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

Oleksandr DUBOVYK: “This is our time, and nothing else!”

Master celebrates his birthday with a new exhibit and a new book
9 August, 2016 - 11:21

It is nothing less than a feat when the hero of the occasion makes presents to the guests at his birthday party. This is exactly what one of the most curious artists of our time Oleksandr DUBOVYK did as he opened (not without the patronage of Natalia Zabolotna) his global personal exhibit at the Mystetsky Arsenal. His new book Slova-2 (“Words-2”), filled with great illustrations, the author’s philosophical thoughts, poetry, and humor is also being presented there. The driving force behind this project (just like the previous ones) is the masters muse and wife, Iryna Dubovyk.

Analyzing a book in a short announcement would be a waste of place, one had better read it carefully. All the more so before his 85th birthday the master, whose works can be found in the world’s best museums and private collections, agreed to give an interview to The Day.


The exhibit impresses with completeness, power, and versatility. How was it conceived and built up? What is the concept behind it?

“Firstly, this exhibit is the result of many years of work. I would not say that it is a summary, but it is no retrospect either. As for its title, “The Archive of Warnings,” it is a bit paradoxical. An archive means something stable, cyclic, amassing; a sort of a code for those who will be able to decipher it. There are very many ideas about cyclicity. Warning, on the other hand, is something different, it is a mode of perception, because art is inductive. The time when we told about life (how people live, what they wear and so on) is gone. We do not need realism stuffed with information, we need something different: a carnal treatment of the world. How we organically perceive what is going on. And it is perceived either as the state of calm and equilibrium, or of vexation and anxiety. Now, for instance, we are in the state of anxiety. Speaking of cyclicity, this is the 11th year of the cycle, the last one and the worst, the most horrific one. Yet this cycle is very correct because it affects us so much. Thus, the archive of warnings is released. It gives us one warning after another, and all in vain. We won’t hear, we won’t notice, and all these warnings remain on our hides like ugly marks.”

I am fascinated with your statement to the effect that space and time are invented by people. Why and how did you arrive at such a conviction?

“I think it is the quantum perception of the world that turned everything upside down. Even Einstein could not perceive it all. Actually, even now no one knows exactly what it is. It is a chaos, absence of time and absence of space, because there exist countless spaces. The same particles can simultaneously exist in many spaces. Doesn’t this resemble my Palimpsest? It was ‘born’ in the late 1970s – early 1980s, when no one had a faintest idea about it. It is something incredible: now they are looking for the particle of time. What is it? It is also a part of the physical world, where space is intertwined with time. That is, space is discrete. This is Palimpsest. And on the purely spiritual, human level we can simultaneously see, hear, feel, remember and think about the future, and all of it is united in a block called ‘now.’ Discreteness underlies my conception. Once there was a great poet, Paul Valery, whom I love very much. He said that the significance of an artist is measured with the number of signs which he introduced into artistic usage. Can you imagine all the millions of artists on this earth? They are not making themselves, they are not creating their own originality, they make art. If certain links are missing, there is no artist. Finding one sign in the huge information space is an occurrence. Often artists fail to understand this.”


Is a bunch of flowers your sign?

“This sign is incredibly hard to find. Triumphers, nicks, odalisques, rings, squares. There is such a lot of stuff, but this bunch of flowers is the main thing. For centuries people have been painting flowers, and none of them ever thought about what a bunch actually is. What does it signify? In a philosophical or purely human, carnal sense.”

Even in the graphical one.

“Yes. This is singularity and plurality. This is Leibnitz, Baudrillard, and all his research. I am not afraid to say that this is my divine infant. I am terribly happy that I invented this bouquet. I do not venerate names, they mean nothing to me, be it a Warhol or a Malevich. May Lord God forgive me, but I believe that human, in principle, is not absolute. Worshipping is absurd, it should not be done. Now, speaking of the square and the bunch, I will say two things that contradict and confront each other. What is a square? It is the sign of ‘naught.’ Just like the author himself said: the first brick of entity. And what does it mean, this naught sign? Void! There is nothing behind this square. We might say that this is the thing-in-itself, in Kant’s words, which conceals in itself a potential of existing for us. But it can reveal itself. Plato had the same geometrical ideas, but here we have a void. This is a barrier. There is nothing behind that square. It is even more absurd, since emptiness does not exist in the modern conception. A void can only exist in the conception of Zen Buddhists, but it is something totally different. They have a metaphysical understanding of the void. Malevich totally denied it, he rejected metaphysical things, pushed them aside. His square is a form of art. He reduced space to the notion of art. He did not interfere with philosophy, and he was not interested in the semantic of the square. Do not misunderstand me, I am not bashing, I am simply explaining. This square is also discrete. Everyone has their own square, farther or closer. Imagine such a situation: someone sees the square here, close by, right in front of his nose, and suddenly finds himself on the other side. He sees the reverse side of this world. He sees that this square through which he just passed is a lie, an illusion. That is, a world of illusion is being built. The world of squares is the world of illusions. This void is the end of cognition, a kind of pessimistic view of the world.”

