Source of sincere feelings
[b]Isn’t it a landscape which is the most national genre of the Belarusian fine arts? It is a genre where famous artist Ivan Dmukhailo achieved great triumphs.[/b]Long life measured off to Ivan Dmukhailo a way which is equal, perhaps, to ‘the way through which our civilisation came’. Born at the very beginning of the war of 1914, he went through the next big war fronts and witnessed the most large-scale environmental disaster in the history of humanity — the Chernobyl catastrophe — which occurred in his native Ukraine, but whose consequences befell the two brotherly peoples. So, Ivan Dmukhailo went a long way, without breaking an instant bond with the nature that he worshiped and where he was looking for balance. The artist was learning secrets of nature — both simple and unachievable in their contradictory complexity — and eventually came to the conclusion that creativity is also a mystery that involves endless transformations. However, their meaning is not in understanding and endless escape from reality, but in disclosure of what surrounds us every day. That is why he became a great creator.
Long life measured off to Ivan Dmukhailo a way which is equal, perhaps, to ‘the way through which our civilisation came’. Born at the very beginning of the war of 1914, he went through the next big war fronts and witnessed the most large-scale environmental disaster in the history of humanity — the Chernobyl catastrophe — which occurred in his native Ukraine, but whose consequences befell the two brotherly peoples. So, Ivan Dmukhailo went a long way, without breaking an instant bond with the nature that he worshiped and where he was looking for balance. The artist was learning secrets of nature — both simple and unachievable in their contradictory complexity — and eventually came to the conclusion that creativity is also a mystery that involves endless transformations. However, their meaning is not in understanding and endless escape from reality, but in disclosure of what surrounds us every day. That is why he became a great creator.
Being a man of one’s time is not difficult, because it is impossible to escape from this. Nevertheless, it is incredibly difficult to be an artist of one’s time, to evolve constantly and grow as an old tree. By his nature, Ivan Dmukhailo was a lyrical poet and eternal optimist with a certain note of nostalgia for his small homeland and unforgettable youth. The Ukrainian childhood of the artist was hard, but it was like determination for his future way in life. A witness of the forced famine, disappearance of relatives, the would-be artist had an opportunity to see the value of a word and a deed. As if contrary to everything, contrary to difficult and tortuous circumstances of the pre-war period, Mr. Dmukhailo was looking for himself in the Ukrainian language and in the lyrics of parental songs. Being a teenager, he began writing poetry in the Ukrainian language and remained faithful to this till the end. This faith became his spiritual bulwark against monotony and platitude. The artist-poet carried in his heart unspeakable love for his native Ukrainian land, for his native language, for his native home. This motif —the motif of his home and the place of his childhood — constantly appears in his works. On the eve of the war, in the worst years for Ukraine, Ivan Dmukhailo managed to get good artistic education in Dnepropetrovsk Art School. Ivan respected his Ukrainian teachers for all his life, because they taught him everything which was important for future profession, because they taught him everything that they themselves knew... The youth of Ivan Dmukhailo is connected with the Great Patriotic War and hard post-war life; there was a lot of bitterness, fear and pain. That’s why it is more wonderful and interesting to look at many of his sonorous and clean pictures — his cheerful art. The situation itself showed that even having just one work devoted to military events it is possible to ‘break’ into classics. In this respect, landscape was not so important while the genre of posters was in high demand. However, the artist did not leave the scenery, remaining faithful to himself. Birch grove, rustling of leaves, placer of delicate spring flowers... Apparently, we should not look for any specific place shown in the picture, either it is Minsk outskirts, or somewhere over the Dnieper and Nieman rivers. It is rather an unreal place, which existed in presentations and impressions. Well, in fact, are birches so slender, is their stature so high?..
