Katia Denysova

PhD student

Thesis: Fragmented Identities: Between Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism in Early Twentieth-Century Art of Ukraine

Supervisor: Dr Klara Kamp-Welch

Funded by the Courtauld Scholarship

The aim of my PhD is to investigate the influence of socio-political factors on the artistic output in Ukraine in the early twentieth century – at a time when the country did not exist as an independent state. I examine how art practices can be focalised in relation to historical discourses of ‘Ukraine’ and the ideologies of identity while addressing the complexity of ascribing identifications to artists hailing from the multicultural territory. My research reconsiders modern art in and from Ukraine with a view to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the country’s multi-layered identity and preservation of its historical memory.

The main premise of my thesis is to explore the production of artistic modernism in Ukraine and position it within the framework of national identity construction. I strive to understand how the art of a seemingly non-historical nation might be placed and differentiated vis-à-vis the imperial narratives that engulfed it. What is the situation of Ukraine’s artistic tradition within the complex fabric of its historical and societal transformations? And what value should be ascribed to artists’ self-identification when examining their art? While seeking to re-position the Ukrainian art within the broader trajectory of European modernism, I also look at the existent terminology to critically assess the applicability of such definitions as ‘avant-garde’ and ‘modern’ to the concurrent art practices in Ukraine.


2020–present: PhD Candidate, The Courtauld Institute of Art

2010-2011: MA Gallery Studies and Critical Curating, University of Essex

2006-2009: BA Management, ICU Kyiv-Vienna

Research Interests

  • Modern and avant-garde art in/from Ukraine
  • Central and Eastern European art
  • Politics of identity and nationalism
  • Regionalism and centre/periphery relations
  • Postcolonial studies

Conferences & Publications

Conferences & Talks

‘Ornamental Constructivism: Elements of Ukrainian Folk Art in the Avant-Garde Experiments of Vasyl Yermilov’, panel Printing and Printmaking in Ukraine: Art Traditions and National Identities, BASEES, Glasgow (March 2023)

‘Between Ukrainian Nationalism and Soviet Propaganda: Ukrainian Monumental Art of the Early Twentieth Century’, seminar at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University (March 2023)

‘Mykhailo Boichuk’s School of Monumental Art in Ukraine in the 1920s’, guest lecturer for MA in Beyond Utopia: Soviet and Post-Soviet Art and BA (Year 3) in Global Constructivism: Art Politics and the Everyday, Courtauld Institute of Art (December 2022)

‘From Neo-Byzantinism to Socialist Realism: Ukrainian Monumental Art of the Early Twentieth Century’, The Collective Body Dismembered, SMK – National Gallery of Denmark (May 2022)


‘Between Ukrainian Nationalism and Soviet Propaganda: Ukrainian Monumental Art of the Early Twentieth Century’, in the peer-review journal Art & the Public Sphere (forthcoming 2023)

‘Decolonisation, De-Communisation and De-Russification of the Ukrainian Cultural Space’, special feature editor and contributor for the peer-review journal immediations (December 2022)

In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900-1930s, co-editor and contributor, London: Thames & Hudson (October 2022)

‘From Folk Art to Abstraction: Ukrainian Embroidery as a Medium of Avant-Garde Experimentation’, in the peer-review journal Arts 11: 10 (October 2022)

Review of Stephen Velychenko, Propaganda in Revolutionary Ukraine: Leaflets, Pamphlets, and Cartoons, 1917–1922, H-SHERA, H-Net Reviews (August 2021)

Conference Report of VII International Forum for Doctoral Candidates in East European Art History (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, May 6–7, 2021), ArtHist.net (July 2021)

Talks & Media

‘Modernism in Ukraine, 1900-1930s’, exhibition presentation and book launch, in partnership with the Ukrainian Institute London, Cambridge Ukrainian Studies and Courtauld Institute of Art (April 2023)

‘Modernism in Ukraine’, book launch and roundtable conversation with Dr Klara Kemp-Welch and Dr Maria Mileeva, Courtauld Institute of Art (February 2023)

Contributor to The Week in Art podcast episode Feast and famine: Miami millions and UK arts cuts. Plus, Ukrainian Modernism in Madrid (December 2022)

Contributor to Dash Arts podcast episode The Identity Series: Czesław Miłosz and the Borderlands (August 2021)

Professional Activities

Curatorial Projects

In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900-1930s, co-curator with Konstantin Akinsha, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (November 2022 – April 2023); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (June 2023 – September 2023); Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels (October 2023 – January 2024)

Outside 11: Artist as Outsider, co-curator with Lisa Temple-Cox, Cuckoo Farm Studios, Colchester (2011)

TimeFrame, Art Exchange, co-curator, University of Essex Gallery, Colchester (2011)


Associate Editor, immediations, 2021

Senior Client Strategy Manager, Christie’s, 2012-2022

Grants & Fellowships

The Harriman Institute Visiting Scholar, Columbia University, New York (March 2023)

Association for Art History Scholarly Research Grant (2022)