Creative labyrinths of soul
[b]Artist convincingly defends his understanding of art through his works Eduard Rimarovich, 55, graduated from the Belarusian State Theatre and Art Institute, where he was a student of Prof. Gavriil Vashchenko, People’s Artist of Belarus and an academician of painting. He works in the genre of decorative, monumental and easel painting, as well as graphic art, and has created over a thousand pictures.[/b]
Eduard Rimarovich, 55, graduated from the Belarusian State Theatre and Art Institute, where he was a student of Prof. Gavriil Vashchenko, People’s Artist of Belarus and an academician of painting. He works in the genre of decorative, monumental and easel painting, as well as graphic art, and has created over a thousand pictures.
As a young man, Mr. Rimarovich was already a member of the Union of Artists of the USSR: quite an achievement, as only around 30 painters were accepted into the Belarusian Union of Artists annually and no more than eight people from Belarus were accepted into the Union of Artists of the USSR every other year.
Today, many critics and art lovers see Mr. Rimarovich as one of the best Belarusian landscape painters. Nature and hunting have been his inspiration for thirty years. Meanwhile, honesty and attention to detail are his trademarks, showing his professionalism and true education. Being a follower of the realistic school, he always tries to achieve absolute accuracy in portraying our world.
Mr. Rimarovich is a master in creating big canvases, which many view as unfashionable. However, painters tend to see the creation of a many-figured composition as the best way to reveal their breadth of artistic talent, skill and spiritual maturity.
An artist’s popularity also reflects his mastery to some extent. Mr. Rimarovich’s works grace the halls and lounges of the famous Europe Hotel in Minsk, and the Presidential Residence, as well as libraries (including the National Library) and museums.
Today, we look back on the last fifteen years from a more mature point of view: public disclosures and long-awaited creative freedom allow objective analysis. It’s clear that acknowledgment and popularity remain the major criteria for assessing a painter’s creativity — as Mr. Rimarovich is fortunate enough to boast.
What is success in art? Is it the number of sales or personal exhibitions or recognition from critics? Mr. Rimarovich tells us his thoughts, as we sit in his cosy studio.
How do you assess the notion of ‘being a painter’? Is it a profession or more like a stage of life?
For me, it’s a profession. However, art is part of my life and is how I earn money. It’s my life in the direct sense of this word. This studio, where we’re sitting now, is everything to me.
Could you give it up?
No, this is my fate. Many people graduate from the Theatre and Art Institute but then disappear; not everyone is destined to be a painter, especially now, when times are hard. Some go into commerce or elsewhere; there are few true painters nowadays. I’ve always thought that art is a major undertaking. One authoritative artist once said that art is 95 percent effort and only 5 percent talent. If you work hard, the results will be evident, and just 5 percent talent is enough. I work every day — even if I’m just stretching canvases. I stay here, in the studio, constantly thinking and pondering; I can’t do otherwise. This is my life.
What brought you to this point?
My mother was a physicist and worked at the Academy of Sciences. She always wished she had been involved in art but had to content herself with making handicrafts in traditional styles as a hobby. She was always allured by this occupation, so her yearning may have passed to me from early childhood. When I went to study, I already had a goal: to become a painter. Some say that art is international but I think that it should be ‘national’ — especially in a small country. This gives us our own identity. European art has already become faceless but, when my colleagues arrive in Belarus, they say that we’ve preserved ‘something of our own’. My task is to protect this and strengthen it, to nurture our national idea.
How is ‘national’ art reflected in your pieces?
Firstly, when I begin historical portraits, I choose personalities who have done much for our nation. If I create a landscape, it’s always recognisable. I’ve travelled much through Russia and believe we’re share many characteristics. Nevertheless, we have our own ways and our countryside is different. I want to depict our landscapes and our history, although I don’t use nationalistic propaganda (which is alien to me). I simply try to reflect my origins.
Have you revealed the richness of our history?
When you work on something, you study it carefully. I made an historical work for Brest Museum, showing the meeting between Vitovt, the Great Duke of Lithuania, and Jagailo, the Polish King. They met in Berestie a year before the Battle of Grunewald (now Brest but previously known as Berestie fortress). They met to join forces against the Teutonic knights — the crusaders of the Teutonic Order. It was an historic meeting, so I needed to know about that period of time and the fortress, to create an authentic picture.
Has learning about history changed your attitude towards our past?
I know that the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state. During Soviet times, we were unsure whether it was Lithuanian or not. However, it was 90 percent Belarusian, as everything took place on our lands. Vilnius was built by Belarusians and was a very strong state until it disappeared, spreading from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Chronicles tell us that contemporary Belarus was at its centre.
Many Italian masters worked on our territory at that time. Mir Castle’s frescoes and tapestries were created by Italians, who were very expensive to hire, due to their skill. Gentlefolk followed European fashion. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a key state in Europe, as I know and feel. My father comes from Logoisk, near Minsk, while my mother was born in the Smolensk Region. I’m a Karnilov on the maternal side; Admiral Karnilov was a member of our family tree. The Smolensk Region joined Russia only in 1924; before that, it was always part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. People in the Smolensk Region almost share our accent.
I suppose you never have problems finding themes…
I only have problems with time — which I definitely lack.
Are you a landscape painter?
