This exhibit is made up of recent works which the artist refers to as a Contemplation Cycle, including his suprematic project entitled “Vibration. X6 Quadrum.” The contemplation cycle offers paintings varying in genre and theme, including Venetian landscapes, animalistic and fairy-tale canvases. All of Vakulenko’s pictures are well-wishing and harmonious, sometimes on the verge of naivety. Some of them are almost as wise as Aesop’s fables. Most importantly, these works of art can be interpreted by anyone, anyway. Vakulenko makes the four elements – air, water, earth, and fire – coexist and create a warm and beckoning environment.
His Project “Vibration. X6 Quadrum” first seems to be a sharp bend taken on the artist’s creative highway, leading to rigid suprematism, geometric lines, mathematical definitions, and black-and-white approach. Vakulenko experiments with 3D techniques, showing his own vision of realities, yet all his works demonstrate a desire to show this world as seen from different angles. “Vakulenko is an artist and expert on museums. He knows better than anyone else that one’s works can be best appreciated when displayed at an art gallery, when the artist can be in direct contact with the viewer…” says Kyiv.Fine Art owner Tetiana Franchuk.
More on the subject in the following interview.
Mr. Vakulenko, your works have been put up for sale during various European auctions. Was it hard to submit your works? What is your auction record price?
“MacDougall’s Fine Art Auctions offered my pictures on three occasions and each time they sold good. I now have a business proposal from another British fine-art-auction company. In fact, I paint my pictures as best I can, without thinking about their auction worth, although the sum I receive is one of the artist’s ratings, of course. The latest auction brought me 4,500 pounds. My personal record earning – 35,000 dollars – has nothing to do with auction sales. I’m negotiating the selling of a canvas for 50,000 dollars. This work has been on display during three art exhibits. I spent almost a year making it.”
You are one of the first in Ukraine to have mastered the 3D technique. Would you care to describe it? Are such works meant only for art collectors? In my opinion, such objets d’art are meant for exhibits because including them into one’s home or office interior design appears to be difficult.
“This is an old technique and the 3D qualifier is rather conditional. An artist must have an idea and 3D is a contemporary means of expanding it. I mean it’s a technical aspect that can make this work of art look contemporary. As for interior… I’m working on special frames that will allow my works to be put on display.”
This exhibit offers works of art that can be best described as illustrations for fairy tales. Why?
“My works should be described as an upgrade approach to such illustrations. I worked on them being impressed by Mikhail Vrubel, Viktor Vasnetsov, and Gustav Klimt. There are two Russian subjects: The Russian Dance and The Hero. My later works, including As Ideal as Light, have painted frames. I’m actually enchanted by Secession and Russia’s contemporary art icons with enamel. All this was once regarded as kitsch, although such decorative elements added to the beauty of the image. In fact, today’s art managers say that there are two kinds of fine arts, contemporary and decorative. They describe everything that reflects current realities as decorative arts. I think the decorative qualifier indicates one of the functions of the fine arts. One learns basic morals and rules from fairy tales. I model my fairy tale pictures by adopting a serious approach to every subject, like Vasnetsov and Vrubel, trying to make the viewer believe that this is also part of daily realities. I’m an intuitive artist; I don’t plan any subjects, they just come to my mind. I trust our art critics to explain this process.”
Why is this February 30 Contemplation exhibit isn’t held at the Russian Art Museum (or at the Chocolate House, its being the museum’s branch), your home turf, but at the Kyiv.Fine Art Gallery?
“I liked what the gallery owner had to say about an art gallery being a mirror in which an artist can see his reflection. I could have used the administrative resources and have my exhibit displayed at ‘my’ museum, but this gallery has a totally different audience. These people visit it to see the pictures on display, without any strings attached. And so I decided to let them pass their unbiased judgment.”
In conjunction with your birthday, you offered a series of pictures entitled “A Hall of Endless Modesty.” All of these are your portraits created by various Ukrainian artists. Did you pose for them? Did they make these pictures relying on their memory?
“I had to pose for some of them. Hermann Gold, true to the older-generation school tradition, walked into my studio and made me pose in an awkward position for about 40 minutes, until he finished a sketch (a long-since-discarded procedure). He wrapped it up in a newspaper and left. When I visited his studio I saw my portrait against a dark backdrop. There was a dramatic touch to it, along with sculptural ornamentation. Many of those present took pictures. I wasn’t worried, considering that a number of noted artists, including Shishkin, used photos for their paintings. Anatolii Tartakovsky had me posing for almost five hours, although he made my portrait on the first try. Petro Lebedynets and I simply spent 30 minutes at his studio, chatting, but then he made a fantastic portrait, relying on his fresh impressions. Mykola Muravsky is known for his bold, challenging portraits. Making every portrait is a small life story for both who poses and the artist. I can consider myself as one in whom other people are interested because artists wanted to make my portraits.”
Recently officials in charge of Ukrainian museums and national preserves were relieved of their posts. How would you explain this? Did this affect you?
“Such cadre reshuffles shouldn’t be made, considering that the reasons remain to be explained in view of Ukraine’s official European integration moods. If a museum curator is relieved of his post on formal charges, this is an emergency situation on a nationwide level. I’m aggrieved to state that the museum and the cultural community at large went through the motions of lodging complaints and issuing supporting statements. No one actually cared, period. Perhaps this is another manifestation of the sluggish condition of our society. I had a situation that came out of the blue and then disappeared for reasons I still can’t figure out. I believe that if you care so much about your post, if you have nothing else to do, you better call it quits. If I were to choose between fighting for my post as a museum curator, thus damaging the museum, and resigning my post, I’d surely resign. Being a self-sufficient individual, I’d find another job, another project to implement. My museum may reject me, if need be, considering that a museum is a an active social structure, an energy substance that will reject you unless you accumulate enough creative potential to share it with the museum. A museum decides who can be in charge of it.
“I don’t think anyone should be protected from this process. Of course, being carried out feet first is an overstatement. Perhaps a different museum managerial system is in order, when each individual who has dedicated most of his/her life to a given museum will head the supervisory board, as practiced in the developed countries. On the other hand, passing this bill would be wrong, considering that we have had a great many bureaucrats who established museums, then called it quits, with their museums vanishing into thin air. It is also important to protect these bureaucrats, so they can prepare their replacements, for if you run a good business and have to resign, you’ll feel bitter about an inadequate successor turning everything topsyturvy. A museum is a very conservative organization where tradition comes first.”