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An ‘Offensive’ Work Of Art

Two soldiers are hugging one another… while one of them is Ukrainian, the other one is from Russia.

An artist envisioned such a scene, to convey the message of friendship and peace between the two antagonist neighbours. Hence, he created a mural on the wall of a house in Melbourne, Australia in the first week of September 2022. Unfortunately, the netizens strongly criticised the artist soon after the mural went viral on Social Media. The concerned authorities in Australia immediately removed the mural from that wall after Kiev expressed outrage.

Peter Seaton, who works under the name CTO, was forced to paint over the mural, titled ‘Peace Before Pieces’, on Kings Way in Melbourne after it received a “barrage of online hate” and a remark from the ambassador of Ukraine to Australia and New Zealand. Seaton said that he wanted to convey the message of ending the war through peaceful negotiations.

The mural, by Peter Seaton, showing a Russian and Ukrainian soldier hugging each other on the side of a building in Melbourne, sparked anger among the Ukrainian community in Australia. It has now been removed.

Earlier, Vasyl Volodymyrovych Myroshnychenko, the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Ukraine to Australia, described the artwork as “utterly offensive to all Ukrainians” in a string of tweets, calling for it to be removed. He stressed: “The painter has no clue about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and it is disappointing to see it done without consulting the Ukrainian community in Melbourne.” “The mural creates a sense of a false equivalency between the victim and the aggressor. It must be promptly removed,” added the Ambassador.

For her part, Ukrainian Sociologist Dr Olga Boichaka, a Lecturer in Digital Cultures at the University of Sydney, said that such a mural was dangerous, as it “implies that peace can be achieved if both parties agreed to lay down their weapons”. She further said: “By now, we all have a clear idea of what would happen if Ukraine stopped fighting, so this ‘art’ delegitimises the lived experiences of resistance. Unsurprisingly, similar tropes can be seen on murals in Russia, forcing a victim and aggressor into the picture on equal terms. If you’re an artist interested in contributing to the visions of peace, reading up on Ukraine’s postcolonial history is a great place to start.

Meanwhile, Seaton has apologised for this incident. He described the mural as “clumsy“, and also admitted that he was shocked by the reaction. The Melbourne-based artist insisted: “I didn’t think it would be so badly received. I’m not affiliated with any Russian people, media, anything.” Seaton, who stayed up until 3am on September 5 to finish the mural, stressed that the work of art cost him USD 2,000-3,000. “I spent 10 days doing it. I wouldn’t do that, if I had thought that it was going to hurt people,” he added.

Artists 4 Ukraine, a charitable organisation in Iceland consisting of a board of Directors who oversee the organisation’s activities and aid in the Capacity Development of the Charities objectives and Mission of supporting and promoting Ukrainian Artists, Arts and Culture, issued a statement, mentioning that it had warned the artist at the consultation stage. It had told Seaton that the mural would be offensive to Ukrainians. However, the artist decided to proceed with the artwork, ignoring its pleas for reason. Artists 4 Ukraine had also asked Seaton to remove the Russian and Ukrainian flags, and to portray an image supporting peace worldwide. The artist replied that he had received some initial positive feedback, stressing: “I had to get behind a message of peace, that’s always what I’m about.

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