Living space in creative conceptualization
It turned out to be, that we published several creative portraits of Belarusian painters. They were different in style, the manner to shift their thoughts on the canvas, to propose their own palette of colours, which illustrate their perception of colour, its deflection in adventure compositions. The heroes of our publications thought and decoded their creative creed. It seemed to us, that the topic of a creative person is interesting and that is why we will continue it. This time we offer an interview with an art critic Natalya Sharangovich to your attention. Our talk is about place of figurative art in the national culture and its internationality.
— What is characteristic for the national figurative art today? Does Belarusian painting survive the high day, Renaissance or the rest period?
— This is a difficult question. There are the oldest painters in Belarus, which comprise the golden fund in a certain sense. They are alive and they still work. The people’s artist of Belarus Leonid Schemelev, for example, who opened his exhibition, dedicated to his 85th anniversary. Yes, we have the fathers, who formed the image, style and direction of painting. But today, perhaps, the middle generation forms the image of Belarusian figurative art. They are 40–50-years’ old painters, who took part in the famous exhibition on Masherova Avenue: Buschik, Tolstik, Yanushkevich, Olshevsky… Those people, who in their time made a real revolution in art. The oldest painters are people, who formed our traditional school. The middle generation tried not to destroy this school, but to reform it. They tried to show, that there is a great world, and there is a possibility to reflect this world unconventionally. What is the peculiarity of this generation? They didn’t avoid traditions to a greater extent. They didn’t plunge into avant-garde, though it wasn’t strange for them. They have just formalized their world vision. They introduced a more figurative and allegoric language. Yes, what they do show to us — is painting, which can’t be perceived unambiguously. On the one hand, it is very beautiful, many people like it, on the other hand — it is very deep, because you need to make sense of it. There are many good landscape-painters in our country, but those painters form the face of Belarusian figurative art, who try to express their philosophic thoughts with the help of figurative means. Their pictures make the viewer to ponder, to fantasize, to get through some layers and to find his own vision of this work. Yes, contemporary Belarusian painting is based on traditions, but there are many metaphorical and allegoric things, difficulty and plasticity in the depiction of nature and a man.
— Is it good?
— Of course. This corresponds with the spirit of time. We should understand, that art, first of all, reflects this very day: not yesterday’s and not tomorrow. It tells us about the thoughts of people, about problems, which they face. We live in a difficult world and art should reflect this difficulty. Art should attract people, if it is necessary — to make them stop and think.
— In what is Belarusian painting school expressed? Is it based on some traditions?
— Certainly. We took a deep tradition of Russian art and transformed it on our material, because we have our own roots. Yes, Belarusian painting school is based on realistic school, but it differs from Russian one with its softness. The mental state of a Belarusian man is softer in its essence. We don’t have toughness, vice versa — kind attitude. The same is in figurative art. Softness of our environment perception — there are no sharp colours, everything is built on shades and halftones.
— Painters often speak about Vitebsk painting school. What shall we understand under this notion?
— Vitebsk creative environment, undoubtedly, set its stamp. Local painters are proud to have a rich history and bright names, which came through Vitebsk. One Malevich is worth much. These traditions show in the fact, that even today in Vitebsk region there are many painters, who work in a formalized and abstract direction. But this is not a school as such, this is just a direction in art. Painters feel that layer behind them and try to develop a formal direction in art.
— The whole world knows Chagall and Malevich. We are pleased, that they came from Belarus. However, they hardly come within the notion of “Belarusian painters”, don’t they?
— Undoubtedly, the world doesn’t perceive Chagall as purely Belarusian painter. Though we always say: Chagall from Belarus. Besides, there were many painters in Belarus, who were also famous, but whom we forgot. A live example — there are painters in Belarus of the so-called Parisian school, about whom there were no notes during many years. One of them, Sutin, was born in Smilovichi, not far from Minsk. Recently his museum has been opened here. In order the West said: “we know this painter, he is from Belarus”, we, primarily, shall announce: there are famous persons in Belarus, who were born here. They remembered Belarus during their whole life. Not without reason Chagall constantly painted Vitebsk. In Sutin’s works we also see Vitebsk streets, fields, narrow roads — these are recollections of their Motherland. While speaking about contemporary painters, I will try to outline a situation, which formed during the last several centuries. Many painters made their exhibitions on the West, and they make their exhibitions there now. Two exhibitions were held in the centre of Pier Cardin in Paris — they were successful very much. Many exhibitions take place in small galleries. The West is interested in us, because we can paint. We have a school! We preserved it in contrast to Berlin and Paris Academies. Our painters are taught to make a composition and to draw a face of a man, to lay the spot correctly… Europe lost this school, because painters shifted to a more formal language there, they stopped teaching young painters to mastery. That is why we are interesting. Belarusians and Ukrainians are those, who still preserve mastery traditions and traditions of realistic art. These traditions can be transformed as you like, the main thing for them to be the basis. Where is the problem? Yes, we are interesting, our painters make their exhibitions in small private galleries, where rich clients come and buy up the works. They are not interested in the name as such. A painter receives material remuneration, but he doesn’t make himself or his country famous. As a rule, group exhibitions are local. A big project, in which Belarus took part, is the last Venetian Biennale. I can say, that in many countries, in Italy, for example, people know Shkarubo surname. But I doubt, that people associate the painter Valery Shkarubo with Belarus. In Germany after the Chernobyl project many people know… Tikhonov. But he can be associated with Belarus not because he is from Belarus, but because people associate Chernobyl with Belarus. We are just on the edge, in the very beginning of the stairs, in order people could say about our painters: this famous painter is from Belarus.
— Is figurative art a remarkable layer in Belarusian culture?
— Yes, not only by reason, that there are many painters here. And because ideology of our country is based more on the figurative art, than, for example, on music. Ideology requires visual images, clear to people. Why the sculptures have recently become popular here? Their topics are a real way to inform the person about some important moments in the history and contemporaneity. If we put a monument to Mitskevich in Minsk, we announce, that Mitskevich is a part of our history. This is also a part of ideology. We introduce names, notions and things in an available form. Everybody understands a figurative language. Why is our ballet popular in Europe? This is something, which any person understands. The same with the language of the figurative art — it is clear. Painting shows the criteria of beauty in this world. You can’t say it in words.
— Does time influence the art of contemporary painters?
— Undoubtedly. Especially, if we take into account, turning back to the beginning of our talk, that we have generations of masters. We can clearly see, how the time influences figurative topics. There is such a notion: a painter shall express his time. The oldest generation expressed it in their time. The painters showed the formation of statehood and national mentality. The middle generation reflected the deepening of this mentality. And the younger generation, which came now, is lost a little bit. Of course, they have many possibilities. They come to the Internet, they travel abroad, they make exhibitions in many places, they see a changing world. But they don’t know yet, with the help of which language to show this world. If middle generation under certain splashes of innovation was still drawn to traditional and realistic basis, than the young generation searches and tries to search itself in formal elements. You also can’t say everything on a formal language. Many painters are concerned with design, because this is a possibility of quick reaction to innovations, which the world gives us. Yes, art changes. The main thing is its essence not to be changed.