The interview with the artist Petro Lebedynets

“Domomania” has spoken to a famous Ukrainian abstractionist and experimenter in the scope of colour decisions and has learnt about his attitude to travelling, young art, the necessity to protect his name and the role of academic education in an artist’s life.

Not long ago Kiev was visited by a famous traveller Fyodor Konyukhov, and as far as I know you met him in private and even settled some preliminary draft of your future teamwork.

Yes, that’s true.

Have you known him before?

No, I haven’t. We got acquainted when he arrived. I hope we’ll do something together. He’s not only a traveller, but also an artist.

He specialises in photography, doesn’t he?

He is a graphic, a painter and a photographer. His works are versatile, so it’ll be interesting for me to develop some joint project with him.

Are you keen on travelling as Khonyukhov is?

I like travelling and travel much, but not in the way he does because the aim of his travelling is extreme. For me it’s quite another thing (laughing). I travel to learn the world better and to visit museums of other countries.

What are your last impressions from travelling?

The recent impressions are from my going to Switzerland. I’ve visited many museums – museums of Zurich, Geneva, and Basel. There you can see both classical and modern paintings, not only Swiss, but from the entire world. At the same time Swiss artists have good representation too. Various proportions take place in different museums. Paintings by different artists are exhibited there.

Kandinsky started from realistic landscapes, figurative painting, he came to abstraction later, to a free stroke and expression of his emotions. There exists an opinion that abstraction is achieved gradually and permanently, that it takes time for an artist to feel inclined to it.

Many artists have really came to abstract painting through academic education. Not all of them, but many. There exists some logic in this, because when a person gets academic education, he starts feeling a bit tight in the artistic framework. He searches to extend them. He can do it through abstract paintings as abstract painting itself gives unlimited possibilities to realize your ideas, fancies, illusions, etc.

There are people who came to abstract painting, but decided to returned to realistic or figurative art. Many stay. In history there were some precedents when artists weren’t able to return from abstraction to realistic art, and it was a real tragedy for them. For example, Nicolas de Stale tried to return, but never managed to do that. It’s not the matter. Each artist has his own way, his career, history of life and creative development in art. There are no strict rules or axioms for everyone. Each of us has his unique and individual way.

Did you also start from academic education?

Yes, I did. In the time of the Soviet Union I graduated from Kiev Art Institute. Then I wished to extend opportunities (which I’ve already talked about), some new inner vision demanding realisation appeared. It needed much practical work for me to move up to the next level, experiment with colour. It was a gradual transition.

Did you have any crucial point?

No, I had no such point. There were professors in the institute, of course – it was one moment in life which finished. Then a person develops himself and comes to some conclusion independently: either stay on the academic stage, or transform your mind into quite another system.

Taking into account the events of the legal process of Poyarkov and Pinchuk against the magazine in which they were called «gloss artists», what do you think of the influence of mass media on the level of the quality of works? Should a modern Ukraine artist struggle for his name, or are the painting themselves the best PR?

To tell you the truth, I don’t know much about this situation, so I can say nothing concrete. But it depends on the criticism itself – how constructive it is. If it possesses some constructiveness, and you have the possibility to argue and carry your point it’s necessary to do by all means. But there exists pointless criticism when you shouldn’t get involved into the controversy. You should consider the situation.

Are you planning to stage an exhibition this autumn in Odessa?

It’ll be the continuation of the project which I started in spring. In May my personal exposition was opened in the building of the Union of Artists. I’ve organized the exposition in a certain format – a large-scale format corresponds to my present stage of development. In Odessa, in the Sea Gallery the project will be continued – the visitors will see not only the large-scale format, but also medium forms and miniatures. I’d like to see my works in different situations and formats. I think it’s useful and important for creative work of every artist.

Do you see anyone interesting among young modern Ukrainian artists?

Young modern artists exist. The only problem is that there exist much young pretentious art which strives for demand, but loses quality and artistry as it is. It’s good that they exhibit very actively…

… but the role of education still stands, doesn’t it?

Yes. More than that, I think that now not so many really good works are exhibited. Most of them are superficial, and as a result there is much superficial art. Probably it’s the problem of the time – today we have to work very quickly, to exhibit much, to build up, but it often doesn’t suit with artistic quality.

Should this period finish with the accumulation of capital?

Not necessarily. Quantity isn’t always transformed into quality. There are a lot of media-characters which appear from nowhere, and disappear to nowhere. It existed in all times, but we live in a more rapid time, and the processes dart past like in a kaleidoscope. Though I’m sure the time will put everything in its place and will sift out everything that is superficial.

And the interest in arts – does it grow or remain the same in the circle of connoisseurs and is renewed generation by generation?

The circle of connoisseurs remains the same, while new people appear who take a keen interest in art. It’s gratifying to know that today the bent for art objects is noticeable. I consider it to be a positive change. Many people start understanding and feeling artistic taste. People begin to value the importance and the energy of paintings in their home. It’s meaningful because paintings aren’t just a décor or decoration. They are a certain object connected with the need of communication, development and understanding of art. It’s quite another sphere of interests.

Certainly, but it’s also important to mention a financial point. Is it a question of prosperity to buy an original picture of a modern painter instead of a reproduction somewhere in an underpass?

Of course. But the situation was the same at all times. Art is that sphere of a man’s interest that it’s not enough for him to be prosperous. He needs those things that would characterise his style of life, behaviour, thinking and feeling, which would position him in this world through the perception of art. It’s a very important moment, especially nowadays.

Interview with “Domomania” magazine