Young tend to experiment while masters often prefer to contemplate

Exhibition at Minsk’s Palace of Arts Gallery shows latest passionate innovations in art

By Victor Mikhailov

The young never do anything by half, which is naturally reflected in art and is obvious at the Molodezhnaya-2011 (Youth) Republican Art Exhibition. Every year, the Belarusian Union of Artists organises exhibitions to show us the unique face of modern fine art; the shows are already a tradition among up and coming artists. They allow young people the chance to shine; there’s no doubt that the events are vital to the country’s cultural life.

Artists having been encouraged to push the boundaries of convention, exploring ‘free art’; their techniques, forms, composition, colour palettes, genre and theme are diverse. The young artists’ desire to experiment is clear. Naturally, the freedom to create means little unless you have something burning to convey and the skills with which to do so. Malevich, for example, was a modernist painter and is surely an inspiration to many contemporary artists. His Black Square is known to all. He was a true master of pictorial arts, also known as a wonderful portrait painter and a creator of realistic plots. In other words, he proved himself to be a highly professional and well trained artist. His artistic evolution and pioneer work revealed his expressive, bright talent.

The aspirations of modern youth to experiment — easily and without a backward glance — strike a warning note. Naturally, original thinking always arouses interest. However, an artist is unlikely to become established without a basic academic education and a school of artistry. Malevich undertook long years of study, work and artistic thinking before painting his Black Square. Meanwhile, younger artists’ lack of expressiveness can make us doubt that their imagination is taking flight: an essential quality in any true artist.

Turning to the idea of ‘maximalism’ in art, young people certainly need to assert themselves. They polish their mastery over time, with their efforts along the way acting as a path of progression. The current exhibition is rather like a ‘farewell’ to their novice selves. The works clearly show each artist searching within themselves, with assertion of self at the heart of each creation. However, I must admit that those depicting realistic images touch the heart more effectively, being drawn from life; their characters are our contemporaries and ring true.

The gallery is simultaneously hosting another exhibition, on its second floor: dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Belarusian Union of Artists’ Pogonya (Pursuit) Artistic Association. It’s easy to calculate that this association is as old as sovereign Belarus; its biography matches the biography of our country. The artists whose works are on show are no novices, and are just as diverse as their younger counterparts. Their attention to the past is evident and the works are full of Belarusian natural landscapes. Modern traces are also present, while some authors are even rather avant-garde. No doubt, art is interesting when it is diverse. The exhibition stands out for its authors being philosophical, connecting the past to the present.

Artistic Pogonya unites about 70 painters, graphic artists, sculptors and masters of decorative-and-applied arts. Most are well known domestically and abroad. Pieces by Georgy Skripnichenko, Yegor Batalyonok and Valentina Sventokhovskaya are particularly attractive, boasting artistic sincerity. The artists’ desire to remain Belarusian is clear; they show their links to their homeland, while their works prove their loyalty to the traditions which pass from one generation to the next. Their inspiration carries them forward, reflecting the beauty of their native land and its residents.

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