In Belarus, which is his second home, the poet-artist met benevolent and kind people: everywhere in scorched by the war Brest, where he started his new Belarusian biography and where he matured as an artist, and in ancient Grodno, where he lived and grew up, and, of course, in Minsk — forever young Minsk — where he spent half of both his human and artist’s life. He became an insider among Belarusians thanks to the colleagues-creators V. Byalynitsky-Birulya and V. Tsvirko. He found home among the artists and thankful fans of Belarusian landscape. At the same time, he has never lost ties with his Ukrainian roots, with his fellow countrymen, who were with him during hard times and strengthened his soul. In the post-war painting the so-called ceremonial-varnished style existed. The conflict-free theory pushed artists to construct artificial composition and monotonous smiles on the characters’ faces. But all these are contra-indicated for landscape. Landscape is an honest genre, so truthfulness, sincerity and sense of art are above all. Among other Belarusian masters of landscape Ivan Dmukhailo was distinguished by his own images which he could find everywhere in the local landscape. In the motifs of the Belarusian nature he was able to summarise the story of the eternal truth of the lyrical beauty of the land and its secrets, having reflected this with his own intonations and personal style. Is it the reason why among the works of large Belarusian school of landscape his images remain very individual and distinctive by their poetic, melodious mood? Ostensibly simple, hushed Belarusian nature motifs in the works of Ivan Dmukhailo are filled with inner significance. And this feeling of self-worth of all alive, genuine and timid that surrounds a person on the Belarusian land, stirred all his work. Maybe it is no accidental and thanks to his poetic gift, Ivan Dmukhailo keenly valued and loved Belarusian word and vast Belarusian poetry. First of all, he knew and appreciated the personality of poet Yanka Kupala. His landscapes dedicated to Kupala’s places are a significant contribution to the treasury of the Belarusian national art. Captured by the scale of the personality of the Belarusian national poet, Ivan Dmukhailo in unusual for him genre wrote the painting Awakening, where the characters are Yanka Kupala and his wife. The artist referred to the motifs of the Kupala’s poetry repeatedly in the 1960s and 1980s.
The artist sincerely and touchingly loved Belarus, in all its glory, with its great history and breathtaking scenery. He tried with all his power to show in his paintings favourite places of blue-eyed Belarus and the whole universe. In the late 1960s, naturalistic, or more precisely, geographical passion gives way to attempt of summarising of experience. Paintings become anthems. The epic sweep is conditioned by the efforts to create a simple, clear image of his country.
Since 1960s, in the wake of severe style, begins a radical new stage of Ivan Dmukhailo’s work. Dnepropetrovsk education experience more and more goes into oblivion. Captured with Belarusian horizons, which he learned, the artist reveals for himself more relevant painting techniques. The joy of the beautiful infinity expanse of the native country prescribed a new, lightweight, gusty pictorial image. At that time he created well-known pictures: On the Forest Border, Day Is Breaking, Spring Sun and others. The artist felt our land as something living and unique: whether it was a cloudy day or the March sun over Logoisk spaces, or sky glowing in the waters of Nieman. First of all, he was impressed by the first few moments of dusk, early evening when everything is filled with indescribable mystery, promise of secrets, whispering in quiet and dreamy mood. Before the lights go out. Or already gone out. For example, Winter, painted in 1957, The Night City (1967), Thoughtful (1980) ...The artist was in the continuous search, his style became more and more impulsive and easy. At that time, without exaggeration, Ivan Dmukhailo was one of the obvious masters of landscape, brilliant landscape painter of lyrical moods, soulful singer of Belarusian lakes, fields and forests, floodplain river vistas, sunrises and sunsets, vibrant spring and silent winter, sonorous autumn and sounding hot summer. As for impressions, emotional depth, fine shades of feeling there was perhaps no one equal to him. One of the most optimistic paintings is May. In it, almost with student’s zeal, the artist used techniques of Impressionism. According to the theory and practice of this trend, all colours exist separately, but our eyes and impressions mix them. Such spectral, not mechanical colours mixing gives an incomparable effect of trembling radiance, incorporeity, greater reality in our imagination than in reality. The fantastic image accurately and easily shows not instantaneous, but a collected impression — recollection of the end of that spring. Ivan Dmukhailo happily escaped the insincerity of the semi-official art. The honest artist of the most honest genre, he left us a world of Belarus — hundreds of landscapes, looking at which you can tell almost everything about the country. The country — which is learnt in the eternal beauty of landscape art.
