We Will Never Forget! We Will Never Forgive!
Discover the journey of Les Panchyshyn, who documents his homeland's tearful events and destructive actions, ensuring history knows the truth about the war.
Photo Courtesy: Les Panchyshyn, Zabora Viniar Agency

Les Panchyshyn is a fantastic artist on a continuous quest to explore his creativity and search for multiple ways to express his artistry. You cannot be much more interesting than that. Les was born in Novyi Rozdil in the far west of Ukraine. It is an area filled with exceptional natural beauty and a multicultural heritage inherited from medieval principalities and the Austria-Hungary Empire. At the age of seven, Les started his lifelong pursuit to push the boundaries of his creative depths. He began by studying the violin, folk dancing, painting, and creating sculpture. Which is exhausting to write, much less actually perform. While other children expressed themselves through toys and games, Les focused his world on art and articulating what was deep inside him.

By 2010, after excelling at professional soccer and initially focusing on ceramics, Les took a serious interest in painting. Eventually, he won the “Lviv Through the Eyes of the Youth” painting competition. His education in ceramics at the Lviv State College of Decorative and Applied Arts is particularly fascinating since it gave Les a fundamental understanding of composition. In his studies, Les learned how to think and create using multiple angles and perspectives, which later allowed him to incorporate unique shapes and forms into his aesthetic.

When I first met Les, I immediately noticed his youthful looks when compared to his extraordinary accomplishments. Nonetheless, there was also a fierce determination and seriousness about him that is evident in his artwork since university. After winning that first painting competition, Les went on to present at multiple art exhibitions worldwide, such as the Dubai Expo and Miami Art Basel. Most recently, Les presented his work in Vienna and France. Reviewing his portfolio, one can see that his current achievements are only a part of his successful journey from art school and university. It is revealing when you understand that the artistic life is the only life that Les knows and desires.

Les made it evident in our conversation that he is constantly looking to learn and achieve more with his art. In the last five years, Les has encouraged himself to consistently rethink his aesthetic and advance the relevance of his topics and artistic mediums. Nonetheless, there are some common threads in all his work, “The world of my art can be compared to a kaleidoscope because I work on a variety of topics. In my works, one can find animalistic plots, compositions with flora and outer space, and figurative paintings. Such as wide range of images is due to the fact that interesting ideas from interesting spheres of our world are constantly born in my mind, which I definitely transfer to the canvas.”

He certainly has remained busy; just earlier this year, Les was curating three art exhibitions, and he has been at work on music videos which is one of his other passions. Even so, Les has continued to concentrate on his painting and sculpture to the point where his art is proudly displayed in public spaces in Kyiv and Odesa. During his scarce free time, Les talks himself through incorporating advanced ideas and techniques, such as EFT, and continuously educates himself on his art’s future.

Recently though, Les has changed direction to a more serious topic, that of the war in Ukraine. He is now heavily focused on the concepts of respect, mutual support, and being united as a human society. Like many others, the war personally impacted Les and his family. Consequently, Les could not stay quiet when the thundering, ominous tanks rolled in, and the deadly missiles started falling on his beloved country. He had to express his shock and anger over the senseless death. With a rare serious expression on his face, he indicated, “We will never forgive, and we will never forget.”

Les’ first reaction to the invasion was to reflect on his values. In the past, he had always treated people the way he wanted to be treated, but the war triggered new emotions on this topic. From his youth, Les was attracted to the notions of unity and compassion alongside humans and nature. He used these concepts in much of his art, but his views became much more understandable and fell into place with the onset of the war, “We don’t have time to play anymore. We have to continue our lives with love and respect”. As a result, Les became even more invigorated and continues to push his art to elevated heights. His latest work includes war collages incorporating visceral images of destruction as seen from a contemporary impressionistic eye. Being inside Ukraine, Les told me that one better understands why this war started and its cost. Other countries may have their opinion on the origins of this conflict, but he wanted to show the point of view of someone who lived in and deeply loved his country.

When I asked Les what his goal was for his new artistic direction, he responded that 100 percent of the goal was to ensure that history knows the truth about the war. Les explained that, fortunately, we now have the internet, which can provide us with an unbiased eye on actual events as they unfold. But in the past, especially in Ukraine, most people did not realize what was happening around them, nor were they able to see the truth beyond the written lies and propaganda. Les wanted to document the tearful events and destructive actions being perpetrated to show the world what happened in his homeland and how everything occurred. In essence, he wanted to present to us and history what his truth looked like. Thus, Les greatly desires his art to be placed in museums and other public places, but not as an act of ego. He believes that art belongs to the people without restriction or cost.

When I asked Les about his future, he reflected first on his past. Although he has exhibited frequently in the USA, it was mostly for Ukrainian communities. He admitted that his recent relocation to the USA is a part of his thoughtfully laid out plans to build his career here. I was captivated by his reasons. Les told me that the USA has the correct values about how to treat and how to respect art. Americans have access to a considerable number of art galleries and exhibitions, and they genuinely are interested in appreciating art; it is an enthusiastically followed event. I never considered that before; Les is correct; as Americans, we have cultural opportunities that are not prohibited or destroyed as in many other places.

In the immediate future, we can see Les at Miami Art Basel, where he will showcase his work. In January 2023, Les will participate in an additional art exhibition and a spring show in West Palm Beach. It was so refreshing to hear Les’ opinions and equally touching to hear him say that although he has traveled the world, he still believes in the USA and its values. Les Panchyslyn is an inordinately charming man. What is more impressive is that his work is gorgeous and improving as he tenaciously learns and pushes himself to innovate.

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