Dr. Lesia Smyrna
Ukraine Fellow

Dr. Lesia Smyrna
Ukraine Fellow

Lesia Smyrna is an art researcher, theorist and curator, as well as the author of several individual monographs, co-author of collective monographs, articles, and projects related to the new epistemological and aesthetic potential of visual art forms in Ukraine. In 2003, she completed her PhD studies at the Kyiv National University of Culture and Arts, defending her thesis on the 1960ies Ukrainian artist Viktor Zaretskyi, and for the first time in the historical art discourse of Ukraine analyzed the chronological and geographical aspects of resistance, non-conformism, Soviet-era art, the main guidelines of its movement, and the diversity of art schools (Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Lviv, and Transcarpathian). In 2006, a revised and expanded work entitled "Viktor Zaretskyi. An artist doomed by time" was published with the support of a grant from the President of Ukraine for gifted youth. As part of her work at the National Academy of Arts of Ukraine, Smyrna actively participates in international curatorial exhibition and research projects, and has initiated a number of productive communications with key art institutions in Eastern and Western Europe. An active expert in the field of contemporary visual art, Smyrna implements her expert activity through cooperation with ministries, NGOs and foundations. As a member of the National Agency for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, she participates in the reform of the higher education system in Ukraine. In 2018, Smyrna completed her doctoral dissertation and published a monograph based on it, entitled “The Centennial of the Nonconformism in Ukrainian Visual Art” (2017). This research project was carried out in collaboration with the “Soviart” Centre for Contemporary Art and the Modern Art Research Institute. The result of the research collaboration was the curatorial project "100 NON" in Kyiv and Sumy. As a lecturer on the history of Ukrainian art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Smyrna initiated the development of proposals for the implementation of the principles of creative industries in educational activities, and the involvement of specialists in the latest trends in contemporary art. This approach has become important for the theoretical understanding of the dialectic of Ukrainian culture and art, and its modern practical institutional formation. In 2022, Smyrna became a visiting scholar at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and started working on a new research project analysing new forms of artistic expression in Ukraine during and after the war. This research project was also supported by the Institute for Advanced Study (Germany) and Lithuanian Culture Research institute and gained a clearer methodological outline in the context of deepening the traumatic experience of wartime art in Ukraine.

Lesia Smyrna's ORCID profile.

Current Project:

"Visual Art Practices and Projects of Wartime Ukraine: From Cruel Reality to Cruel Optimism"

Research interests:

  • contemporary art
  • visual art practices in Ukraine
  • nonconformism
  • art and violence
  • art and terror
  • war and art,
  • "cruel optimism"
  • art education


Століття нонконформізму в українському візуальному мистецтві / The Centennial of the Nonconformism in the Ukrainian Visual Art. Київ: Оранта, 2006. 432 с, іл.

 Некласична наративність українського візуального мистецтва 1980–2000 / The non-classical narrative of Ukrainian visual art 1980-2000 Нарація «зображуване-глядач» у сучасному культурному просторі: монографія / Г. П. Чміль, І. Б. Зубавіна та ін. К.: Інститут культурології НАМ України, 2019. С.113-130.

Конформізм, нонконформізм і візуальна невідворотність постнонконформізму. До історії поняття «нонконформізм» / Conformism, Nonconformism, and the Visual Inevitability of Post Nonconformism: To the History of the 'Nonconformism` Concept Художня культура. Актуальні проблеми. Вип. 16. Ч. 1. 2020. 39-43. doi.org/10.31500/1992- 5514.16.2020.205236

THE ELUSIVE MEANING OF NONCONFORMISM. COMMENTS ON THE CONTEXT OF CONCEPT FUNCTIONING IN UKRAINE / Невловний сенс нонконформізму. Зауваги щодо функціонування поняття в Україні. СУЧАСНЕ МИСТЕЦТВО, (15), 271.2019 271-278. https://doi.org/10.31500/2309- 8813.15.2019.185952

Політика неофіційного: до проблеми інтерпретації українського мистецького нонконформізму / The Politics of the Unofficial: On the Issue of Interpreting Ukrainian Artistic Nonconformism минуле Українська культура: минуле, сучасне, шляхи розвитку. Вип. 35. 2020. 90-95 doi.org/10.35619/ucpmk.v35i0.367