High-pitched artistic theme unites truly talented authors
Art of Sovereign Belarus at National Art Museum reveals features of domestic art development against legacy of traditions and modernity, artistic succession and experimental searches
The sovereignty gained by the Republic of Belarus in 1991 launched a new stage in the development of our national art culture. Years of independence have brought significant change to society and culture, launching a process of rapid modernisation, and the realisation of intellectual and creative potential in art and culture.
The opportunity for free creative expression, beyond ideology and censorship, has allowed unprecedented innovation. Meanwhile, our sociocultural transformation has marked a transition from unified socialist realism and aesthetic conception to diversity of artistic ideas, movements, genres, forms and individual styles. The visual art of this period reflects the fundamental spiritual and moral challenges of modernity, interpreting key elements within the public conscience, forming new trends. We have been exploring our national identity within the context of Belarusian culture.
Research has resulted in new findings, informing gaps in our national history and ethnography. The artists of independent Belarus are eager to preserve the traditions of Belarusian antiquity, their artworks often accentuating our cultural roots. Inspired by ethno-cultural traditions, folk customs and fable heritage, they give us new interpretation of folk holidays, legends, tales and parables.
The works of Nikolay Seleshchuk, Zoya Litvinova, Nikolay Bushchik, Vasily Kostuychenko, Vladimir Kozhukh and Sergey Timokhov combine various ethno-cultural elements: traditional signs and symbols enter the context of contemporary art, coexisting with avant-garde expressive techniques and principles, offering new, modern interpretations. The Art of Sovereign Belarus exhibition at the country’s main museum reminds us of these trends.
Belarusian artists’ have helped promote preservation of our traditions through historical themes and motifs, many of which are undeservedly forgotten from our cultural heritage, despite having touched generations. These are the main art trends of our independent Belarus. Mikhail Savitsky, Lev Gumilevsky, Ivan Misko, Svetlana Gorbunova and Alexander Chigrin often portray historical figures and symbolic events from the past, while Mikhail Basalyga, Vladimir Basalyga and Vladimir Savich refer to magnificent historical victories, significant events for the nation and legends about glorious heroes. Meanwhile, Vladimir Tovstik and Georgy Sitnitsa enliven famous architectural monuments and historical images using an intricate postmodern labyrinth of thought.
The search for new spiritual foundations for the development of society has brought about the revival of religious themes in Belarusian painting, attracting older artists (such People’s Artists of Belarus Mikhail Savitsky and Gavriil Vashchenko) and ‘new wave’ artists (such as Natalia Zaloznaya and Igor Tishin). The general scope of Belarusian art goes beyond historical themes and national revival trends, including the avant-garde, with strong local traditions. For many Belarusian artists, our avant-garde heritage is a key influence, with abstract forms prevalent in the work of Anatoly Kuznetsov, Zoya Litvinova, Sergey Kiryushchenko and Galina Gorovaya.
Since independence, we’ve introduced new meaning into all art forms: sculpture, graphics, and decorative and applied arts, as well as painting. A. Chigrin, A. Botvinenok, V. Panteleev, L. Gustova, L. Myagkova, N. Pilyuzina and T. Sokolova explore historical figures and archaic motifs, combining traditional and innovative forms to express our cultural identity. Of course, this does not preclude diversity. We see examples of classical realism and geometrical abstraction, impressionism and expressionism, across sculpture and canvases. Contemporary Belarusian art has many faces.
The exhibition provides a unique opportunity to become acquainted with the work of artists across various generations and demonstrating diverse techniques, whether classical or experimental. They address our values, seeking to express their love for Belarus through art. Among them are M. Savitsky, G. Vashchenko, V. Gromyko, P. Maslenikov, A. Kishchenko, M. Dantsig, V. Stelmashonok, and A. Baranovsky, not to mention Presidential scholarship holders O. Melnik-Malakhova and R. Sustov (awarded by the Special Fund of the President of the Republic of Belarus for Support of Talented Youth).
The exhibited pieces are original and unique, yet united in embracing our country’s independence, with its rich historical legacy and eye to the future.
By Veniamin Mikheev