Katia Denysova

PhD student

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

Supervisor: Dr Klara Kamp-Welch

Funded by the Courtauld Scholarship

This thesis investigates the profound impact of socio-political factors on artistic output in Ukraine in the early twentieth century, when Ukrainian lands transitioned from the Russian Empire to the Soviet Union via the short-lived independence of the Ukrainian People’s Republic. It surveys the role played by visual culture in the complex process of Ukraine’s societal transformations, considering how artists worked with indigenous pictorial traditions to construct the country’s modern cultural identity, and how this engagement and artistic vocabulary evolved under changing ideological regimes.

Chapter One focuses on the activity of the textile workshops in the villages of Verbivka and Skoptsi in the 1910s, examining artistic entanglements and hybridity in the Russian imperial context. It explores the correlation between the stylistic iconography of traditional Ukrainian embroideries and the experiments in modernist painting that led to the emergence of abstraction. Chapter Two reconstructs the founding of the Ukrainian Academy of Art in Kyiv in 1917 and investigates this institution and its professors’ designs for official insignia in light of Ukraine’s statehood building. The Third Chapter looks at alterations in artistic practices with the advent of the Soviet regime, including the emergence of monumental art. It proposes that in the 1920s it was possible to commit both to Soviet and to Ukrainian culture since the two were not yet perceived as mutually exclusive.

‘Fragmented Identities…’ presents a history of modern art in Ukraine from a Ukrainian perspective, while acknowledging the country’s complex geopolitical situation. Such an approach reveals Ukraine’s cultural syncretism and the diverse identities of its people. By deconstructing centre/periphery relations, the thesis contributes to the ongoing debates over de-imperialisation and structures of power in the ‘post-Soviet’ region. The survey of artistic modernism in Ukraine, a phenomenon all of its own yet inevitably and intricately linked to imperial Russian, Soviet and broader European modernisms, yields a more nuanced understanding of networks of artistic exchange and interconnectivity across the European continent.


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 art in/from Ukraine
  • Central and Eastern European art
  • Politics of identity and nationalism
  • Regionalism and centre/periphery relations
  • Decolonial and postcolonial studies

Conferences & Publications

Conferences & Talks

‘The “Russian” Avant-Garde in a Time of War’, invited panel participant, CAA Annual Conference, Chicago (February 2024)

‘Fragmented Identities: Between Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism in Ukraine’s Early Twentieth-Century Art’, guest lecture at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (December 2023)

‘Folk Modernism: Ukrainian Embroideries as a Medium for Abstract Art’, Year Three PhD Symposium, Courtauld Institute of Art, London (May 2023)

‘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’, guest 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)


‘Modernism in Ukraine: Facts, Myths and Misconceptions’, essay co-authored with Konstantin Akinsha, in HIER UND JETZT im Museum Ludwig. Ukrainische Moderne 1900-1930 & Daria Koltsova, Cologne: Museum Ludwig (August 2023)

‘In the Eye of the Storm’, feature contributor alongside Dr Klara Kemp-Welch and Dr Maria Mileeva, Critique d’Art (June 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

‘Meet the Curator’, In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900-1930s exhibition presentation, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (November 2023)

‘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 & Olena Kashuba-Volvach, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (November 2022 – April 2023, winner of the Apollo Exhibition of the Year 2023 Award); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (June 2023 – September 2023); Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels (October 2023 – January 2024); The Belvedere, Vienna (23 February – 2 June 2024); The Royal Academy of Arts, London (29 June – 13 October 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)


Pre-doctoral/Postdoctoral Research Assistant, University of Tübingen (2023-26)

Associate Editor, immediations, 2021

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

Grants & Fellowships

SHERA CAA Travel Grant (2024)

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

Association for Art History Scholarly Research Grant (2022)