Statement - The Great Refusal
The Great Refusal
The Great Refusal is a collection of four works in the format of traditional Christian altarpieces. They present scenes of social stability and violence, and explore how both stability and violence impact isolated individuals. The intention of presenting this contrast is to draw attention to the necessity of violence in the attainment and maintenance of social stability. Scenes of leisure serve as symbols of social security, and are presented on the exterior wings of the altarpiece in its closed position. These exterior scenes are in stark contrast to the interior imagery.
The paintings derive their imagery from five sources: the artist’s family photos, Alberta archival photographs of Canadian-Ukrainian immigration, Time Life magazines (circa 1950-1960), documentary photographs from the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia, and paintings from life. These reference points are reflective of Senetchko’s ongoing interest in his personal history as a descendant of Ukrainian immigrants, the geo-political reality experienced by Ukraine, and the romantic nature of nostalgia as a disruptive force adversely affecting memory.
The series borrows its title from the famous socialist thinker Herbert Marcuse and his radical concept of a “protest against that which is.” While not fundamentally socialist, Senetchko still plays on this infamous saying through his recognition of underlying societal forces which, in order to be revolted against, must first be first recognized if any significant societal change is to occur.
The contrasting imagery of this series affirms that individuals enjoy pleasurable activities such as the sharing of food with friends due to levels of social security underpinned by violent means; and that these same individuals are not only complicit in that violence but also responsible for its consequences. The Great Refusal means to question the nature of social stability, expose its historical and contemporary costs, and reveal how a viewing audience may be unaware of their tacit engagement in such a system.