This year, nine artists are in line for their past five years’ creative work to be honored by the Shevchenko National Prize of Ukraine. These are Mahdalyna and Mykhailo Belen from the Transcarpathia, Volodymyr Kabachenko from Odesa, Anatolii Fedirko from Chernivtsi, Leopolitans Liubomyr Medvid and Orest Skop, Nadia Nikiforova from Cherkasy, and Kyivites Anatolii Zorko and Liudmyla Mieshkova. Each of them has already held or is planning to hold soon a presentation of their artworks to enable the general public to form an idea of their approach to art.
What is, then, Fedirko’s “Suprematist Ukraine”? His art project is a series of 18 objects, both paintings and sculptures made of wood and metal. The core idea of each artwork is basically the philosophy of Suprematism as a trend in abstract art, established back in the early 20th century by outstanding Ukrainian-Russian avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich. He created scenery and artist costume sketches for opera Victory over the Sun which premiered in November 1913 in St. Petersburg Luna Park Theater. While working on the performance, the idea of Black Square occurred to him, giving rise to the now world-famous painting from Malevich’s Suprematist cycle.
One recalls that story when looking at Fedirko’s exhibition which put on display his Suprematist Ukraine No. 1, made ??from wood, oil paint, and metal. The artist has depicted vertically divided black square with a smaller yellow square placed within it.
“This work is starting a kind of dialogue between past and contemporary art, represented by Malevich on the one side, and yours truly on the other,” Fedirko reflected. “I put much emphasis also on preserving the traditions established by that outstanding master in the heyday of Suprematism as a non-standard and highly distinctive direction in the avant-garde art of the early 20th century.”
Suprematism, from Latin word supremus, meaning highest, was conceptually manifested in works of artists of the past as combinations of colorful planes, shaped very simply as squares, triangles, circles, and rectangles. They made up an asymmetrical composition reinforced with bright and clean colors.
It is this approach to revealing the artistic image that we observe in another Fedirko’s piece on display, entitled Hello, Professor Malevich. The artist has depicted the maestro of avant-garde art as an abstract sculpture using colored wooden planes, bound together into a solid structure both horizontally and vertically.
Generally, Fedirko has become known as a shocking art creator over the past decade. His artwork displays are often accompanied by provocative performances. For example, his 1995 exhibition “Ukrainian Fall with Friends” involved a boar killed in the presence of the audience, right there at the gallery amid paintings. One can also recall his 2004 art project “Golgotha.UA,” when the artist himself represented Jesus Christ, bearing a heavy cross on his shoulders downhill towards Kamianets-Podilsky fortress. Another equally shocking project (NoN) Cult included a stylized monument to Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash, exhibited in the center of Chernivtsi in the summer of 2010.
Some fans of contemporary Ukrainian art reject Fedirko’s works, others like them. The only thing that unites both groups is the emotions that arise immediately as one looks at the controversial artist’s pieces, unusual in their expressive form and inner meaning alike.
The Day’s FACT FILE
Anatolii Fedirko was born on April 7, 1958 in Chernivtsi. He graduated from Kyiv State Art Institute in 1986 and has participated in numerous exhibitions both in Ukraine and abroad since 1987. The artist won the first prize at the Pan Ukraine International Biennale of Contemporary Art in Dnipropetrovsk in 1992, the first prize at the International Print Triennial in Krakow (Poland) in 2003, an honorary diploma at the International Experimental Engraving Biennial in Mogos, Bucharest (Romania) in 2008, and obtained an Austrian government scholarship in 1998.
Fedirko has been a member of the National Union of Artists of Ukraine since 1992, and a member of the BZh-ART All-Ukrainian Creative Union of Artists since 1998. He is currently a full-time artist.