Ability to keep face
[b]An artistic show not always unites talents but the 2nd Triennial of Modern Belarusian Decorative-Applied Arts — BELARTDECO-2013 (recently hosted by the Belarusian Union of Artists’ Republican Art Gallery) — gives all grounds to speak of a lofty artistic flight of authors’ presentations[/b]The name of the forum hides a focus on the presentation’s significance. The 2nd Triennial of Modern Belarusian Decorative-Applied Arts — BELARTDECO-2013 — is a kind of an artistic report on a three-year period. Its ‘modern’ aspect envisages analysis of the newest tendencies, their definition and even formation. This year, the event gathered sixty masters of diverse arts: weaving, glass, ceramics, tapestry, enamel and metal. They presented both traditional and experimental works which involved the use of different author’s technologies and new materials.
The name of the forum hides a focus on the presentation’s significance. The 2nd Triennial of Modern Belarusian Decorative-Applied Arts — BELARTDECO-2013 — is a kind of an artistic report on a three-year period. Its ‘modern’ aspect envisages analysis of the newest tendencies, their definition and even formation. This year, the event gathered sixty masters of diverse arts: weaving, glass, ceramics, tapestry, enamel and metal. They presented both traditional and experimental works which involved the use of different author’s technologies and new materials.
The show was held under ‘From Traditions to Novelty’ slogan and was aimed to demonstrate modern achievements of the national decorative-applied arts, while attracting artistic youth to participation in the exhibition and promoting artistry to wide public. An independent jury summed up the results of the show, naming winners in several nominations: ‘Preserving Traditions’, ‘Novelty’, ‘Audience’s Prize’. All awards were divided into two professional categories: ‘Debut’ and ‘Professionals’. In turn, audiences were invited to choose winners in the ‘Audience’s Prize’ nomination via a secret voting.
Globalisation, unified production and mass culture level our surrounding down. Artists face a challenge: to preserve our national identity and develop their own artistic language (irrespective of any fashionable ‘trends’). Many participants of the show demonstrated through their artistry that they are ready to advocate originality and oppose widely spread ineffective imitations.
Among those presenting their works at the exhibition was glass painter Tatiana Malysheva. She managed to bring a nostalgic mood to her images inspired by her own perception of life. Her compositions at the Triennial perfectly reflect her personal artistic philosophy. Her Family Legacy was conceived as a holistic piece. As I’ve learnt, this work will be exhibited at the Great Patriotic War Museum. Actually, Tatiana’s creations interpret her recollections, and bring them to life through various materials: i.e. foil wonderfully depicts water in her Braslav Lakes, while her Winter Fern composition symbolises circulation of life in nature. At the Triennale’s artistic contest, the master was awarded a prize.
“I’ve dreamt for a long time of depicting several dishes — with reflection and research of encircled objects,” Ms. Malysheva says. “My Winter Fern composition consists of two large dishes: one is transparent (on an active blue table-mat) and the other is made of a green smoky glass (on a bright green table-mat). A stylised pattern of fern leaves — made from glass icicles — passes along the diagonal of the dishes. Everything is fixed with a special clue which imitates first snow. Frozen fern remain unmovable within the circle but their live parts are kept in warmth. Here, in the soil, juices of plants — which are actually ‘green blood’ — are moving.”
In turn, the Braslav Lakes work consists of four large dishes made from transparent glass, with triangle foil extracts inside. “These are my summer impressions of Belarusian lakes: each of them enjoys its own colour and coastal relief,” the author explains.
Originally, Ms. Malysheva studied to become a decorator but after many years of creative effort she’s become a true specialist in ceramics and glass. Actually, her personal motifs play the role: many of her works — showcased at diverse exhibitions — reflect a joyful, festive mood, along with pride in the country. “I often study exhibitions at the History Museum and the Great Patriotic War Museum, learning about memorable dates, which will forever be part of the history of civilisation,” muses Ms. Malysheva. “Details of the harsh things that happened at the front are highly significant for me. I’d like to create a memorial out of soldiers’ canteens and mugs, and use ribbons and medals to decorate it.”
Her artistic technique allows her to re-create any photo on nickel chrome foil, placed between sheets of glass. Her huge dish at the show has ‘stained glass medals’ inspired by her parents’ medals and orders: their legacy.
