Anyone who has ever prised open a pot of paint and then just sat
gazing into the pure, luscious pool will instinctively respond to the
paintings of Petro Lebedynets. Here is an artist who is entranced by
colour. He explores its shades and transparencies, its strengths and
its subtleties, its harmonies and moods.

Colour, as any artist, philosopher or physicist knows, is as
mysterious as it is elemental. Somehow, the pulsating energy of the
electromagnetic spectrum is converted via the eye’s retina to a
symbolic force. Wavelengths of frequencies of around 650 nanometres,
for instance, impinge on photoreceptive cones which transmit them via
the nervous system to the brain’s cortex where, in a series of
incredibly complex cerebral processes we come to recognise them as
“red” and hence, working to interpret them by inference and memory, we
come up with such concepts as passion or anger or sin.

Think about it. What alchemy could be more extraordinary? The radiant
energy of the universe is translated into human emotion. No wonder
painters from the first cave daubers to the most progressive
contemporaries have been obsessed. Lebedynets taps into that utterly
ubiquitous but completely insoluble enigma that lies at the core of
his profession.

It was Paul Gauguin, apparently, who first opened his eyes to this
fascination. Lebedynets, born in Ukraine in 1954, had a classical art
training at the Kiev State Academy of Arts. He was a practiced figure
painter. He had learnt about form and composition, perspective and
design. But the more that he worked the more he seems to have found
himself moving away from the mimetic and towards the atmospheric, away
from the illustrative surface and towards the spirit inside. Gauguin’s
bold Polynesian patterns imprinted themselves on his imagination.

“Colour! What a deep and mysterious language!” cried Gauguin. To him
it spoke “the language of dreams”. It was like music, “a matter of
vibrations” and so reached “that which is most general and therefore
indefinable in nature: its inner power.”

It is this “inner power” that Lebedynets is seeking to speak of in
canvases that range in size from small prismatic meditations to
eye-flooding colour-fields. Some have titles: signposts to help the
spectator at least start off in the right direction. But they can’t be
followed for long. Lebedynets, like Gauguin, knows that there is no
simple logical progression. The further you go, the more paths open

The artist pursues these by instinct and practice. He learns that,
though there are no more than five primaries, in combination they
produce more hues and tones than can ever be counted. He finds out
which are the friends of their neighbours and which are the lovers of
their opposites. He discovers which are noble and which vulgar, which
strong and which subdued, which calm and consoling and which stirring
and exciting.

Why do two colours put one next to the other sing?” asked Pablo
Picasso. Lebedynets, like this great modern master, may often wonder.
Neither he nor his spectators will ever find the answer. But they will
certainly know when they have had the experience.

Rachel Johnston,
арт-критик The Times