Independent and influential jury of representatives from the French world of art has selected from 512 candidates the first top five young Ukrainian artists and photographers and then determined the name of the lucky man who received a grant of 20,000 euros for the nine-month study in Paris. The lucky man is Mykola Tolmachov from Brovary – a self-taught artist, who started painting a year and a half ago.
The idea of the competition and the award belongs to the International Cultural Foundation UART, which is actively promoting Ukrainian art abroad. In February 2013 they became partners with the Louvre, acting as a co-organizer of the exhibition of Johann Georg Pinzel – famous Ukrainian sculptor of the Baroque age of the 18th century. In response the Louvre has allocated space for organizing exhibitions of the Ukrainian artists.
In France the Foundation also organized exhibitions of 15 Ukrainian artists, including Daria Skorubska, great-granddaughter of Wassily Kandinsky. Currently, the UART Foundation participates in the 55th Venice Biennale, presenting a sculptor and artist Oksana Mas as a part of Glasstress project. Continuing the line of promoting Ukrainian young art, UART established “The Circle of Friends of Ukraine,” which consists of representatives from the world of art and literature, in Paris and other major European capitals. This community meets twice a year to select the Ukrainian artists, whose art works will be presented at exhibitions held abroad.
This summer UART (http:// www.grant-uart.com/) announced a competition among young artists, graphic artists, sculptors, and photographers to receive an educational grant for studying at the Paris School of Fine Arts (Ecole des Arts Plastiques de Paris) or another educational institution in France at the winner’s choice.
The special aspect of the grant and the competition was the fact that the winners were selected by a competent and independent jury that consisted of influential figures in the world of contemporary art: the wife of the Chairman of the Fashion House Christian Dior Couture Katia Toledano, gallery owner Pierre Dumonteil, world-renowned photographer Gerard Rancinan, gallery owner and passionate collector Didier Krzentowski, artist and scholar Rodolphe Von Gombergh, curator of the Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery exhibitions Benedicte Burrus, one of the artistic genius of French fashion Alexis Mabille, and collector of contemporary art Pierre Nuvion.
During the ceremony of announcing the winner, held in the heart of Paris on the Champs Elysees at the restaurant Fouquet’s, popular in artistic circles, Parisian art critics and gallery owners enthusiastically studied the art works of the five finalists: photographers Artur Bondar and Dmytro Bohachuk, and artists Mykola Tolmachov, Ksenia Hnilytska, and Oleksandr Halynsky. Competition entries of Tolmachov and Bohachuk have been already purchased by famous collectors.
Under the terms of the grant, Tolmachov has to learn French. UART is also going to help him with that, since the main goal of the foundation established three years ago by the Ukrainian and international representatives from world of art and literature, according to its director Maryna Vovk, is “providing assistance to Ukrainian authors that are already world-wide known, as well as promoting contemporary artists.” She said that they plan to develop this initiative and it would be nice to have such event organized in every country of the world. It is a step towards integration and recognition of Ukraine in Europe and the world.
Rodolphe Von Gombergh, artist, scholar, and the jury member, stressed that “Tolmachov is a talented surrealist at his 19 years of age.” The fact that he wants to illustrate a book prompted the jury to make their choice – they decided that a young Ukrainian man should be given an opportunity to grow and learn from the recognized masters. Tolmachov has everything to become successful: technical skills, sensuality, and spontaneity. He represents a new trend in art since he was born in the middle of the 1990s. “He is radical in his art. It is interesting to see what will happen next.” His art work has been compared with Salvador Dali, and he wants to be like early Gustav Klimt and create book designs.
Tolmachov radiates charm: he is young, absolutely free internally, and open to anything new. His small portrait-drawings, executed in well-trained technique, have been highly appreciated by French people because pencil-portrait-drawings in a small elegant format are their passion.
“I get inspiration from history and literature, by nature I am a passeist. The main source of inspiration for me is the past epochs. Currently, I am most interested in creating portraits,” said Mykola TOLMACHOV. “I think it is the most convenient way to say or express something. My dream is to become an illustrator of books. It’s a way of certain cooperation with an author, when you live through the lives of his characters. In fact, it is like making a film, only in images, and paying tribute to what you received from reading the work of art. Now you can express yourself best in illustrations. I would like to make illustrations for The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery or the fairy tales by Oscar Wilde.”
Mykola, please, tell us about how you find images for making portraits of little boys and girls with birds and animals that attract the audience by its surreal vision of the world, which also can be easily decoded?
“All my portraits are made of people that I don’t know. Sometimes I find them on the street or talking on Facebook, or even in some news reports on TV – the important thing is that the person inspires you right away. Usually it is very difficult to find a person with whom you’d like to work and which would correspond to some inner impulses. I like to try new character types every time. I try to convey in my works not the spirit of the person I draw, but put my own feelings into them. That’s why these are quite personal drawings.”
This must be your first time abroad, in Paris, and the entire city is filled with the spirit of art…
“I am happy! I learned about the contest by chance from Facebook. I read the magic word ‘Paris’ and decided that I should try. Then I had a few months to prepare. I had some doubts since I hadn’t had any experience either of participating in competitions or in any exhibitions. It seemed to me that my drawings are something purely personal and besides I work in a small format… But now I am happy because I will finally be able to see the works of the great masters that are stored in the Louvre, Orsay, Marmottan-Monet, Museums of Salvador Dali, Eugene Delacroix, and Auguste Rodin for real… Here in Paris I see different character types of people, their temperament. You can sense boldness and inner passion here.”
What can you say about your competitors? Are they all older and more experienced than you?
“We have become good friends with the other finalists – five artists and photographers. I did not feel any special tough competition. We are all very versatile and work in different genres: painting, installation, and photography. They are all professional and talented artists.
“I had my doubts when I submitted my entries to the contest, but then I realized that for me a trip to Paris is already a victory!”