It’s not easy for contemporary painters to make their own path; they have to prove themselves against the stiffest competition. Sometimes, technical progress ‘overloads’ them as they try to make a name for themselves in art. As a result, their work becomes non-expressive, without underlying thought. Only the talented and gifted can break through the high-tech web to surprise us with their archaic or naive style. Only later do we begin to understand that everything is as it should be.
Ms. Malysheva is a master of decorative art and can easily create any image. For example, she has ‘locked’ fire into clear geometric forms that resemble diamonds. This work is at the National Art Museum of Belarus. Her large multi-coloured red, white and blue piece, entitled Festive Vases, is based on architectural principles.
What determined your path in art? What influenced your decisions?
I’ve been drawing since early childhood. Since we lived in garrisons and remote areas, where there was not much cultural life, I was primarily self-taught and always used any opportunity to improve myself. We moved to Minsk when I was in the eighth grade, and it was fabulous, although I was a little bit worried. Two years later I tried to enter the Theatre and Art Institute’s Graphics Department. At that time, I couldn’t imagine that the Decorative and Applied Art Department even existed. However, I failed and became involved in ceramics and glass instead. Glass immediately became very important to me, involving a great deal of effort to create the shapes that I was looking for. Glasswork is a noble profession — the work is hard, yet very delicate. Glass factories are usually located in small towns, which, as a result, always boast dynasties of master craftsmen. This also adds some particular charm to our profession.
You’ve managed to fulfil your potential in this profession. What is the most creatively stimulating aspect of the work?
I became keen on glass when I was a second-year student and did an internship at Neman Glassworks, where I first tried my hand at making items from glass. My final paper was devoted to stained glass windows. After that, I wanted to work at the Neman Glassworks and become completely engaged in glass making. I left my well-established life in Minsk and spent 13 years in Berezovka.
A special attraction of our work is that you don’t know yourself what the result will be. Sometimes we sit and watch master craftsmen at work. If something they are working on goes wrong, they throw it away, but we may notice that the piece is very interesting and can be polished and improved. Then we sit and imagine what it could be like. We go back to the craftsmen and have them take another look at the piece. They think it strange that what they considered to be defective and a waste could have an experimental significance for us. Gradually, they become involved too and begin to prompt us with their own ideas, creating an endless symbiosis. We became good friends with them. Finally, a complete set of glassware appears and everyone is surprised at how it happened. Of course, it’s the result of sleepless nights and constant, dissatisfied searching…
Experiments with glass are a symbiosis of creativity and hard work, aren’t they?
Yes, getting an item of glass into the desired shape is undoubtedly hard work. My life changed drastically. I had to wake up at 6am to start blowing at 7am. The factory had a schedule and our workers had to work to that schedule. I had to arrive by 7am and bring some creative ideas and watch to see whether the master craftsmen could create what I had in mind. We had an irregular working day and could sometimes work in the workshops until 10pm. It was a hard job for me. Moreover, all our pieces were sent to exhibitions, so we had to copy them endlessly. The exhibitions took place in Moscow, Minsk, Leningrad, Grodno and Lithuania.
The search for new techniques, textures and methods has gradually brought Ms. Malysheva to her individual style. One of her favourite works — Architectonics — is inspired by her observation of rain drops. They fly, fall and finally reach the surface, producing big and small spirals. This artwork also uses primarily architectural principles, with seven shades of colour honouring the richest palette at the Neman Glassworks.
Do you feel that you could help, with your advice and knowledge, those who would like to develop these ideas?
During the thirteen years I spent at the Neman Glassworks, several students used to visit us each spring. They came from Armenia, the Baltic States, Leningrad, Moscow and Minsk. I tried to pass on my experience over a space of two months, which was the amount of time the students had to prepare a term paper or final paper. We helped many students and even now I help as much as I can. For example, Lena Atrashkevich, who teachers at the Academy of Arts, organised the first international glass-blowing symposium at the Neman Glassworks. Twenty-four artists attended, including seven from Minsk. One came from Hungary, two from Lithuania and two from Latvia. Several master craftsmen came from Leningrad, and some represented the Moscow school. During the symposium we got on well and had the opportunity to work with the craftsmen, capturing the process on film. Each of us had half a day to work with the craftsmen. Can you imagine that we were able to bring to life within just four hours that which had taken several months to prepare?
