The display at the National Museum “Kyiv Picture Gallery” features 30 objects: 24 paintings, photos, and video materials by Viktor Sydorenko. The exhibition was preceded by Mykhailo Epshtein’s work The Beach and the Coast, created back in 1983. In this work Epshtein regards these entities as two semantically related concepts that are different in their true purpose. A “coast” is an edge that separates the elements: water, air, land, even entire civilizations. And a “beach” – is, figuratively speaking, Eden – the territory of rest and relaxation outside geopolitical indicators. The former includes a guard, whereas the latter is a place of entertainment, rest, and bliss. The author’s statement that “a coast is the limit of being, and a beach is being at the limit” has become a determining factor for the artist in creating the paintings.
Nearly 20 years later, in 2004, Viktor Sydorenko began working on the paintings of this cycle, watching the massive, large beaches of Crimea – in another 10 years, in 2014, they turned from colorful beach ensembles into the gray-pebble coastline. “Now the Crimean beaches are the real boundaries between peace and war, between illusions and reality, between the past and the future,” says Halyna Skliarenko, art critic and the project’s curator.
According to Skliarenko, Viktor Sydorenko’s “The Beach and the Coast” project began with a wide 26-meter canvas featuring Crimean beaches. Gradually it was complemented with various sculptural fragments, which eventually became a composition of 24 artworks. The artist concentrates his attention on people – milky white, honey-golden, pink – that saturate the long beaches with their bodies. They all resemble sandstones, endless in their number, among which each one is still distinguished by color and size. Looking at the paintings closely, one can see that the picture becomes fragmented in small grains of the mosaic – the whole image is visible only from the distance. People here are carefree holidaymakers, but outside the beach – on the coast – they may as well be guards.
The pictures are accompanied by photographs taken in different years, the 2004 videos by Andrii Skliarenko – Recreation zone, and a film She, Who Enters the Sea, which was a 1956 thesis project of then-young Ukrainian director Leonid Osyka. Ukrainian coasts and beaches have found themselves at the attention center of the artists not by chance, as for many years there have been conflicts unfolding around them: Zmiiny Island, the Tuzla, and now the Crimean peninsula, there are many reasons to think about them. By combining various samples of visual art, the author prompts us to think about such ideological concepts as freedom, space, boundary, coexistence.
“The story, narrated by Viktor Sydorenko, is composed of individual fragments, it disintegrates into moments. It is about the border that was the beach, about the responsibility for those who stayed on the coast,” concludes Halyna Skliarenko.
The exhibition will be open through the end of August.
Den’s Summer School of Journalism is supported by NATO Information and Documentation Center in Ukraine.