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

Chornobyl battle

Sacrifice to the XXI century

What you have been punished for, my land?

Autumn rains (fragment)

- Alex, for

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