I’m a muralist by training, being always inclined towards big things. I’ve made tapestries and frescoes, contributing towards a museum in the Gomel Region’s Lyaskovichi; it hosts a festival of folk crafts — ‘Call of Polesie’. I’ve also created monumental frescoes for the Yanka Kupala Library in Minsk and for the Yakub Kolas Library and the Academy of Sciences. They’re different to traditional paintings, as they need a different scale, becoming part of the architecture of their environment.
Belarusian painters have always been involved in monumental painting, haven’t they?
We’ve always had a very strong artistic school. In my student days, the Chair at the Art Institute in Minsk was headed by Prof. Gavriil Vashchenko. At that time, until the USSR collapsed, many interesting monumental works were created. When the Soviet Union disbanded, such works faded into insignificance. Now, they are again reviving. For me, it was a difficult time after the USSR’s collapse. Previously, artists had been given plenty of orders but, suddenly, these all disappeared. Artists were obliged to find work as security guards and drew portraits in parks… I turned to landscapes, as it’s a genre which has always been in demand. I managed to survive reasonably well.
Do you visualise your buyer when painting?
No. I create whatever I like. I’ve created over 1,500 pictures, all of which have new homes, pleasing the eye. I’ve always believed that art shouldn’t stay in studios; rather, it should hang somewhere and be open to view. Some hoard their pictures, saying that they’ll organise an exhibition later but a work of art shouldn’t gather dust in the corner. My works are found across Europe, as well as China, Vietnam, the USA, Canada and Israel.
Do you think foreign people appreciate your creativity?
In recent times, the Chinese have been buying my pieces. They enjoy my paintings for some reason.
You don’t create especially for them, do you?
I don’t create especially for anyone. I arrive somewhere and see something and, if I like it, I just sit and sketch. I do this for myself. I reject contemporary materials, working solely with traditional methods. I use pure oil since no one knows how acrylics will behave in some 10 or 50 years. Moreover, I cover all my works with wax to preserve them. The frescoes I’ve made still look new and can be easily wiped, due to their special covering. Wax keeps out moisture. Regardless of the size of a work, I always do everything to the best of my ability — as I respect my talent.
Do you trust your intuition?
When you create a huge picture or portrait, you need to think through everything meticulously, imagining how it will be. Landscapes are different, always welcoming improvisation. Both a picture and a portrait should be completely formed in one’s head. I always plan my big works and frescoes. I make small sketches and only then start a full-scale work.
Have you ever had a creative failure?
It’s difficult to answer. Critics (and our future art lovers) will later decide, with their weighty words. Of course, art cannot always be well-received and some must be more successful than others. I create from the soul and art is very unpredictable.
Do you want your name recorded in history?
Over a thousand of my works hang somewhere, so my name will endure. All are on view, pleasing someone, I hope. If people are ready to spend money, they must already appreciate the item. People also spend money on replacing frames, which shows that the art works are loved; you don’t throw them away just because of a bad frame. Many of my works hang in the Presidential Residence and thirty are decorating the Europe Hotel in Minsk; a third still belonging to me. Of the ten works at the National Library, two are mine. Something of me will always remain.
Do you ever yearn to create something completely new?
I have plenty of ideas and plans. Everything depends on time and various other factors. For example, I’d like to create a series dedicated to ancient hunting in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. It’s a topic I find fascinating.
How do you combine hunting and creativity?
Hunting is my hobby, from which I draw strength. To create landscapes, you need to experience nature. When I travel, I absorb and memorise each ‘snapshot’ subconsciously. I constantly see something new. I’ve travelled the length and breadth of Belarus.
So you don’t rest even when hunting, as you’re always memorising and recording?
This is the life of a painter. Even if you aren’t working, your thoughts continue to spin as you estimate a panorama or angle... You don’t stop being an artist until you no longer have the strength to lift the brush.
Do we need to worry about preserving our national school of painting?
The Germans who visited me tell me that we have a very good school at the Academy of Arts. We should preserve Europe no longer has anything similar. The Chinese, who lack such a traditional school, study in Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as here. They’re beginning their own school, so we should be concerned. Once, we were taught that it’s important to master your craft. I always tell young people that they should grasp the fundamental art skills. For example, Picasso learnt thoroughly and could paint like a true master, which then allowed him to later break the rules.
Some also think that anyone can create something like Malevich’s Black Square.
My hunting friends also often ask me about the value of the ‘Black Square’ and I try to explain it to them. Firstly, Malevich was the first to have this idea. Art develops along a spiral. An explosion in painting gave us Picasso and Modigliani. However, I recently spoke to some Canadians. They are attracted by classical art and have a different attitude towards avant-garde. I think that art should be diverse. One genre shouldn’t dominate; all should live together. At an exhibition, you seek out what interests you — as do artists. Some gravitate towards the avant-garde while others are keen on classicism or surrealism. Variety creates interest so I don’t understand exhibitions which oblige works to fit a particular concept.
Do you try not to repeat past works?
Of course, I’m ever seeking some new approach.
I believe that, in historical portraits, you have your own freedom of expression. Do you use your imagination?
The most vital thing is to make the image convincing. Many have painted Jagailo and Vitovt but the History Museum decided to buy my pieces, as they thought them authentic. When I painted the Battle of Grunewald, it was also acquired by the museum, whose employees told me that it captured the spirit of the age. I’m proud of this.
By Victor Kharkov