Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

A man of Ukrainian steppe

Taras Shevchenko National Museum presented new works of Petro Antyp
12 April, 2017 - 17:45

The sculpture and paintings exhibition is entitled “Amazon – the Goddess of the Steppe.” Colleagues and intellectuals from all over Ukraine gathered to greet the artist who had the fortitude not to surrender to the invaders of his native Donbas. However, they would have attended the event just for the sake of art, because Petro Antyp is really a very good artist.

He is an outstanding person. His biography, perhaps, should be novelized in time, just like the Italians wrote about Benvenuto Cellini. Surely, the banditry in this most interesting work will be committed not by the protagonist. He is a painter, sculptor, architect, and businessman as well, having created in his native Horlivka the Art Factory “Antyp Art-Bud”; he is a co-founder of galleries, organizer of sculpture workshops and even a pro-Ukrainian politician...

Petro Antyp has long been considered perhaps the best known contemporary artists of the Donbas. First of all, he is well known as a sculptor. One of the best in the country. In Antyp’s local land, his name has also always thundered as a leader of Ukrainian idea. That was him – as he says, “nationalist by conviction” – who spearheaded the Ukrainian Helsinki Union in Donetsk region, who created the monuments to Shevchenko and Oleksa Tykhy. Eventually, he became a painter of the Ukrainian Donetsk steppe, arguing over and over again that Donbas is Ukrainian land, and that it is as beautiful as the rest of our country. He refused to trade his native Horlivka even for France (where he lived and worked for four years). But in 2014 Petro Antyp left his legendary Horlivka workshop, with an area of four hectares (only having the time to save his paintings) and moved to Kyiv. All he had – the business, home, and even sculptures – was taken away by the terrorists of the “Russian World.” The artist’s son was captured to the “basement” – but, fortunately, he managed to get away. Now all the horrors are behind. Antyp is finally comfortable in the capital, renting a 100-meter studio. “For me this territory is too small,” he laughs. A great personal exhibition – occupying three large halls of the Shevchenko Museum – was opened to celebrate his birthday.

The exhibition “Amazon – the Goddess of the Steppe” is composed of oil paintings and sculptures, mostly created during the past three years. As everyone can see, the artist’s turbulent experiences of the past difficult times had their impact, perhaps, only in the change of colors: the paintings now have noticeably much brighter, purer red. But this is the joyful, life-giving sunny kind of red. Even the numerous Amazons, who are also often depicted in red (which made them resemble antique drawings), more look like goddesses of fertility than ruthless soldiers. “I’m generally an optimist, a happy man,” says the artist. Also noteworthy is the influence of Fauvism on Antyp. Oh, this charming France with its joyful worldview! It had its impact in the end.

The exhibition’s opening also featured the pro-Ukrainian diaspora of Donbas. The fates of many of these people are somehow similar to that off Petro Antyp. Among those present was the former Donetsk Mayor Oleksandr Lukianchenko, who arrived with a basket of flowers. Then he went along the exhibition halls and photographed the art with his own smartphone. And we talked with Antyp’s colleague, artist Serhii Zakharov, who is also famous for his personal resistance to Donetsk occupation, having created the Murzilka art group.

“I’m not personally acquainted to Petro Antyp. I came to this display because I feel that his fate has something familiar with mine. I know his sculptures very well and I highly appreciate them, and it’s a good occasion to look around,” said Zakharov. According to him, the Donetsk diaspora in Kyiv is separated today, so he also hoped to see someone he knew in his “past life.”

A SCYTHIAN AND AN AMAZON

Among the guests we saw Mykola Yakovyna – known as the president of the Ukrainian National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the head of the Ukrainian National Committee of the International Blue Shield (ICBS).

“I have long appreciated Antyp as an artist,” said Yakovyna. “I value him for his plastic language, for the archetypes of his art, for its roots in the deep cultural layers of the Donetsk steppe. I’m impressed by the sense of profound Ukrainian presence in his works. It is a proof that Ukrainian culture in Donbas is inseparable, that it has relationship with all Ukraine. What I’ve seen at the show, after all, proves that our temporarily occupied Ukrainian land, with its rich culture, sooner or later will return to the state. The thieves who encroached on the artist’s workshop, who took his son prisoner and his art, will sooner or later stand before the tribunal for misappropriation and stealing of our cultural heritage. This is a war crime.”

“I feel very good in Kyiv,” says Antyp. “I feel great everywhere, frankly. But only Paris and Horlivka are in my heart!”

After all that happened to you, how has your worldview changed?

“I am calm. Unfortunately, I knew that Donbas would have it the way it happened. I had even warned about it.”

Do you communicate with people who left in Horlivka?

“Yes, of course.”

How do they live? Do they want to have Ukraine back?

“People are tired of war and want to have peace on our land soon...”

By Hanna PAROVATKINA. Photos by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day
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