What hides behind the mask

National Art Museum hosts Lyudmila Kalmaeva’s Human Sphere, dedicated to her 70th birthday

National Art Museum hosts Lyudmila Kalmaeva’s Human Sphere, dedicated to her 70th birthday, showing around 40 works from her collection and from the National Centre of Contemporary Art of the Republic of Belarus

Lyudmila Kalmaeva is one of the most interesting and unique modern Belarusian graphic painters. Though currently residing in Europe, she graduated from the State Art Institute of the Estonian SSR and taught at the Belarusian State Theatre and Art Institute. Known as a graphic painter, as well as a designer of posters and the author of ironic post-modernist projects, since 1991, she has lived in the Netherlands, in the small town of Arnemuiden (a seaboard province of Zeeland). However, she continues to regularly exhibit her work in Belarus.

The show at the National Art Museum scrutinises the hidden and visible sides of our personality, dissecting us through an anthropological lens. The nature of what it means to be human is perhaps the most inexhaustible of themes, covering the psychological, social and cultural, surveying how we change over time. Lyudmila Kalmaeva seeks out what lies beneath, as well as what we present for outward show, identifying what is hidden behind the mask.

Her portraiture shows every emotion imaginable, from spiritual transcendence and compassion to bitterness, nostalgia, perplexity, loneliness and despair. Her 28 Faces present a chronicle of our inner life, revealing what we often fail to see ourselves.

Of course, we begin to draw even before we lift the pen to write our name. Through images, even the youngest child articulates their emotions. They symbolise our inner world as much as our perception of what lies beyond.

At first sight, Lyudmila Kalmaeva’s works are simple and minimalistic, using a black-and-white palette, white spaces, and austerity. However, there are internal dynamics in those spaces and in her pulsing lines, in her sharp compositional angles. We see frozen moments from the stream of living: the essence of eternity, against which our life quickly runs.


Lyudmila Kalmaeva was born in 1946 in Minsk. Since 1991, she has lived and worked in the Netherlands. From 1975 to 1992, she taught at the Belarusian State Theatre and Art Institute. Her works are kept at the National Art Museum of Belarus, as well as at the Belarusian Union of Artists, at the National Poster Museum of Wilanów (Warsaw), at the Poster Museum in Kanagawa (Japan), and in private collections in Holland, Germany, France, the USA and Mexico.

By Veniamin Mikheev
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