I had an opportunity to make myself familiar with his sketches back in my student years. During one of her visits to the Ostroh Academy, where I studied, Larysa Ivshyna, editor-in-chief of Den/The Day, brought an album of sketches executed by Anatolii Kazansky. The sketches were extremely living, at the same time having a trail of history, so I did not understand at once whether the author of the sketches would be introduced to us at the meeting, or The Day had discovered a scarcely known, but legendary artist, whose name was already history. It turned out it was the second guess, although less than a decade had passed since Kazansky’s death.
He lived for only 49 years, but he had time to create the amount of sketches that would be enough for more than one decade ahead. His acute, observing, ironical, still up-to-date metaphoric sketches remain gold fund not only of Den/The Day, but the whole society. And each time we look through the time-worn paper sheets with the cartoonist’s works, their prophetic potential astonishes us.
“Anatolii Kazansky belongs to the people I am lacking. His value, especial expressiveness of his personality does not wane with years, because Anatolii was not only a genius cartoonist, but, among other things, a thinker, a forecaster, and philosopher. It took me long to unravel some of his sketches,” Larysa Ivshyna says, “Acquaintance with him was one of my greatest achievements when I came to work in The Day. We got acquainted under complicated circumstances for me, for the situation in the newspaper was not simple at that time. Anatolii was actively encouraged to leave Den and he was planning to do so, because the entire team he used to work with had left, and we scarcely knew each other. But still he came back and I thought: I could stand everything. We did not say emotional words to each other. Only once he drew a greeting card for me, which I have kept. I also have his book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, which he read, leaving pencil marks on the margins – he always wrote with a pencil. Klara Gudzyk used to read this book, too, and then I inherited it. The great people such as Anatolii Kazansky, Klara Gudzyk, and James Mace are not only The Day’s treasure [as a reminder: this year we have released post stamps in their memory. – Author], they are of huge value for everything living in the country. On the whole, it is a sheer delight to have a philosopher in a newspaper – a subtle, passionate, and dynamic, with an incredible sense of humor. And Anatolii combined acute derisiveness, much philosophy, benevolence, and acrimoniousness. His drawings were often tragicomic, maybe more comic than tragic, but they never were trivial.”
Kazansky had worked in The Day only for two years, in the period between 1996 and 1998. Publicist Kostiantyn RYLIOV recalls: “When Anatolii came to The Day, he already had his own luggage of original ideas, plots, and characters. This helped him to stand the quick pace of the newspaper conveyer. He used some of his surrealistic characters for the sketches. And vice versa, the cartoons, prompted by news, momentary impulses of wit, supplemented the collection of the characters of his global surrealistic canvases. So, in Kazansky’s creative work the principles of ‘everyday’ united with the laws of ‘eternal art.’”
Besides, Kazansky drew comics, specifically dedicated to the life in the newspaper.
“I remember, one of those comics showed the newspaper Pen (dolt in Ukrainian),” Ivshyna recalls, “I was a young editor, and Den was only gaining a foothold, and I wanted people to believe in its value, the need of such a newspaper even in the time of ruin, in the need of a high bar. And suddenly – Pen. Should I get offended, I thought? But later his huge devotedness to the newspaper, which he felt, understood, and supported with his talent, (and continues to do so) showed through these jokes and comics. The preface I wrote to the album of Anatolii Kazansky’s sketches reads that the presence of taste is a presence of conscience. The taste, like the style, makes the essence of human individuality, and individuality is always presence of conscience. This is an ethic tuning fork, which the person had in his soul and it could remain unseen, be it not for a fine line. The subtle and powerful line Anatolii Kazansky had.”
The artist in fact consistently developed his technique which may be called conditionally a technique of a fine line. It enabled him to depict up to several tens images, united by one semantic system, on one sheet of paper of the A4 format. And they would take their places quite harmoniously. Here Kazansky applied his spatial thinking of a former professional architect.
Though he left this life far too early, his art and way of thinking is guiding others. According to cartoonist Ihor LUKIANCHENKO, namely Kazansky’s sketches served as a bright example for him.
“He is one of the most outstanding cartoonists over the entire time the genre exists. The powerful philosophic graphics prevails in his works. The ideas laid in it are so strong that probably we will never have a cartoonist of his level. The synergy of the technique of drawing and its meaning, the underwater philosophical stones, on which the fragile boats of stereotypes and dogmas break, self-sufficient graphic worlds with their laws of existence, intertwining of funny and existential things, paradox as an instrument for intellectual dissecting of the reality, genius as a norm – Kazansky was all this.”
People say that Kazansky had a talent of “living excitedly” in friendship, love, and creative work. That is why we so much wish that the energy accumulated in this artist’s works became everyone’s heritage.
“It would be wrong to say that he belongs only to Den, where his talent and genius really took shape, and where Kazansky became one of the team’s leaders. He was loved and praised; nobody envied him, because Anatolii was a pathological workaholic, who was destined to live his life without leaving his job for a second. It seemed he was always thinking in his special images, unusual categories for other people, and reached perfection with the help of abstractions, which only after years passed, enabled people to see the concrete things they contained. People of this scale should belong to the whole country and even whole humanity,” Den’s journalist Vitalii KNIAZHANSKY is sure. “He is like a bright star, which left after flying over our planet such a trace, such a deep artistic and opinion-journalism furrow that it will more and more appear the most precious of our roads. Like other geniuses, he differed from us, ordinary people and high talents because he could see the future. Look at his works which are published almost in every second issue of Den. He foresaw all the current crises, rises and falls, experienced by the Ukrainian society after the artist tragically died; neither the technical progress, nor the economic situation could hide from him. He knew about our (without him) troubles, betrayals, and disappointment. And he knew about the moments of happiness. He believed that love on the whole and love to Ukraine would overcome all the hardships.”