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Pupils become colleagues

German artist and volunteer Matthias Jurke teaches Belarusian children to draw in an unusual manner
By Inna Yurchikova

The sun, houses, ships and animals are common themes for children’s paintings — as seen at the international artistic charity exhibition: Children Welcome Children. However, their style is rather unusual, being influenced by German artist Matthias Jurke. His work worldwide with orphans and disabled children has helped them explore their talents, painting wood with acrylic paints.

“Every child is an artist but not all love to paint with water colours or felt pens. My technique convinces them that their artwork is beautiful. I pass on my skills, making them my fellow artists. The Belarusian exhibition features works by children from Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Norway and Romania — which allow their creators to say ‘hello’ to Belarusian children, while inviting them to send greetings in return,” explains Mr. Jurke.

The master classes attracted 45 children from family-type orphanages in Minsk, Bobruisk, Klichev and the Osipovichi District alongside pupils from Minsk’s school for children with poor hearing #1. Volunteers brought everything necessary: boards, frames, brushes and paints. Raisa Shamak, from Osipovichi, cares for seven children at her family-type orphanage, and has raised 22 so far. She’s delighted to see children being given the chance to work with a true artist. With determination and zeal, their interest could transform into a future profession.

Mr. Jurke sees himself not merely as a painter but as a philosopher, creating allegorical stories. His Garden Woman is devoted to environmental problems, showing that we are responsible for our climate and wildlife. His female character grows a flower from a seed of hope, symbolising faith in our ability to care for our world. His style is ‘naпvely childlike’ in its simplicity, while also seeming full of ancient wisdom. The idea is simple: the globe is full of problems but children’s faith can inspire us to act. He admits that he continues to learn from children and has been extremely impressed by his joint work with the Ruban family, from Bobruisk. Next year, the artist is to invite the seven children from this orphanage to attend his master classes in his native city of Michendorf, in Germany.

“Participation in our organisation’s contests and projects won’t turn all children into future professional artists or singers but they’ll certainly learn skills useful in later life,” asserts the Head of the Belarusian Children’s Fund, Alexander Trukhan. “This project also helps establish contacts between children from different countries — via art.”

The Fund helped organise the trip while Natalia Marchenko of the Belarusian Union of Artists helped set up the exhibition. “We’ve known Matthias for over 18 years. He has a friendly and interesting family, with five children — all of whom are very artistic. They write poetry, play music and participate in charity projects. His house is always full of guests, with some turning up mysteriously to receive shelter,” Natalia smiles.

The artist, with his colleagues and assistants Iness and Lidia, plans to next visit Moldova and, probably, Lebanon, gathering more children’s drawings for a future international show.
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