Ms. Malysheva’s talent comes easily today and she shares her experience with students. Moreover, she’s personally participated in the Triennial and her works truly stood out.
Among the exhibition participants were also artists whose works decorate the Independence Palace, the National Library, the Mir Castle and other well-known Belarusian objects. Galina Krivoblotskaya was one of them. At the Palace of Arts, her jubilee show of tapestry — In Search of Spring — attracted much attention.
Actually, Ms. Krivoblotskaya’s tapestry impresses with diverse themes — depicting flora and fauna, as well as cosmic improvisations. Some focus on chamber problems, while others reflect large-scale problems of our modern life. In her works, Galina widely uses allegory, associations and generalisation. Her Dialogue with Nature series, as well as such pieces as The Day, Spring Comes, Miraculous Tree, Steps of Quivering Fallow Deer, Joy-Rainbow-Paradise are among them. The master sensitively reacts to the life of our society, responding to its problems and crises — as seen from her Requiem: Trostenets (devoted to the Great Patriotic War drama) and The Path (inspired by the Chernobyl disaster).
Ms. Krivoblotskaya is evidently a person who well understands her ethnic, national roots and realises a high level of the national ethno-culture — as proved by her Poet’s Cradle (dedicated to Yanka Kupala’s 100th birthday), Lyutinka (which is an artistic view on Dunin-Marcinkiewicz’s estate) or Zaslavl Melodies (celebrating Zaslavl’s 100th anniversary). The author is captured by deep personal emotions, human vibrations and movements. With this in mind, all her works irradiate worry over the cataclysms which occur in our nature and minds these days (The Day, Steps of Quivering Fallow Deer). Ms. Krivoblotskaya expressively feels sorrow for the tragedies which she personally experienced (Sorrow, That’s All). Meanwhile, the master’s accumulated experience enables her to focus on monumental forms — truly large-scale in size and sense.
Ms. Krivoblotskaya’s works are kept at Belarus’ National Art Museum, Yanka Kupala State Literary Museum, National History Museum, funds of the Belarusian Union of Artists, Zaslavl’s Historical-Cultural Museum-Reserve, Vitebsk’s Art Museum, Gomel’s Vashchenko Picture Gallery, Hajnowka’s Museum of Belarusian Culture (Poland), Moscow’s Museum of Contemporary Art and private collections in Belarus and abroad.
Really, Belarusians are strong in art — including fine arts. This globally known fact is well proved by international recognition; our masters’ works are kept in domestic museums and foreign galleries. However, little is known of Belarusian posters which actually have a century old history. The Republic Art Gallery of the Belarusian Union of Artists also hosted the 100 Years to Belarusian Poster exposition, celebrating 100th anniversary since the appearance of the first printed Belarusian poster.
As other fine arts genres, the Belarusian poster has its own traditions and peculiarities of historical development. It roots back to the 16th-17th century when engravings (informing on scientific or other discussions) were released as plates with a text. Among the first such engraving-posters were Frantsisk Skorina’s Panegyric of Skarulsky Brothers (engraved in 1604 in Nesvizh).
Famous artist Yazep Drozdovich was among the founders of the Belarusian poster. Zair Azgur, Ivan Akhremchik, Yevgeny Zaitsev and Anatoly Volkov worked much in this genre during the Great Patriotic War. After the war, the art of posters continued developing and, in 1948, the 1st Republican Contest of Posters was organised. In 1961, a club of posters began its work and, in 1966, Agitplakat association was founded by the BSSR Union of Artists which united many talented poster painters. The genre was on the high in Belarus in the 1970s-1990s, with Arlen Kashkurevich and Vladimir Tsesler being most active poster authors.
In the late 20th-eraly 21st century, the Belarusian State Arts Academy’s Design Department opened a new chair: Graphic Design. Methods of poster art teaching have yielded fruits: in a recent decade, many young poster painters have won international poster contests and biennales. With this in view, the recent show aimed to demonstrate the development of poster art in the recent century. Pleasingly, its organisers met the goal, creating a truly impressive exposition panorama.
By Viktor Mikhailov