This new project, a collective exhibition of portraits and self-portraits, is the six famous Kyiv artists’ (Olena Pryduvalova, Oleksii Beliusenko, Borys Firtsak, Matvey Vaisberg, Oleksii Apollonov, and Akhra Ajinjal) first claim to fame as a creative community of friends. In the words of Nikolai Gogol’s Taras Bulba, “Such was the time, comrades, when we joined hands in a brotherhood! That is what our fellowship consists in! There is nothing more sacred than brotherhood!” In fact, the artists joined hands in a brotherhood long ago: some trained together at art school, others studied together in college, they lived and worked in the same art space, met at collective exhibitions, went to plein-air trips.
Their community became the magical element of the exhibition: the opening ceremony, held at the gallery and bringing together creators and guests, featured invisible, but absolutely real vibes of tenderness and good feelings. Friends paint each other – only imagine how much love quanta are in each brush stroke and pencil touch! A sensitive viewer, having worked on deciphering the code used by these keepers of Modernist tradition, will be able to embark on a satori, instant reflection of beauty of design.
Beliusenko, initiator of the project, said that the idea occurred to him when he began to develop his own studio. “I found among old works a lot of self-portraits and portraits of myself donated by colleagues who had painted them at different times and adhering to different styles. I thought it would be interesting if the artists of our group looked for similar works at their studios, the results of our stays on the other side of the easel as a model.”
The unity chain stretches from painting to painting, bringing to life a lot of blazing worlds and realizing a lot of messages! Beliusenko painted his friends and fellow exhibitors amid amazing Kaniv landscapes. Here he is, in person, standing on a lookout landing of the almost-vanished time, immortalized by Apollonov. Firtsak’s self-portrait features incredibly vivid colors. Pryduvalova’s self-portraits in melting interiors are full of life and hidden smile. They are flanked by her portraits created by Apollonov and Firtsak. Ajinjal’s wonderful symbolic painting is called The Apostle Matthew, but a closer look discerns Vaisberg as its subject!
Vaisberg’s works on display make for a peculiar family chronicle. Apart from self-portraits, they include My Father’s Portrait, showing its creator next to his most important teacher and telling the story of his admiration for that person, and the most recent work called Self-Portrait with Son, filled with divine light of reverence for life.
Artist and art critic Dmytro Korsun shared with us his impressions of the exhibition: “The artists have ‘friendship as institution.’ It is neither an art institute nor a general audience which brings together young artists, but friendship in general as a factor of artist’s life. For the artist, in a sense, is a friend to everyone, he is open to all viewers, and it is truly evident in this exhibition. Another unexpected thing is relevance of works from 30 years ago. I look at pictures of the 1980s and wonder ‘Lord, he was already capable of everything back then!’ Then I come to look at a 2013 work and think: ‘He still is!’ Wise philosophical nature of the exhibition is that life goes on, and the artists remain themselves in any incarnation, always finding well-thought tone towards life, people, friends, and comrades.”
Gallerist Tetiana Kalyta said that the exhibition, which was held in Kyiv’s most stressful time, emphasized artists’ unity: “They have in common their authenticity, in painting and in life alike! Their works and the artists themselves have always been dignified and therefore they could not help but support the Revolution of Dignity. They could not stay in the studio, and from the early days all these artists were at the Euromaidan. Vaisberg and Beliusenko created a photographic chronicle of the revolution, and the former embodied it in new works, continuing his biblical painting series The Wall using current material. This is an unbreakable wall made out of the human spirit.”