By Victor Mikhailov
Even the most flamboyant of avant-garde artists fade into the background when compared with this master. Boris Arakcheev is perhaps the most renowned and revered of all Belarusian artists, inspiring young talents with his originality. They may follow the latest trends in the fine arts but they raise their hats in his honour. He is a ‘pillar’ of Belarusian pictorial painting, revealing the core of true realism through his sincerity and originality.
Mr. Arakcheev’s works continue to influence and impress, despite some having been created over half a century ago. The master himself is now 85, so today’s show certainly deserves its title: Stages of a Great Path. Visitors can view the breadth of his artistic journey, full of inspiration and intensity. At the tender age of 17, he fought the fascists on the frontline. No doubt, the horrors of those war years affected his psyche and created his feelings of sympathy and empathy for others’ pain. His understanding of human kindness in the face of suffering is evident in his works, which hark back repeatedly to his youth. His war experiences developed in him a touching and impressive feeling for the theme of bravery in the face of adversity, exploring the depth of human dignity.
His series of works devoted to the defenders of Brest Fortress in 1941 draws on his never forgotten past, filled with bravery and action. The defenders’ deeds help define his attitude towards life, bringing its value into sharp focus. In fact, Mr. Arakcheev helped create the multidimensional poster-diorama Minsk Cauldron, dedicated to the liberation of Minsk in the summer 1944; it is a permanent exhibit at Minsk’s Museum of Great Patriotic War History.
Interestingly, Stages of a Great Path is also the title of a diploma paper presented by Mr. Arakcheev in 1959. His painting was selected for exhibition in Moscow and has been reproduced in various editions over the years. Today, it is owned by the National Art Museum of Belarus. The work perfectly reflects his artistic journey of drawing and draughtsmanship (from his time at Minsk Art College), sketches created during workshops, early drafts from his student years and his diploma paper itself (in sketches). Also on show are pictures drawn in those years when he painted outside, at various open-air workshops, alongside his students. However, most of the works on show are huge thematic canvases from Boris’ workshop, and from the archives of the Belarusian Union of Artists and the National Art Museum. Portraits of his contemporaries and famous personalities are also on display, in addition to pictures drawn in the past five years. Many are on show for the first time.
Boris Arakcheev is notable for his love of life, as expressed in his pictures. His landscapes abound with a bright palette, inspiring great admiration for nature. His fresh summer mornings and delicate late autumn scenes are enchanting and compelling, full of positive energy; it seems that a vital force pulsates from their heart.
The Chairman of the Belarusian Union of Artists’ Board, Vladimir Zinkevich, noted at the opening ceremony that Mr. Arakcheev’s artistry has influenced several generations of Belarusian artists. “For me, Boris Arakcheev is a ship, amazing in its grandeur and inviolability, its originality and wonderful courage. He always remains faithful to himself. He has a sharp eye and a love of life, whatever the circumstances. He ever admires the talent of his pupils and boasts never-ending curiosity. He apprehends the surrounding world with huge passion,” stressed Mr. Zinkevich, adding that Mr. Arakcheev is followed ‘by wonderfully talented generations of fine arts masters — who are the pupils of this great artist, teacher and man’.
The First Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Union of Artists, Rygor Sitnitsa, called Mr. Arakcheev ‘a1960s-1970s artist of a calibre which shall never be repeated in our domestic fine arts’. Meanwhile, Honoured Figure of Arts of Belarus Vladimir Urodnich, who chairs a cultural association called Traditions, noted Boris’ enduring connection to Belarus throughout his life. He was born in a Russian village on the River Volga but has remained faithful to the traditions of Belarus’ realistic art.
Mr. Arakcheev is still painting, full of artistic plans even at the age of 85. Despite his age, he continues to search for new images which represent his time... and succeeds. His three daughters have followed in his path, trying to realise their true artistic talent. The present show is a family exhibition, with his daughter Oksana contributing her Look Into the Mirror of the Soul series, which showcases portraits of our contemporaries. Oksana has her own style and technique but her works are similar to those of her father in spirit, as we might expect. Naturally, Boris Arakcheev remains the star of the show. His artistry is an example to follow, though blind copying is inadmissible. It is a principle sacred to the Arakcheevs.