What can unite the world-famous actor, director and comedian Pierre Richard, the rock group “Scorpions”, singer Suzy Quattro, the top Russian rock-group “Mashina Vremeni” and the town of Rechitsa in the Gomel Region of Belarus? The very town where large oil deposits were discovered in the 60s. If you are trying to be logical, the only option (and it sounds impossible) is that all these famous people profit from oil production. But logics will never help in this town, where the sensual and spiritual seem to prevail. You have to switch on your imagination to get the idea of what happens in Rechitsa.
Since quite recently many West European countries have associated Rechitsa with the fine arts. Logically, it could not be otherwise, as there are over 60 well-known artists in the town, with the per capita ratio standing at a very impressive 1/1,000. Professionals and amateurs, top-ranked and making their first steps, “art veterans” and “rookies”. Vitebsk once gave the world Yury Pen, Mark Shagal, and Kazimir Malevitch, and the artistic phenomenon of Belarus repeats in Rechitsa with such names as Alexander Isachev, Valery Bondarchuk, Vasili Pochitsky and Yevgeny Shetikhin. If you hear some of these names for the first time, it is worth taking note of them, like many enthusiasts did in Europe. We will not enumerate all the countries that familiarized themselves with the works of Rechitsa artists, for it would take us too much time and the result will be a whole set of maps. There are plenty of pictures from Rechitsa in private collections of famous actors, musicians, comedians and athletes, such as Pierre Richard, Suzy Quattro, “Scorpions”, and “Mashina Vremeni”, who bought paintings of Yevgeny Shetikhin.
Is it the air of the town or some special nature of this rather usual location? No, I wouldn’t stake on that. It is a tiny elegant district center, just like any other town of the country. So what makes these people take pencils and brushes and start creating the beauty? There is definitely something mystical here.
Unlike many smaller towns of Belarus, Rechitsa does not even have its own art gallery. There is a museum of local lore, probably the best in the region. One of the halls of the museum has been turned into a gallery.
Local artists cannot be categorized, as they all have different styles and schools. They have different techniques, manners and attitude to the world. Isachev is a philosopher, his student Bondarchuk is a romantic, Pochitsky is an ironic philosopher, while Shetikhin is a surreal decorator.
There has emerged a brand new term in the history of arts, “the school of Rechitsa Renaissance”, a sort of bridge to unite the vernacular styles into one. But it is not only the native town that gave birth to this immense common talent. These people are children of inspiration, and it is their greatest passion that is called Art that highlights their life.
The legendary artist Alexander Isachev, whose creative activity is now studied at the history of arts classes in Belarus’ secondary schools, had to face many troubles and overcome many barriers before he became an artist.
The fate of Valery Bondarhcuk was quite dramatic, too. He was born in Russia, moved to Rechitsa with his parents and met with Alexander Isachev there. The meeting was the turning point in the life of the artist, as the older friend taught the younger colleague not only technique, but also the attitude to life. Although the same power and passion is felt in their paintings, they seem different, Bondarchuk’s painting being more romantic and tender. At the same time, he has the elegance and gloss of his older colleague, although it seems impossible to achieve this effect using just a pencil.
Vasili Pochitsky has a different touch. All his works look like a caricature. Have a look — “Finita L’Amore”, “Rabbit Hunting Season Opened!” (with a real well-equipped hunter walking along a forest path with a crocodile on a leash). Or his “Watch” with a guard sitting on an eagle. What about “Beetle Fights” with soldiers on beetles? They all seem funny, but the gloomy atmosphere makes the painting a bit sad. This style might be called sarcastic philosophy. People with this kind of views were once gathered by the alternative film festival “Unknown Movies of Gagarin”. Pochitsky was taking part as a director.
The technique of Yevgeny Shetikhin, whose works were displayed in New York’s Soho gallery and at the festival “Biennale-2003” in Florence, is absolutely unconventional. They do not fall under any category, as he manages to combine sculpture, ceramics and painting.
They say a real artist must have the best conditions for work and a possibility to have his works displayed to realize his potential in full. In the town of Rechitsa there is a cultural and charitable fund “Rechitsa Renaissance”, which unites everyone who is strong enough to confide their revelations to the canvas. This center of nurturing artists gave name to the whole regional artistic tendency and style. Do you still think it is local air that has such an effect on people?
…Secrets and mysteries are everywhere. But art itself seems an eternal mystery, and this is why it is so appealing.
by Valeriya Tihanovich