of work in DEFIANCE is Polataiko’s 2014 War. 11 Portraits. These large-format, black and white head-shots of Ukranian soldiers (64” h x 42” w) feature troops injured during Russian assaults in the east, photographed at a military hospital.

At least one of the men is known to have been killed shortly after returning to combat, but as part of the project each patient gave an interview prior to leaving hospital. These transcripts make for compelling reading and are featured in the gallery.

Complementing the photo-series and sculpture is a second large body of work, the Glare paintings. These relationally extend the artist’s intention to incorporate a particular blend of illusion and minimalism in painting without renouncing one for the other.

In doing so Polataiko attempts to dismantle whatever impressions Russian propaganda has made through written art history: an historical record which consciously or unconsciously perverts and subsumes the interests of a minority Ukrainian culture within a domineering Soviet narrative.

Taras Polataiko: DEFIANCE also includes videos, collage, and text, from thirty years of conceptually loaded art practice bridging the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Mounted at a time following the largest invasion and war in Europe since WW II, this exhibition is both daunting and timely: the involvement of Canadian troops, munitions and tax-payer’s money suggest we are all implicated in the current global upheaval.



Taras Polataiko was born in 1966 in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, and moved to Canada in 1989 to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in painting, performance and critical theory at the University of Saskatchewan. He has taught at Universities in both Canada and Ukraine, has artwork in multiple collections and is represented by the Barbara Edwards Gallery in Toronto.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Polataiko returned to Chernivtsi to help look after his parents and contribute towards the war effort by providing humanitarian aid. He continues to exhibit his artwork internationally with exhibitions for 2023 taking place in Toronto, Calgary, Lublin in Poland, and the Ukrainian Museum of Canada in Saskatoon.

Polataiko’s public exhibitions in Canada include the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Museum London, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Dunlop Art Gallery and Mendel Art Gallery.

Internationally, the artist has exhibited at venues including the National Art Museum of Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukrainian Institute of America in New York, Künstlerhaus Schloß Balmoral in Frankfurt, Antoni Tapies Foundation in Barcelona, Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, Artspace in Sydney, the National Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade, and the 25th São Paulo Biennale.

For more information please visit: http://www.becontemporary.com/art-polataiko.php