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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

“Picturesque Ukraine” by Viktor Shvets

Dedicated to the 200th birth anniversary of Taras Shevchenko
24 March, 2014 - 17:15

Admission to Viktor Shvets’s “Picturesque Ukraine” exhibition is free. The works will be on display at Volyn Regional Research Library in the artist’s hometown of Lutsk till the end of the year. These 50 paintings, created at different times, offer an impressive combination of various styles. They include Kyiv, Volyn, and Crimean landscapes as well as paintings that reflect the artist’s sacred worldview.

“Energy of Shvets’s paintings comes from compensation and victory of the name in a hard combat against unwilling fortune. His fate has not been easy, while will of God has urged Shvets to ascend by the means of art to spiritual heights of joy, all-conquering in spirit and body, featuring beauty, goodness and altruism,” was how Shevchenko Prize Laureate, head of the National Fine Arts Academy of Ukraine, painter and graphic artist Mykola Storozhenko described Shvets’s works.

Our interview with the artist began with a question about congenial painters:

“I studied in the workshop of monumental painting and temple culture under Professor Storozhenko,” Shvets told us. “Thus, naturally, I see him as my teacher and mentor. He teaches hard every day and offers secrets from depths that some cannot even understand. His school aims to modernize Ukrainian art. As for my favorite international artists, these are Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and many more French and Japanese artists. However, I feel that Ukrainian artists are still closer to my taste, including Oleksandr Murashko, Tetiana Yablonska, Fedir Krychevsky, Ivan Yizhakevych, and Petro Lebedynets. Among modern Lutsk artists, I like works by Kost Borysiuk.”

 This is your fifth solo exhibition. Has the name been chosen by chance?

“Shevchenko created a series of etchings called ‘Picturesque Ukraine’ in his time, in 1843-44. I set out to develop this theme further and now paint mostly landscapes. Most of my works on display here depict Kyiv, some Lutsk, few Poland and Bulgaria.”

Among paintings of your “Picturesque Ukraine,” Storozhenko highlighted The Apotheosis of Yizhakevych’s Life and Work. How is it special for you?

“I have invested in this work my soul, energy, and understanding of art over the year as I tried to create a code of my own, the Viktor Shvets’s code. I wanted to forge the mixture of different art styles into a unified whole, it was a creative experiment. It involved academism, realism, abstractionism, futurism, expressionism, postimpressionism, Dadaism, many mathematical and geometrical symbols as well as pentagrams. I wanted to convey all our proto-Ukrainian encoded legacy in it. After all, we sit on real treasures and need to revive our culture. I do it through a forgotten art, through recalling the brilliant Ukrainian artist Yizhakevych. He brought Ukrainian school to a new level of sacred art. New generation of monumentalists should learn from his example.”

 In your opinion, how much art is influenced by current events in Ukraine?

“Ukrainian nation should be free from any oppression. Youths are the cream of the nation, future professionals, artists, creators who can bring glory to Ukraine. It is sad to see this cream destroyed. As a patriot of this country, I hope that God will give the Ukrainian nation strength it needs to secure a victory. All men of my family fought as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army soldiers and died in an effort to defend Ukraine. I want our country to be free and independent. Similarly, with regard to Crimea, I see it as an ancient Ukrainian province. The task of the modern Ukrainians is to fight back, protect the integrity of our country and status of Ukrainian language, enrich Ukrainian culture, and multiply Ukrainian nation.”

Photos by Pavlo PEREVEDENETS from Viktor SHVETS’s archive

By Natalia TANDRYK