Ukrainian Digital Art Pioneer Stepan Ryabchenko’s Inaugural NFT Mint Blossoms
September 14, 2021
Blooming amongst the many gardens in Ars Electronica’s 2021 'A New Digital Deal', we spot a delicate flower encased in glass - quietly marking a historic moment for Ukraine’s digital art-scene. Glassflower the Gorgeous is the latest creation in pioneering Ukrainian artist Stepan Ryabchenko’s Virtual Garden-series, but the very first to be minted as an NFT. The work, selected for this years’ Ars Electronica festival opened last Thursday, is now available on Foundation.
Ryabchenko has been working with digital mediums from the start of his career, exhibiting at places like the Saatchi Gallery in London and the Changwon Sculpture Biennale. The genesis release of Glassflower the Gorgeous marks his very first step into the NFT-world. For this pivotal moment the latest successor in the Ryabchenko-dynasty of Ukrainian contemporary art, the artist choses a work that both embraces and inflates the expanse of freedom offered by the digital realm - nearly to satirical levels.
The Virtual Garden-series consists of anthropomorphic flowers that inhabit the boundless virtual meadows of Ryabchenko’s worlds. His pieces aren’t merely abstract compositions, but represent entire realities, spaces with their own laws, forms of life and structures that are part of Ryabchenko’s full breadth of work. His flowers are not mere objects, but heroes featuring in the tales and lore of the artist’s universe, each with their own character and purpose as delineated in each individual artwork’s accompanying mythology.
Each inhabitant of Ryabchenko’s virtual world is nurtured by the artist with the awe and care of a good gardener tending to his plants and providing them with the best growing conditions. But the existence of this garden is not limited by climate factors or any other physical parameters. Instead, the flora and fauna in Ryabchenko’s garden flourish solely on the capabilities of the artist’s creative mind. The Virtual Garden-series lets go of laws of reality and indulges in the fantasy. Perhaps more than fantasy, it becomes a uniquely human interpretation of plants.
Exaggerated textures, liquid neons and poisonous greens show a hyperplastic manifestation of humanity’s tendencies to anthropomorphize just about anything. It highlights our habit of overlaying our own experience of the world onto beings that do not necessarily share the same thoughts or even senses. Forever tied to our own two eyes and mind, we struggle to see things from the perspectives of different entities, and prefer creating narratives and explanations of our own. Ryabchenko’s work deeply knows this, and simply admits it.
The care and devotion that Ryabchenko brings to his own imagined world shows a dedicated effort to, if we can’t place ourselves in the shoes of ‘the other’, at least consciously and tenderly study that which is strange to us. May the sparkling beauty of his garden be testament to an earnest human attempt to understand, revealing at the same time how little we may be able to.
For his very first minted work, Stepan presents Glassflower the Gorgeous. What follows is his own chronicle and account of the work:
"Such a rare species can only be met in the northern part of the virtual space, close to the Glass lake, which, according to the legend, gave birth to the flower. Due to its appearance and shaggy boots on the basis of the stalk, the plant was named the Gorgeous. The structure of the flower is still unknown as it has a reflective mirror-like surface, which merges with the surroundings and makes the plant almost completely invisible. The second reason - the three legs that help the Glassflower to move at a speed of 'thought', so no one has to catch it. Legend says, that this mysterious flower can only be met by a person who has love in his heart, pure as the morning dew."
Nina Lissone is the Junior Curator at Electric Artefacts. With a background in journalism and researching counter-culture in the digital arts, her main interests revolve around disembodied context and narrative-building in the Internet Age.
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