Posts Tagged ‘art’


January 8, 2016

Nikolai Gogol became Mykola Hohol at the Ukrainian Franko Theatre in Kyiv today. The transformation of the name happened because the famous Russian writer’s play “Marriage” (Russ.: “Zhenit’ba”) was translated into Ukrainian (Ukr.: “Odruzhennya”) and staged by the Franko theatre troupe. I say “Russian writer”, but many Ukrainians consider him to be a Ukrainian writer because Nikolai Gogol (in Ukrainian his name sounds as “Mykola Hohol”) was an ethnic Ukrainian whose first (native) language was also Ukrainian. Besides, Ukrainian themes, vocabulary and syntax permeate his Russian writings. Personally, I think that Gogol belongs to the Russian literature, but I believe that this time there was some logic in the Franko theatre’s choosing Gogol’s play: whenever Gogol wrote about Russia, he was rather critical  (even sarcastically critical) about what he saw in that country. Take his classical works “Government Inspector” or “Dead Souls”, for example.

I won’t dwell on the play itself. Those who would like to refresh in their minds its contents may turn to I want only to say that due to the brilliant performance of the actors (and, particularly, of Bohdan Benyuk) Nikolai Gogol was won over to the Ukrainian side in the context of Russia’s current aggressive war. Suffice to mention the moment when Zhevakin (a retired navy officer and also one of the suitors) told a story about the time he had spent in Sicily, and he said had been surprised that no one spoke Russian there. When one of his listeners observed (right after these words!) that Sicily must be a very good country, the spectators laughed and a storm of applause followed.

When the curtain fell down, all the actors came to the edge of the stage and treated the audience to Christmas carols, in which good wishes for the Ukrainian people were one of the motifs. And when at the very end Bohdan Benyuk  pronounced “Glory to Ukraine!”  the whole of the theatre replied with the thunderous: “Glory to the heroes!” Just as it has been happening all the time since the winter of 2014-2015 in Kyiv.



May 20, 2015

2015-05-20MOM-METhe first picture of me was taken 65 years ago. I was smiling into my Dad’s camera while my Mom squatted by my side to support the toddler from falling off his feet. My friends say now that with my big bald head slightly covered by a country feller’s cap and with the solid corn stalks in the background I resemble the Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev at the peak of his “maize campaign” in the 1960s after he returned from the U.S.A. in 1959.2015-05-20Khrushchev's maize campaign2

My latest image: an optimistic pensioner in a black-and-red track suit looking forward to talking with his 5-year-old granddaughter via Face Time. After a few minutes the granddaughter, periodically casting professional glances (as she was taught at school) at Granddad’s face in her Dad’s (my son’s) smartphone, 2015-05-20will draw my picture in her writing pad: a bespectacled face, a broad smile, short hair, dimples (rather wrinkles) in my cheeks, big ears. A spitting image of what little Sophia saw in her video box.2015-05-20ME2

I am enjoying the picture drawn by Sophia, as well as the photo of my tiny artist standing on her tiptoes against the blue expanse of the sky and sea … So far she does not know anything about Vasco da Gama or Ferdinand Magellan, William Adams or Francis Drake, James Cook or Horatio Nelson… But those are the same waves, the gusts of the same wind and the blueness of the same sky that made those people great.


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THE ARTIST by Felix Krivin

July 5, 2012

Felix Krivin is a Russian writer whom I discovered being still a high school student – in the 1960s. I didn’t find this short story in English, so I translated it. Hopefully, the readers will enjoy reading the story as much as I enjoyed translating it. Incidentally, the illustrative photo has been downloaded from the Internet and performs only a symbolic function, being in no way connected with Felix Krivin or with the plot of the story.

Once upon a time there lived an artist. As a child, he painted a picture of an old man. The old man in the picture was a product of his own imagination but looked very much lifelike. Now and then, the Little Artist added something new to the picture – just a touch or two every time – until the Old Man grew sick and tired of “being improved.” Finally, he stepped down from the portrait and said:

“You’ve harried me to death! Stop it!”

The Little Artist was dumbfounded: he wasn’t acquainted with any old men who would step down from their own portraits.

“Who are you?” he asked. “A magician?”

