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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

Unbroken wings of the “blue bird”

24 June, 2014 - 12:00

An exhibit of the master, which is dedi­cated to her anniversary, is under­way at the art gallery Mytets, which exhibits her creative work (cera­mics, paintings, and graphic works), including the works of the 1960s, some of which are on display for the first time.

The knight of Ukrainian Sixtiers Movement, Ivan Svitlychny wrote about this unusual woman, whose art opens a gate of centuries for us: “Through the darkness of slavery, the darkness of deceit / Gods go to the world to the people, / With an export of higher amulets!” We owe to Halyna Sevruk that her art, extremely rich and spiritualized with the breath of the past, prevented our national memory from being grown over with thistle of oblivion.

Halyna Sevruk was born in Samar­kand, in a family of architect Sylvestr Sevruk and Iryna Hryhorovych-Barsky from the glorious family of Hryho­ro­vych-Barskys, who have been written into Ukrainian history for ever. In 1930 the family moved to Ukraine (at first to Kharkiv, and at the end of the war – to Kyiv). She graduated from an art school with the Kyiv State Institute of Art, and later graduated from the painting department of this institution. Having refused to paint portraits of party figures, turning them into idols, she chose a worthy path of exploration of spiritual and artistic harmony. Her personality was shaped above all owing to her participation in Kyiv Club of Creative Youth, and communication with people whom we traditionally call Sixtiers-nonconformists.

Sevruk’s early works are a tribute to traditional painting and graphics, which proved that via the element of paint, lines, and irrationality of feeling she would look for her “philosophic stone.” However, the logic of creative explorations and insights, and the thirst for self-expression revealed to her the mystery of “living” clay, the material which has a symbolical-divine origin and grants to the chosen ones a special creative enthusiasm. The inclination for abstract visual realization of artistic ideas gave way to enthusiasm for unique plasticity and texture of clay.

In the 1960s-1970s Sevruk was working at the ceramic studio-lab of master Nina Fedorova. For the attempts to experiment with clay – its plastic, co­lor, and even proportions of figures there were several attempts to disperse the group. In particular, Sevruk (by far the greatest avant-garde experimenter, who dared to create non-conventional “clay icons”), was suppressed for “betraying” the socialism method, which was convenient for the system.
Decorative walls, inspired by Sevruk’s brilliant idea and her high level of performance, impress with the integrity of idea, harmony, where clay is a perfect material for ceramic masterpieces. Back in early 1960s she became famous for mosaics Forest Song (1963) and Lily (1964); on the border between Poland and Belarus there is a memorable stele to comme­morate the Brest tragedy of 1941 (1968). In one of the central districts of Kyoto (Kyiv’s sister city) in 1978 a memorable sign she created was installed – later it was replaced by a modern coat of arms of Kyiv.

There are also panel pictures, reliefs, and frieze paintings by Halyna Sevruk in Alushta, Kyiv, Odesa, Chernihiv, and Matusiv. Unfortunately, not everything has been preserved: wall-stele Tree of Life (1970) in Volodymyrska Street, near one of the branches of the Vernadsky Central Scientific Library. On the whole, over the period of 35-year work in experimental lab of Archi­tecture Academy Sevruk created over 30 big panel pictures, having acquired recognition of a monumental artist. Apart from that she created almost 500 unique chamber ceramic works.

Even in the dull stagnation time of ideological accusations, Sevruk could not overcome the appealing power of folklore, mythical motifs which inspired her to make fruitful artistic findings. The old-time beliefs of ancestors made her ponder the perfection and imperfection of the world, harmony, and dissonances. The aesthetic dictated the ethic – and vice versa: these notions remained unbreakable during her whole life. Her oeuvre of that period includes the model of Marusia Churai monument, philosophically charged compositions Hryhorii Skovoroda, Tree of Life, Legend, Fatherland, etc. Namely when she had to stand without betraying herself, her creative treasury was replenished with pictures of Pagan symbols-amulets, which revived the ancient world of symbols and unusual popularity among the admirers.

Her works are also interesting psychological etudes, which give notion about human characters and moods. At the same time, the greatest attention of the artist is drawn to extra­ordinary people, representatives of the elite: clergy, statesmen, artists, scientists, and writers.

The cycle of works “Cossack Time,” called to reveal the phenomenon of Cossack knighthood in various images, now shining with real gold of true art, is a special page in Sevruk’s creative work. Performed in a classic form, with a touch of heraldic, the portraits of historic figures, such as Ivan Bohun, Baida Vyshnevetsky, Petro Doroshenko, Samiilo Kishka, Maksym Kryvonis, Severyn Nalyvaiko, Petro Sahaidachny, Ivan Sirko, and Bohdan Khmelnytsky, make a golden fund of Ukrainian art dedicated to historic topics.

Her oeuvre includes the portraits of her comrades-in-arms, the Sixtiers, with whom she shared her destiny: Alla Horska, beautiful and indepen­dent, with an acute feeling of own dig­nity; the knight of the Sixtier movement, Ivan Svitlychny at a cemetery of illusions, tired, but undefeated; and the suffering Nadia Svitlychna – along in a snowy forest, barefoot, worried about the fate of the her arrested brother and little son.

Sevruk did not betray either gra­phic, or painting. These traditional techniques helped her in the time when she needed to soothe pain and commotion, to pour them out on paper or canvas. These are for the most part existential-philosophic works of her early period of creative work, among which the most expressive are canvases with a tragic element: Broken Wings, Betrayal, Loneliness, Suffering, Father Passes Away, and On the Other Side. They were painted in the period when her father was dying, and they reveal the drama of the finiteness of human life and at the same time contemplations over the sense of life.

Sevruk is a winner of Vasyl Stus and Andrei Sheptytsky awards. However, I sincerely hope that Ukraine will finally appreciate her with Taras Shevchenko National Prize. The numerous exhibits in Ukraine, Canada, Germany, and Russia have made her name popular among those who are able to worthily praise the beauty, harmony, and perfection. The master’s works are stored in many museums and private collections in Ukraine and abroad.

At the vernissage of her solo exhibit in Mytets Gallery Sevruk said that her greatest happiness was inner freedom, which prevented her from becoming a slave of fear, market trends, but remained for ever a blue bird, like the title of her favorite picture reads.

By Liudmyla TARNASHYNSKA, Taras Shevchenko Institute of Literature, NAN of Ukraine Photos by Artem SLIPACHUK, The Day