Picturesque contemplations dedicated to life’s diversity

Honoured Figure of Arts of Belarus Vladimir Kozhukh presents personal exhibition at Minsk’s Palace of Arts, greatly pleasing the audience
Honoured Figure of Arts of Belarus Vladimir Kozhukh presents personal exhibition at Minsk’s Palace of Arts, greatly pleasing the audience.

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At personal exhibition of painter Vladimir Kozhukh at Minsk’s Palace of Arts

Mr. Kozhukh’s narrative pictures and landscapes, and female portraits dominate his creativity. As he explains, “Nature and feminine energy are inextricably connected; my pictures tend to be connected with female labour or are devoted to mythological images. Each artist aspires towards unreachable goals and who wouldn’t want their work to be compared to da Vinci’s Giaconda (Mona Lisa). However, I feel sure that my best work lies ahead. I haven’t created my ‘Giaconda’ yet.”

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Mr. Kozhukh has been awarded the President’s ‘For Spiritual Revival’ Special Prize, bestowed upon figures of culture and arts. However, he remains modest, commenting, “It’s very difficult to assess a canvas’ artistic value, since everyone has their own criteria. For me, there must be a professional approach; others sometimes focus on a picturesque or conceptual solution.”

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Born in the Brest Region’s Drogichin, Mr. Kozhukh studied at Minsk’s Art College (named after A.K. Glebov) and then at the Belarusian State Theatre and Art Institute’s Easel Painting Department. He also took studio internships at the Academy of Arts of the USSR in Minsk, and has enjoyed personal exhibitions in Moscow, Minsk, Brest, Gomel, Vienna, Baden-Baden and Berlin.

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His most prominent motif is the personification of nature’s powers, addressing the archaic layers of Belarus’ romantic ethnic culture: he writes as if hearing music, depicting a quiet and melancholic world, without self-irony (a feature common in contemporary art).
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His bright and decorative manner is individual, with works often resembling decorative panels, as if inspired by the delicate silhouettes of Orthodox icons. His figures are stylised and allegorical, drawn from literature and mythology, classical and Slavonic: spirits of flowers, trees, the Earth, water and sky.
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Mr. Kozhukh has no interest in glamour. “If I see something of this kind, I try to correct it,” he admits. On the subject of depicting the nature of beauty (so revered by artists) he jokes that he is deemed by Fate to ponder the issues, being born on the eve of International Women’s Day: March 7th. Moreover, his family is filled with women. “I have eight aunts on my mother’s side alone. I also have two daughters but no granddaughters yet: only a grandson so far.”

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Rural female workers are romanticised on Mr. Kozhukh’s canvases, resembling the wise female narrators of children’s folk and fairy-tales, from films.

A pupil of People’s Artists Mai Dantsig and Mikhail Savitsky, Mr, Kozhukh once adhered strictly to principles of realism in painting, until he saw first hand the effects of the Chernobyl disaster.

“A year after the accident, I went to the exclusion zone with a group of painters, being told that it wasn’t dangerous there. Concerts were organised across affected territories, to raise people’s spirits, with actors and musicians performing. We spent three weeks there and even visited the nuclear power station site. We changed our clothes for military uniform and felt like partisans! Thank God, none of our group suffered fatal consequences from that trip. The town of Pripyat and the abandoned villages made an especially depressing impression. I remember drawing the portraits of militiamen at roadblocks and, once, a very old woman approached, asking to return to her home. They told her that they couldn’t let her in. I remember well, seeing her standing near the barrier, looking sorrowfully into the distance. It inspired me to create a work entitled Nostalgia. We made sketches during the trip, which we turned into paintings on our return to Minsk. I didn’t want to create a documentary approach, since there were plenty of photos already. Our works were then displayed at an exhibition in the Belarusian capital. The Chernobyl topic was being discussed by the UN at the time, so we were asked to display our work at the UN headquarters,” he recollects.

In the 1990s, in the age of publicity, when painters were keen to address topical subjects, Mr. Kozhukh turned to romance. Since then, he has been creating landscapes and still-life paintings. Last year, he made a series of pieces dedicated to Christian festivals, and continues to create his gallery of muses.

By Victor Mikhailov

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