Katia Denysova

PhD student

Thesis: Fragmented Identities: Between Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism in Ukrainian Avant-Garde Art

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 national identifications to artists hailing from its multicultural territory. My research reconsiders the avant-garde 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 validity of ‘Ukrainian avant-garde art’ as the concept and to position it within the framework of the production of national identity. 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 avant-garde 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

Conferences & Publications

Conferences & Talks

‘Censorship Internalised: Ukrainian Monumental Art of the 1920s-30s’, Cracks in the Canon: Modernism and Censorship in Eastern Europe, Université Libre de Bruxelles, September 2022 (withdrew for political reasons)

‘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

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


‘In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900-1930s’, co-editor and contributor, London: Thames & Hudson (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 6–07, 2021), ArtHist.net (July 2021)

Professional Activities

Curatorial Projects

In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900-1930s, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (November 2022 – April 2023) & Museum Ludwig, Cologne (June 2023 – September 2023)

Outside 11: Artist as Outsider, Cuckoo Farm Studios, Colchester (2011)

TimeFrame, Art Exchange, 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