IT WAS a month that started like any other, with the prospect of war in Europe unthinkable.
Yet just weeks later, Russian tanks were rolling into cities across Ukraine and millions of families were on the move, fleeing the advance of Putin’s war machine.
And if any one image could sum up the unfolding tragedy, it was a striking work by Portsmouth street artist My Dog Sighs, aka Paul Stone.
It may have been hidden down a back alley in Cardiff, but the “No words” mural featuring the colours of the Ukraine flag and its capital Kyiv rapidly captured attention around the world when it appeared on his Twitter feed on March 1.
The prolific artist from Portsmouth originally trained as a primary school teacher but turned to street art when he was 30 and has since had commissions (and sell-out exhibitions) around the world, from America to China.
Known for using a vast array of reclaimed materials, including oil drums, bottle caps and tin cans, Paul started out by making works of art at home and leaving them on the streets once a month as part of his home city’s Free Art Friday project.
Many immediately recognise his giant paintings of eyes, which feature pictures in the pupils. “I see eyes as windows into the soul,” he says. “I hide stories inside the eyes and leave it up to people to decide what they can see and what the stories represent – dreams, wishes, wants.”
His Cardiff mural is just one example of dozens of striking and heartbreaking street art images which have sprung up all over the world in response to the crisis.
Another Welsh offering comes from Jenks, an artist in Llanelli who acknowledged that while Ukrainians were unlikely ever to have heard of his hometown, he hoped his Pray for Ukraine piece would help them not to feel isolated, and “know people are on their side during this terrible time for them”.