So, Ivan Dmukhailo is an acknowledged master of landscape painting. His works resemble music that as a balm soothes the soul, gives tenderness and joy. Nature is perhaps the only lady of his thoughts, source of subjects and themes, muse of his work. In Ivan Dmukhailo’s landscapes, there is boundless peace of vast plains, and a dreamy breath of the earth in the autumn mist blankets, and deep warmth of forest thickets on the horizon, and the brightness of a sunny hot summer day. Landscapes are marked with magical energy, which enhances the sense of real presence of nature in the space of paintings, filled with serenity and sadness, joy and excitement. Light and air which are bound by the ties of sensitivity in smear evidence of the wealth and diversity of the atmospheric ‘palette’, give a feeling of nature through the eyes of the soul. Landscape has become a means of how to show the audience his world of ideas, images and feelings that has always been close to the creator. He often went into the open air, and he had been frantically searching for his place and landscape for a long time. Then many of the paintings were painted from his own impressions in the silence of the studio. We rarely see people, and it enhances the atmosphere of mystery, unreality of works. States and types of neighbourhoods — evening, fog, mist, sun at dawn, dusk — have become not material, physical, but spiritual subject of attention, which is common to most paintings. Shift in emphasis — from the image to the statement — more and more took possession of the master`s hand and eventually changed the composition of paintings, gave them intimacy, and some special emotions. “The artist is fond of psychological characteristics of the landscape, for which a narrow space is quite enough and they do not require wide panorama. Accurate representation of the mood of the day, moments of nature. A lot of impressiveness, but there is a quiet contemplation. And there is impressionistic lightness. Intimate experience of the world, romanticised landscapes, remarkable painting reflects the state of mind of the author. This creator has always been notable among Belarusian landscape painters. The stylistics and world view of Ivan Dmukhailo as a landscape painter, undoubtedly influenced the development of the Belarusian landscape painting. It would be fair to say that Ivan Dmukhailo is one of those artists who ‘formulated’ the Belarusian landscape. The colour of his paintings, and plastic form born from gentleness and modesty which are not unique for the Belarusian nature, but which characterise the people of Belarus. Artistic image of works define imagery and poetry. The essence of the content of paintings is revealed through the author`s interpretation of natural and philosophical understanding of the motives and events, but also through the tone of melodious combinations. Tenderness, joy, sadness are the feelings which unwittingly capture us when we look at the scenery, and cause a desire to solve the mystery of a painting.
Relatives played an important role in the process of maturation of the future master and his birth as an artist. His one great-grandfather was engaged in iconography, the second one was an actor in Kiev Drama Theatre. Mother taught him to listen and feel the nature. One uncle, a monk of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra (he later died on Solovki), gave his nephew four colour pencils. Thus appeared love to painting. The artist spent childhood and adolescence in the Ukraine. Here he saw the earth and sky woods and fields, meadows and prospects for the first time. Perhaps, if the places where he was running barefoot, were not so, Ivan Dmukhailo would not be such an exquisite colourist. And a sincere lyricist, far from the transformation era in which he lived. The riotous time marked by revolution, war, socialist slogans ran by Dmukhailo, who remained a dreamer, and till the very end he wanted to get into the essence, the meaning and mystery of nature. He lived at the time when cubism, surrealism, abstract art dominated in the world but he remained a supporter of the realistic school of painting with its imaginative figurative language, which is primarily based on classical forms of art practice, the transformation of national traditions, love of colour, figurative art, search for beauty. He was born in the Ukraine, but became a Belarusian Levitan.
