Bells of Chernobyl
Paintings by Peter Yemets

It was 1996, when for the first time I saw few of Peter Yemets’s artworks. There were low-quality reproductions in an article about upcoming anniversary of disaster. That moment it was like opening a window to some underworld. It matched the general feelings about the Zone in mid-90s we had in Ukraine — a subject, that was yet too painful to break down a collective self-declared restriction to look into its depths, limiting all the knowledge to a little number of publications and rare television episodes. It was not prohibited to look into this; it was just too deep national trauma multiplied to lack of proper information and existing cemented interpretations.

Being a liquidator from the very first days of Chernobyl disaster, Peter Yemets worked inside the dangerous area for nearly 4 years — from 1986 to 1991. His works, being an attempt of visual documenting of unfolding events, deliver to viewer a powerful representation of the early post-Chernobyl epoch, encoded with intensive, and often unclear inner feelings. Combining various technics, he beholds a story of Chernobyl through episodes of daily heroism and a hard work, witnessing a sharp pain of ancient lands of Polissya. All this — twisted with irrational hopes and bitter taste of Soviet lies, pictured like a still shot of a developing storm around.

In 1995, more then 200 artworks from 1986-1989 with some from 1991 were included into the book «Bells of Chernobyl», named after the painting featured the first. A bell, having an important cultural context in Ukraine, was an early symbol of Chernobyl — representing a reminder about our place in the world and fragility of it. A fragility, that became very sharp in a new reality — where deadly danger hides in flowers of cherry blossom, in wind, that runs over just abandoned fields, in dust over the road. A fragility, that a common human perception and logic cannot comprehend, leaving just one question — what you have been punished for, my land?


Bells of Chornobyl
1987


Chornobyl battle
1987


Sacrifice to the XXI century
1988


What you have been punished for, my land?
1989


Autumn rains (fragment)
1987

- Alex.

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