“Not quite.”

“A trickster?”

“Not quite.”

“A-a-h! I understand it now,” the boy exclaimed. “That’s exactly what your name is: Not Quite, right?”

“You got it,” the Old Man said. “That’s my name. And do you know why? Anybody who has anything to do with me thinks that I’m not quite what they need.”

“What do you do, then?” the boy asked.

“Well, I’ve got quite something to do here,” the Old Man replied. “Everything created on this earth by Man is created with my help. At some point you’ll come to understand it.”

Having said that, the Old Man retreated into the canvas.

The Little Artist didn’t dare touch the portrait any more. He hid it away and forgot about it.

Time passed. The Little Artist grew up and became a Real Artist. His art was recognized and loved, and his paintings were exhibited in the best art galleries of the world. Many people envied the Artist – they envied his fame and his success and considered him to be a happy man.

However, that wasn’t the case.

The Artist wasn’t pleased with his pictures. He liked them when he was painting them. When a picture was finished, doubts stated assailing the Artist. Every new picture was a disappointment.

Once he came back home from another exhibition and couldn’t go to sleep. He ran back over his pictures and felt annoyed with people because they were admiring them.

“The pictures are not quite what they should be,” the Artist exclaimed.

All of a sudden, the Old Man, whom the artist had painted in his early childhood, arose before him.

“Good evening,” the Old Man said. “It looks like you wanted to see me.”

“Who are you?” asked the Artist in surprise.

“You haven’t recognized me.” The Old Man’s voice was sad. “Remember the portrait you once painted.”

“Don’t tell me about my paintings,” said the Artist. “Nothing comes out of it, no matter how much I try. Why do all people like my pictures?”

“Why ‘all’ people? I, for one, don’t particularly like them.”

“You don’t you like my pictures?!”

“Why should it surprise you? You don’t like them either.”

The talk had upset the Artist. True, he used to be critical of his work, but he also found comfort in thinking that he was the only one who took that approach, and his view could be erroneous.

The Artist kept on working hard as he never did before. New pictures made him even more famous and assuaged all his doubts.”If the Old Man saw my pictures now, he would definitely like them,” the Artist thought.

But the Old Man didn’t appear.

Many years passed.

Being already old and ill, the Artist was once burrowing among his archives and he found the portrait of the Old Man.

“What kind of picture is it?” he thought. “I don’t remember it.”

“And again you forgot me,” said the Old Man stepping down from the portrait. “All the time I have been waiting to be called, but you never did it. You might have been quite satisfied with your paintings and you forgot about the old Not Quite, and he is the only one who could have helped you create anything valuable. Here are your pictures! Look at them through my eyes.”

Suddenly, all the pictures were given a new look. The Artist gazed at them and he didn’t believe that he had painted them.

“What’s this?” he shouted. “Are they my pictures? Did I really paint them? It’s not quite what I meant to create.”

“You are calling me,” the Old Man said sorrowfully. “It’s too late now. Alas, too late.”


October 26, 2011

Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better. Andre Gide (1869 – 1951)

Skill without imagination is craftsmanship … Imagination without skill gives us modern art.
Tom Stoppard (1937 – ), “Artist Descending a Staircase”

Everything you can imagine is real. Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973)

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. Pablo Picasso

I shut my eyes in order to see. Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903)

An artist asked the gallery owner if there had been any interest in his paintings on display at that time. “I have good news and bad news,” the owner replied. “The good news is that a gentleman enquired about your work and wondered if it would appreciate in value after your death. When I told him it would, he bought all 15 of your paintings.””That’s wonderful,” the artist exclaimed. “What’s the bad news?” “The guy was your doctor…”

After his wife divorced him, Joe asked his best friend, Bill, to fix him up with a blind date. Bill obliged. The next day Joe called up Bill and shouted at him angrily: “Bill, what kind of a guy do you think I am. That girl you fixed me up with was cross-eyed; she was almost bald; her nose was long, thin and crooked; she had hair growing on her face; she was flat-chested; and her ankles were as thick as her thighs”.
Bill answered: “Either you like Picasso, or you don’t like Picasso.