Honoured Artist of Russia, Ukrainian Cavalier of the Order ‘For Merit’ Ivan Dmukhailo did not distinguish for himself these two homelands. For more than sixty years he has lived in Belarus, often spoke Ukrainian and enthusiastically painted Belarusian landscapes. Belarus fascinated with soft natural colours, simple but memorable motifs that lull the soul and warm the heart. The shape of the object, the weight of matter, the laws of composition, colour combination — all these estimates of academic excellence the creator possessed when he studied science in Dnepropetrovsk Art School. The young colleague, who after the war remained living in Belarus, was supported by Vitold Byalynitsky-Birulya and Vitaly Tsvirko who relied on uncluttered scene, emotionally captured moment, the so-called ‘true vision’: Byalynitsky-Birulya loved net composition and created paintings as a musical suite, and Tsvirko in his paintings of large strokes defined the basic colours and composition dominants. The impact of these famous artists in the early works of Ivan Dmukhailo is extremely obvious. The first works of the artist at once witnessed sincerity, which the author did not try to hide. Landscapes were filled with truth and determined by the attention to the nature. In the meantime, the sidelines and plot-part fable did not remain aside. The artist painted the familiar to him from childhood motifs, wherein the composition is built in the sketch loose manner. But there are specifics: place-daub house, a fence with bottles, sunflowers. Later, repeatedly referring to the traditional-achingly nostalgic scenes, Ivan Dmukhailo deprived his paintings of minor details, leaving the canvas piece, hallowed memories of the image of the motherland. Of course, not everything was perfect in his early works. However, certain simplicity in the supply of images, and the coloristic monotony that could sometimes make up for interpretation of plots, only confirm that Ivan Dmukhailo came organically to his own manner. In his early works there is a hunch later ones, although the difference between the first steps and consistency is quite significant. The artist refused to emphasise the subject of the image and the ease and paid attention to a sense of moment. Actively experimenting: trying to convey the state of the air through a homogeneous saturated colour, ‘grab’ sketchy manner in the time of day, traffic lights and shades, lock the exhilaration of feeling. He was looking for beauty on the banks of lakes and streams.
Many landscapes of Ivan Dmukhailo have become today the golden fund of the Belarusian landscape painting. Artist denied equal paint pouring. The colour of his work is difficult, physically tangible, and fluid. Ivan Dmukhailo’s plain air works, with the author`s emotional message are complemented with equilibrium shapes, colour, and collection of images.
Both large format and chamber paintings testify that we face an extraordinary creator, who has his own distinct style, plastic visual language: emotional and increasingly expressive. It is possible to speak about art as about time that it is enshrined, captured in the image. This image-the image as a reflection of time is characterised in the works of Ivan Dmukhailo by a special attitude to nature, which has been the source, where the artist’s soul came. Almost transparent thin birch trees, forest twilight --everything very solid and clearly goes into the image of his native land, preservation of which the artist remembers and cares, the land that became his home. In some works this idea is expressed associatively, in others — more directly, clearly and specifically. In the painting In the Forest at Night (1967), all the space is occupied by powerful pines, similar to native time guards. It is not just a landscape that touches the soul with elegiac beauty — it is read as mythological, pagan tree worship. The action, as in other paintings of the artist is revealed through the concentration of thought, emotional intensity. It brings the viewer to the conclusion that the destruction of the natural human relationships with the environment leads to predictable and unpredictable consequences — as a warning to current and future society that mindlessly transforms nature, disfiguring its true identity. That is why Ivan Dmukhailo rarely introduced human figures in his works. Environmental epicism captured him completely and did not leave the room for the Ecosphere ‘conquerors’. The artist also had panoramic, wide-open landscapes, where a big part of the painting is occupied by the sky. But the sky in the paintings of Ivan Dmukhailo is a little apart, at least not dominant over the earth, and does not show active distinct presence in the paintings shaping structure. For many Belarusian painters the sky is traditionally seen as an accompaniment or even a leading theme of works as an element of emotional sound. In the works of Ivan Dmukhailo the sky has its own role, and the other value that exists in the painting apart from its emotional sphere and refers more to the thought than to feeling. ‘Perspectives’ is characteristic painting, where the linear plot of the hills is couched in the rhythmic of alternation of contour lines that are lost in the endless blue vistas. However, the movement is not developed spontaneously; it is organised by the artist in a given direction. The sight stops for a moment at a lonely green tree and immediately runs on. It is a small stop to catch your breath before climbing the hills — the first, the second... Finally, pushing off them, one begins to wander in colourful clouds. And from there one starts to look at the vistas that stretched below. The sun, that illuminates the ground somewhere from aside, melts the clouds, which are a natural extension of the hills. Such a scale is a tribute to the time that required plans consolidation and monumentalisation of images.
Today, more than ever, we feel the need of harmony that would have sounded discordant to catastrophic changes, wars and disasters that accompanied the 20th century. As nature is a source of the artist’s creative activity and creativity of Ivan Dmukhailo is a source of real feelings that makes us more sensitive and not indifferent to Mother-Nature.
By Victor Mikhailov