Conventionality steps aside under pressure of expressive images

Exhibition of graphics at National Art Museum reveals amazing new angles for fine arts

By Victor Mikhailov

An authoritative collector asserted not long ago that graphic art is the major achievement of our Belarusian painters’ rich artistic legacy, being alone worthy of admiration. I treated this dogmatic statement rather sceptically, knowing many famous and talented painters among the artistic community — both avant-garde and realistic. In the longer term, think of Chagall, Pen and Khrutsky, I scoffed. However, on visiting the exhibition at the National Art Museum, I gained a new perspective.

The show is devoted to the 1960-1970s ‘classic’ period of the Belarusian graphic school, displaying works by just four artists, who all celebrate notable birthdays this year. They are bright representatives of a single generation of painters who worked within classical graphic genres — drawing natural landscapes, portraits, historical compositions and illustrations.

Their range of interests has been diverse — from botanical themes to painting urban scenes, from the unique beauty of Belarusian landscapes to individual portraits of unusual characters. Their creativity has sought to use every technique imaginable: bright water colours, expressive linocuts, exact drawings and free mixed techniques.

Each was led to an original manner and style: Mikhail Belsky’s laced lines, Grigory Klikushin’s ornamentation, Vasily Tkachuk’s precision and Yuri Vykhodtsev’s monumentality. Each is individual, showing the diversity of Belarusian graphics in those times. Their talents and mastery made them famous but they remained humble, expressing their gratitude to their own teachers.

The exhibition well confirms that our domestic painters have always been known as true masters, utilising diverse genres — as is easily proven by these interesting works before us.

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