An artist had been working on a nude portrait for a long time. Every day, he was up early and worked late – bringing perfection with every stroke of his paint brush. After a month, the artist had practically finished the portrait. Since his model had already shown up, he suggested they merely have a glass of wine and talk.They talked for some time. Then as they were sipping their claret, the artist heard a car arriving outside. He jumped up and said, “Oh no! It’s my wife! Quick, take off your clothes!”

Abstract Art.

I think my Grandson best summed up my feelings about abstract art. We were looking at a painting with a wild mish-mash of colours and he asked, “What’s that?” I said, “It’s supposed to be a cowboy on his horse.” “Well,” he continued, “Why isn’t it?”

RIGHT HAND, LEFT HAND (continued from yesterday’s blog)

October 25, 2011

Having lived all her life in the village, Maria was quite unfit for the village life. Polio had crippled her when she was a little child. She was called “a beauty on crutches.” Those who know something about rural life will understand what it means to be a cripple in the countryside where hard physical work is the chief value and duty. However, there was a positive element in it too: that defect sharpened her perception of the world. It also explains Prymachenko’s pictures. Art critics characterize her scenes and objects as “kind” – for me there’s much of childish pain and fear in almost all of them.

Her talent was noticed due to the communist slogan of the 1930s: any person who “delves and spins” can become a poet and an artist. Her works – pictures as well as pottery- and textile painting – were promoted by the regime and sent to international exhibitions in Paris, Warsaw. Sophia, Montreal, Prague.

She was an odd bird among the villagers. Her husband, a professional soldier, was killed in the war in June 1941. Their son had been born earlier that year. Officially the marriage was not registered and that was a disgrace in the eyes of the rural folk. Even the very talent that made Maria Prymachenko world-famous was waved off in the village as something empty and not serious. Myself, I experienced that kind of attitude when, as a child, I would carry books to the village library to return them and borrow new ones. I used to hide the books under my coat not to be laughed at by dozens of those whom I met on the way. “There’s Olga’s son who knows nothing but his books”, they said (my mother’s name is Olga).

When in the 1960’s Maria’s family needed money, their good friend Serhiy Paradzhanov (the famous author of the famous film “The Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors”) suggested that some pictures of Maria and her son Fedir, also an artist, be displayed outside in the street for sale, none of the villagers turned up even to look at them — to say nothing of buying a picture. On the other hand, when Maria would send some 40-50 paintings to an exhibition in the capital, only half of them were usually returned – the rest were just “lost’ or “borrowed.” Later Paradzhanov sent Maria and her family a big parcel of oranges from Georgia (oranges were something exceptional in a Ukrainian village in the ‘60s). Maria and her son treated to the oranges everyone they met that day.

During her life Maria Prymachenko painted more than a thousand pictures. About half of them are now at Kyiv Museum of Decorative Art, some 200 – in other museums of Ukraine and the ex-USSR, another 200 are owned by private collectors. In 2006 her house was raided by a group of armed criminals and more than 70 pictures were stolen. Later the police found the pictures. Each of the pictures had been insured for a sum of $10,000.

Maria Prymachenko was right-handed, but she painted all her pictures with her left hand. She might have instinctively felt that this world and the world of her imagination did not overlap.

Maria died on August 18, 1997. She may continue living now somewhere in the naively fanciful and uneasy world which her left hand has created.


October 24, 2011

For the French artist 3ttman (Louis Lambert), who lives in Spain, travel remains a necessity. He thinks it’s fundamental to getting to know other cultures, ways of expression, colours, smells…He’s interested in confronting other societies with his work and his Western perspective.

At present he is in Kyiv painting a mural on a building in Urytsky Street which is in the centre of the city. A young man who is trying to get across to the Kyivans the beauty of his art, which they erroneously called graffiti, is surprisingly unassuming during his interview. When I saw his painting I was amazed at how much his style resembles that of Maria Prymachenko, a Ukrainian representative of “naive”, or “primitive” art. Maria Prymachenko was born into a peasant family in 1909 and died at age 89. The year 2009 was announced by UNESCO the year of Maria Prymachenko. There’s a legend here that Pablo Picasso spoke highly of her talent. All the time she lived in her village of Bolotnya. She had never been invited to any of the European capitals to paint murals.

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