By Victor Mikhailov
The city of Brest boasts more European style than is usually found in Belarusian cities, perhaps because it’s situated in the west, near the border with the EU. Border areas always show the legacy of other cultures more clearly. Even the city’s architecture is unique; the historical quarter’s buildings are lower and its streets are calmer. However, life in Brest is actually quite busy; the city is never viewed as being quietly provincial. Artist Leonid Rotko, who has lived in Brest for many years, finds it endlessly inspiring.
Mr. Rotko was born in the Minsk Region’s Kopyl District and polished his drawing abilities at the Minsk boarding school named after Akhremchik, known for its good traditions. He graduated from the Belarusian Theatre and Art Institute, specialising in ‘artistic metal’. For almost twenty years, from 1976 to 1993, he worked with the Belarusian Mastatstva Art Factory, where his creativity saw application in decorating public buildings — inside and out. In his free time, he devoted himself to easel painting, which has been his passion since his school years.
Today, Mr. Rotko is sixty, yet still stirs public interest. His jubilee exhibition is unusual in its palette and theme, radiating wonderful energy. You would think his works were created by a bold young man — an assumption blasted away on closer acquaintance with the artist.
Admiring the work of the French impressionists and those of the Parisian school from the early 20th century, Mr. Rotko tells us, “I’m not interested in reproducing images absolutely accurately. I’m rather interested in capturing the internal state of a person or nature via colour.” Evidently, he tries to gain insight into the essence of all things through his work; the spiritual side of existence prevails, with Mr. Rotko asserting that the process of creativity is itself spiritual. “Sometimes, some magic light pours in from above, opening inside me,” he explains. “Although this doesn’t last long, I manage to acquire clarity, freedom and confidence that I should do something very important. I don’t think about anything; I just take a brush and canvas and begin to draw…”
His exhibition includes still-life paintings, portraits and landscapes. In his Our Father… series, he explores the brevity of human existence while his love of the female form finds fruition in his vivid portraits, which are both touching and tender. He paints each character’s mood and state with bright illumination. Meanwhile, his landscapes glorify the Brest Region: Belovezhskaya Pushcha; Two Pines; A Vegetable Garden in Autumn; Autumn. Courtyard and others.
On viewing the exhibition, it’s easy to see that he reveres his creativity, giving his soul and heart to each work; they are like revelations rather than canvases, showing his creed and his constant search for the meaning of life. His individual creative manner and sincerity inspires a spiritual dialogue while arousing the warmest feelings from spectators.