“It’s more important than ever that we remember the cultural history of our country and the great people of Belarus,” notes Sergei Rumas, the Chairman of the Development Bank, speaking at book launch for Alexander Kishchenko. Chronicler of the 21st Century, at the National Art Museum. “The shadow of various economic and financial crises will pass and daily problems will be solved but we must never forget our national culture, without which we can’t fully exist.”
Alexander Kishchenko was a prominent Belarusian painter. “The book is a worthy tribute to the memory of the great master. I hope that, with the help of this edition, everyone will be able to appreciate his personality and art,” believes Mr. Rumas.
The painter’s creativity comprises hundreds of works, including unique Tapestry of the Century, made by hand, from wool, which was first presented in 1996 and for which he was given the State Award of Belarus. The unique canvas became listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest worldwide, and was recognised as a national treasure. Upon it, he depicted the most famous personalities of past and modern times — over 80 portraits in total — on the 19x14m canvas. In May 2014, the Development Bank hung the work in its office.
Belarusian and Polish cinematographers have dedicated their attention to Mr. Kishchenko. One film captures the process of hand weaving his Tapestry of the Century, at the Borisov Works of Applied Arts. Remarkably, the author built his own huge loom in the shape of a cube for the project.
The Tapestry of the Century weighs 300kg and is as high as a six-storey house, making it unrivalled worldwide as a work of decorative-and-applied art. It took almost six years to weave the 266m square work, which contains around 806km of thread.
Mr. Kishchenko as if summed up his creative life and the whole century in this work, admitting in 1995, at its presentation, that it might be his ‘swan song’. Sadly, since his death, the grandiose canvas has been on display to the public only twice: both times in Minsk. Undoubtedly, it deserves to be seen by the entire world.
Nina Kukharenko, the widow of Alexander Kishchenko, as a professional artist herself, helped her husband create the Tapestry of the Century at the ‘technical’ stage, preparing sketches on cardboard, for later use by Borisov masters. Ms. Kukharenko was her husband’s muse, drawn many times in his works; she was his pupil, apprentice and assistant, his friend and wife. His creativity was amplified when it resonated through Nina. Now, she is the keeper of his huge legacy; she voluntarily took up this mission and cannot imagine it otherwise. She honours the memory of her beloved husband and remains proud of everything Alexander Kishchenko created, wishing his creative legacy to be passed to all people on the planet, fulfilling her spouse’s wishes.
“It’s very difficult but also very important. I hold a large burden of responsibility. It’s a lot for one person to cope with so I’m very grateful to the Development Bank and its Chairman, Sergei Rumas, for their huge support in releasing this wonderful album, dedicated to the creativity of People’s Artist of Belarus Alexander Kishchenko.”
Alexander Kishchenko was a prolific artist, leaving about 400 paintings in his studio, in addition to tapestries. “People often ask to visit to view it, also coming to drink tea, and they always leave happy,” continues Nina Kukharenko. “All my husband’s works have a positive energy, as he loved life and admired so many things. I’m often asked for materials on my husband: a film was shot recently about him and his creative legacy has been recorded in a textbook on the history of Belarus — in the section on culture. His Tapestry of the Century and Chernobyl Tapestry (which hangs in the UN Headquarters) were landmark pieces but his creativity was multifaceted.”
Nina Kukharenko has long dreamt of creating an album, dedicated to Alexander Kishchenko, as well as his monumental and pictoriall works. Now, thanks to help from the Development Bank, this dream has come true.
By Vladimir Velikhov