Petro Lebedynets, Existence of colour, 1999, oil, canvas, 160x200

An artist’s internal world is reflected not only in his subjects, but also in the tone of his work. No artist mirrors reality. Each has his own reality where he is master, revealing what he wants, when he wants, hiding or disguising at his own pleasure. We all like mysteries and we all enjoy testing our powers of discernment, our ability to decode symbols and new languages. I am no exception. I cut my teeth on simple codes – works I could ‘read’ almost without knowing the alphabet at all. But eventually I wanted to try myself on something more complex.

For a long time the works of Petro Lebedinets remained a mystery to me. I liked the colours and the composition of colours, the tension that arises as two intense colours collide. I liked it, but I could not explain why. That level of understanding remained way beyond my reach.

Over the years I have noticed Petro’s works increasing in size. The music of colour grew louder and the sound more intense. Still I continued to seek a logic in his compositions, a melody I could follow. I met with Petro and asked him about his childhood in Melitopol. I asked about the colour of the sky and the sun on days when, after heavy rain, deep puddles would form in the yard of the two storey building where his parents lived in a communal apartment.

I asked him about his favourite toys and memorable incidents from his youth. Then I looked again at his work and asked more questions. But now my questions were addressed to myself. “Where is it all? Where has he hidden all those tiny movements and fleeting views through which, and because of which, he became an artist?”

It seems he has hidden it all so deep that there is no point in searching for a logical connection between his life, his growth as an artist, and his work. The view from his studio window has none of the colour that fills his canvases. On the contrary, the world beyond his window is endlessly grey.

Any attempt to understand, to compare, must be based on some criteria. You need a point of reference. If the sun in the sky is a slightly different shade of yellow every day, then the artist has a right to his own sun and his own sky, his own version of the world and its colours.

The recent years have seen Petro’s paintings become higher, wider. Through the medium of huge triptychs and diptychs external space – the space outside the painting has been separated from internal space. You enter the internal space, separated from everyday life. You enter, but you can go no further. Each composition is as boundless as the Atlantic Ocean. Each work has its own Gulf Stream directing your gaze, leading it to wherever the imagination will go among the melting pools of emeralds and blues.

Perhaps Petro will tell me that I do not understand his work. “That’s not what I mean at all!” he might say. Well an artist has a right to explain himself, but need we listen, when so often paintings are more forceful and more eloquent than the artists themselves? Surely we need only listen to the canvas. A painting has its own approach to each person who studies it. The painting does not demand that we learn its language. It speaks to each of us in our own!

So Petro Lebedinets’ canvasses tell me a very different story from the one he told me. They tell me something about the artist I did not know. Now I have one more secret to carry on my way.

Andrey Kurkov,

Writer, filmscreen-writer