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5 Sep, 2022 08:22

Aussie artist pressured to paint over peace mural

Critics in Melbourne found an image of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers hugging to be offensive
Aussie artist pressured to paint over peace mural

An Australian street artist has been pressured into painting over his own mural, which depicted a Russian and a Ukrainian soldier hugging each other. Kiev’s ambassador to Australia called the image “utterly offensive” and accused the author of creating “false equivalency between the victim and the aggressor.”

Artist Peter Seaton, who goes by the nickname CTO, covered his work called ‘Peace before Pieces’ on Kings Way in Melbourne just days after finishing it. He did so on Sunday night after an intense campaign by pro-Kiev activists, who accused him of ignorance.

Ukrainian Ambassador to Australia Vasily Miroshnichenko was among the public figures who lashed out at CTO. In his initial reaction on social media last Saturday, he blasted the artist for failing to consult “the Ukrainian community in Melbourne” about his creative process, calling for the mural’s removal.

Over the weekend, the diplomat shared some altered versions of the mural on social media. One, which was made by an Australia-based anti-Beijing cartoonist from Hong Kong, showed the Russian soldier stabbing the Ukrainian one in the back. Another depicted the soldiers as a Nazi and a Jewish person marked for extermination.

CTO apologized to people offended by his mural, but rejected the ambassador’s claim that his message was of false equivalence. He said he believed that all humans were united on a fundamental level and could overcome their differences, which made them commit acts of violence against each other.

His work “doesn’t say you have to love the Russians. No. It’s just that love is fundamental within us,” he said, explaining the meaning of the image. “And anything that takes us away from love is not acting in our best interests in the long run. I really stand by that.”

Miroshnichenko remarked that CTO had been “swift” to remove the work from Melbourne.