Artists use Ukraine president's candy wrappers for critical portrait

KIEV, March 29 - As Ukraine heads in a presidential election on Sunday, two artists have created an unflattering portrait of incumbent Petro Poroshenko using sweet wrappers and bullet casings.

From Poroshenko's perspective probably the best thing about the piece is that the artists had to use 20 kilograms (44 lb) of candies made by a confectionary firm that he owns.

Titled 'Face of Corruption', the collage by Daria Marchenko and Daniel Green is full of hidden meanings.

Speaking to Reuters in her apartment in Kiev, Marchenko explained that the candy wrappers symbolize empty promises made to Ukrainians since Poroshenko came to power following the ousting of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich five years ago.

Sat at a table covered with colourful wrappers, she described the Ukrainian people as being like a child craving democracy.

"This child was shown a candy in the form of democracy, in the form of a new future, of something bright, non-totalitarian and honest," she said.

"And in the end, the child was not given this candy. That is why we can see candy wrappers on the face of Petro Oleksiyovych (Poroshenko). We cannot not see candies, we can see empty wrappers, just wrappers."

The portrait's background is made of bullet casings collected from Ukraine's volatile east and are arranged in a pattern to resemble chocolate bars, in a nod to Poroshenko's background in the confectionery business and his nickname "the Chocolate King".

Close-up, the chocolate bars also resemble coffins which symbolize the lost souls of Ukrainians, Marchenko said.

"In the background we can see the country at war, the country full of coffins while the president lives in sweetness under any circumstances," she said.

According to an opinion poll published on Thursday, comic actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a political novice who plays a fictional president in a popular TV series, has maintained a strong lead in Ukraine's presidential election race.

The poll by KIIS research body, the final survey for the election's first round, showed support for Zelenskiy at 20.9 percent, with Poroshenko second on 13.7 percent and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko third on 9.7 percent.

Thirty-nine candidates have registered for the election. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the votes cast in Sunday's poll, the top two will face each other in a run-off on April 21.

The portrait of Poroshenko is the third in a series of artworks by Marchenko and Green.

Their 2015 'Face of War' depicted Russian President Vladimir Putin and was made of bullet casings, while a 2017 portrait of U.S. President Donald Trump was made of coins and titled 'Face of Money'.