Good time when bankers help culture
Development Bank of Belarus plans to annually release editions dedicated to cultural treasures and outstanding personalities
The edition celebrates the work of Alexander Kishchenko and has been released by Four Quarters Publishing House, as part of a new project by the Development Bank, entitled Cultural Heritage of Belarus. This envisages an annual series exploring the contribution of prominent personalities, historical events and artistic treasures. Mr. Rumas explains, “It’s more important than ever that we remember the cultural history of our country and the great people of Belarus. The shadow of various economic and financial crises will pass and daily problems will be solved but we must never forget our national culture, without which we can’t fully exist.”
Alexander Kishchenko was a prominent Belarusian painter, laureate of State Awards and owner of a Frantsisk Skorina Medal. Mr. Rumas tells us, “The book is a worthy tribute to the memory of the great master. I hope that, with the help of this edition, everyone will be able to appreciate his personality and art.”
The painter’s creativity comprises hundreds of works, from easel to monumental painting, frescoes, mosaics and tapestries. Among them are: Relay of Generations, which adorns a Belarusian sanatorium in Crimean Miskhor; Partisan Belarus mosaic panel, on the façade of Minsk’s Tourist Hotel; four panels, entitled A City-Warrior, A City of Science, A City of Culture and A City-Constructor, on the sides of residential houses along Minsk’s Nezavisimosti Avenue; and Anthem to Labour triptych, on the sides of residential houses in Novopolotsk.
Mr. Kishchenko created the Tapestry of the Century, made by hand, from wool, which was first presented in 1996 and for which he was given the State Award of Belarus. The unique canvas became listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest worldwide, and was recognised as a national treasure. Upon it, he depicted the most famous personalities of past and modern times, as well as significant global events. The 19x14m canvas depicts Noah’s Ark, the Christ and Antichrist, the Kremlin, the Pope of Rome, Churchill, Gorbachev, Stalin, Hemingway and Castro: over 80 portraits in total.
In May 2014, the Development Bank hung the work in its office, gaining visits from over 2,000 people within a fortnight. Its hanging position allowed the full scope of the work to be viewed for the first time over several levels (avoiding the need for binoculars).
The Tapestry of the Century was exhibited during the Ice Hockey World Championship, allowing foreign visitors to enjoy the record-breaking work free of charge. It weighs 300kg and is as high as a six-storey house, making it unrivalled worldwide. It took almost six years to weave the 266m square work, which contains around 806km of thread. Woven from natural sheep’s wool, its value is thought to be in excess of $1m.
Belarusian and Polish cinematographers have dedicated their attention to Mr. Kishchenko. One film captures the process of hand weaving his Tapestry of the Century, at the Borisov Works of Applied Arts. Remarkably, the author built his own huge loom in the shape of a cube for the project.
Mr. Kishchenko summed up his creative life and the whole century in this work, admitting in 1995, at its presentation, that it might be his ‘swan song’. Sadly, since his death, the grandiose canvas has only twice been on display to the public: both times in Minsk. Undoubtedly, it deserves to be seen by the entire world.
Nina Kukharenko, the widow of Alexander Kishchenko, as a professional artist herself, helped her husband create the Tapestry of the Century at the ‘technical’ stage, preparing sketches on cardboard, for later use by Borisov masters. Ms. Kukharenko was her husband’s muse, drawn many times in his works; she was his pupil, apprentice and assistant, his friend and wife. His creativity was amplified when it resonated through Nina. Now, she is the keeper of his huge legacy; she voluntarily took up this mission and cannot imagine it otherwise. She honours the memory of her beloved husband and remains proud of everything Alexander Kishchenko created, wishing his creative legacy to be passed to all people on the planet, fulfilling her spouse’s wishes.
You are now treasurer of the legacy of People’s Artist Alexander Kishchenko. It’s an honorary but busy mission. How do you manage?
It’s very difficult but also very important. I hold a large burden of responsibility. It’s a lot for one person to cope with so I’m very grateful to the Development Bank and its Chairman, Sergei Rumas, for their huge support in releasing this wonderful album, dedicated to the creativity of People’s Artist of Belarus Alexander Kishchenko.
Of course, I write to the Ministry of Culture and to museums, trying to organise exhibitions. Alexander Kishchenko was a prolific artist, leaving about 400 paintings in his studio, in addition to tapestries. The ‘Tapestry of the Century’ is an historical and cultural treasure. People often ask to visit to view it, also coming to drink tea, and they always leave happy.
All my husband’s works have a positive energy, as he loved life and admired so many things. I’m often asked for materials on my husband: a film was shot recently about him and his creative legacy has been recorded in a textbook on the history of Belarus — in the section on culture. His ‘Tapestry of the Century’ and ‘Chernobyl Tapestry’ (which hangs in the UN Headquarters) were landmark pieces but his creativity was multifaceted. Many think that you simply graduate from university and are an artist! However, my husband believed that it took years to understand your artistry and bring it to full fruition.
I’ve long dreamt of creating an album dedicated to Mr. Kishchenko’s work, including his monumental and picturesque piecess. Now, thanks to help from the Development Bank, this dream has come true. The album is also necessary for students, so that they know of the former existence of such a unique artist in Belarus.
What is our land without its fertile cultural layer? If you remove this, not even a seed will grow. However, the soil needs to be cultivated to continue bringing forth worthy crops.
By Veniamin Mikheev