Cape Town-based artist Jake Aikman has unveiled a striking three-storey mural on the side of a building in Kiev, Ukraine. It’s in conjunction with Art United Us, an urban art project that collaborates with communities to raise public awareness of issues around war, aggression, and violence. They’re aiming to unite 200 artists around the world through large-scale pieces of work like this.
“The curator of the project, Geo Leros, spotted my work online and invited me to paint a mural in Kiev,” Jake begins. “I made it very clear that I’d never attempted anything of the sort before, but he assured me that my seascape-type paintings would translate well to mural format. It took some convincing, but I’m very pleased I trusted his vision, and was willing to take the chance.”
The haunting mural depicts the dark and stormy Black Sea. How did Jake decide on this image? “The plan was always to paint water,” he says. “I had a short time exploring the city and its proximity to the mighty Dnieper river, which bisects it, before I started painting. Initially I had entertained the idea of a body of water with one of the green islands that dot the expanse of the river, but instead I returned to the strength of that first impression of arriving into the country over the Black Sea.”
“The sea is a subject I’ve painted the most”, he continues, “and this project offered the opportunity to paint, by far, my largest seascape. Ultimately, I want the viewer to be reminded of their own vulnerability, and for me the sea offers that reminder. It’s not a space one can inhabit and feel secure in. My hope is that the painting makes space for a moment of introspection. A calm moment to reflect on one’s place in the world.”
This was Jake’s first time in Kiev. How did he enjoy his time there? “My first impression was that it’s not unlike any other large European city,” he says, “but there is evidence that it’s been through some tough times. There are layers of urban decay and renewal which hint at waves of prosperity and decline. My impression from the people generally is that things are looking up, and of course the energy put into beautifying the city with art reflects that attitude. In all, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, the city, and the people I met.”