ETERNAL PHOENIX OF UKRAINIAN REALISM
Globalist perception of arts comes to an end. Gradually the world learns to appraise the half-forgotten local phenomena of artistic creative work. And Ukrainian pictorial and plastic realism belongs to one of them in all its displays and modifications.
European understanding of the arts has recently entered into the culture of our country, which has long relied on the Byzantine sacral heritage. Even in the modern world repercussions of the latter sometimes echo in Ukrainian art which, for example, defines the phenomenon of the school Mykola Storozhenko. They quaintly interlace with glorious achievements of the 20th century and reminiscences of its antiquity.
A secret to understanding the specific character of modern Ukrainian art is in its eclectic mix. The “old” and the “new” similar to ‘how opposites attract’ but in reality they complement each other maybe even naturally grow one from another.
It is impossible to understand where realism ends and where avant-garde begins. Ukrainian artistic reality is like a big and inseparable rock with multiple granules of precious stones in it.
Whereas the styles and trends of 20th century modernism underwent gradual changes layer by layer in most European countries, it was completely different in Ukraine. At first there was an explosive development of a freely experimental side but with an academic side (Kazimir Malevich is our compatriot who studied under the realist Mykola Pymonenko). Then there was its total rejection for nearly half a century, in the name of misinterpretation of realism, the modern day ‘peroxide blonde’. At the end of the period - a return to the experiment, making a desperate attempt to catch up with the West in its radicalism. Feverish rejection of achievements of the realistic past…
There’s now an apprehension regarding the new phase of realism. This time it tries to combine two art forms previously inherent to only a few individuals of genius like Tetiana Yablonska.
And finally there’s a balanced co-existence of trends in one stream of Ukranian art returning the prestige of academic education. A return of the picture after the destructive “decade of performance and installation” (1990’s). Return of the author as a painter. As a result, the return of the figurative, especially in the works of artists who for years performed in an abstract style such as Petro Bevza.
And lastly Ukrainian post-modernism turns from anecdotic, instantaneously paradoxical to a plot-wise complicated and explicitly narrative. One may wonder: what is the difference between the latter and the academic realism? Of course, the difference is nuances weighing so much in the art. Moreover, most of the prominent representatives of this post-modern have got a strong realistic education in our universities and often are the direct descendants of the classics in this trend (Arsen Savadov).
In the 1960’s research of the French philosopher Roger Garaudi “Realism knows no bounds” became a big event for the worlds intellects. Published in the USSR with minimal circulation it was immediately prohibited for the suspicion of ‘revisionism’. As for me, today there is a sense in retrieving the term itself and applying it to the reality of contemporary art in the Ukraine. Because our realism is boundless indeed. Therein lies its strength –and this is its inevitable appeal.
Oleh Sydor-Hibelynda, art critic