And the bunch of flowers, which you oppose to the square?

“The bunch is total conceptuality, and not just a self-sufficient monad, like a bomb ready to explode with new knowledge and images contained in itself. The entire culture is the bunch, the content of that ‘bomb.’ And it turns out that this bunch is not singular. I have been saying this for years. Even Plato spoke of the ideas that are contained there. It is a geometrical figure, it moves, and there are lots of them. And this self-sufficient monad is a brake on cognition to some extent, and at the same time it is the effect of preservation. It is the human dimension as a whole, what we cannot explain. Why did I begin to do all that? Because the best art is impressionism and cubism, but we should not talk cubists now. Cubism is dead, it has exhausted its idea, from Lobachevsky to Minkowski. All trends in art have always expressed a form, a certain idea. The second plane is the state. For instance, Kandinsky is somewhat an abstraction, an explosion of impressions of life, and all this is processed. The conceptual level was already connected with realism, narrations, feuilletons. The government has always feared this conceptual level like death.”



There is a thesis in the new book: art must be boring. But what you are doing in verbal art and on your canvases can by no means be described as boring.

“It is not a matter of boredom, but of position. Preventing your work from being permeated with purely superficial window-dressing, bold-faced self-promotion, the desire to show how wonderful and cool I am. If there is an idea, it must be delivered in any possible manner: via the audience, dialog, color, or a host of various components. The idea is boring. That is the problem, actually: not art but idea is boring. It gravitates to itself. That is why it is true. It consciously rejects all possible variants imaginable. And there is always a host of variants, there is always a way to invent something opposite. In this sense, truth does not exist at all. That is, truth is an individual thing, personal for every generation.”


In the book there are lines about nulling space and time, and the readiness to discover a new world every time. How many such complete stages of “nulling space” are contained in the life and work of Dubovyk the artist?

“A lot of elements appear randomly in life. For instance, bunches of flowers. Once I was simply given a bunch of tiny, microscopic roses, I had never seen anything like that before. It was such a tight little ball. The very idea of the bunch impressed me. I realized that the bunch is the head, and divided it in two (the sliced flowers made up the eyes and the mouth…), as the unity of the living and the lifeless. Then I understood that the flowers were unnecessary. Because the symbol in itself is much more powerful and variegated than some ingraining or explanation. I had loads of time to ponder over it: for two decades I did not exhibit and was a true outcast. I had no one to talk to. So I talked to myself. It wasn’t on purpose, it just happened so. Then signs appeared, one by one, gradually, each with its own story, and it resulted in an alphabet of mine. Now I can compose freely using this language. It creates an absolutely different state. With the help of this signs I can express the entire scope from joy to grief to tragedy. I live in this, I am continuously trying, looking for some shoots. Maybe, those are the limits of my individuality?”

Are you being flirtatious now?

“I just live in the concrete time, surrounded by concrete topical art which exists now: abstraction and the like. Maybe, it will all disappear with time and a totally different concept appears. I think that painting with brush will dissolve. Later this will present a particular interest because it will be an anachronism. Works will be preserved only because they were executed with a brush. On a computer you can make things much more efficiently, faster and absolutely unexpectedly; you can make things the human mind cannot conceive now. It is possible, if ideas of arts exist at all in that form in which they exist now. As a means of communication. But I am staying in this time. One must value what is gained, what the others do not have, what the others were not able to do.”


It is simply impossible to separate how we live and what we do from what is going on around us, what is going on in the country. How does an artist live, and how can one save oneself? Should one participate in it or not?

“Participation or non-participation is out of the question. By refraining from participation we get involved all the same. It is impossible to get rid of it. I hate the word ‘spirituality,’ I beg your pardon: it is so soiled by all sorts of scoundrels. Every person asks himself, or if he does not, he feels the burn and pain anyway: what does he actually live for, what is important for him, and so on. It is up to oneself and no one else to determine the strategy of one’s own life. Some need money, home, family, power, fame. They build their priorities accordingly. It is good if they realize that even after they reach something, they will not be happy. Those gains lose their value instantly. For inner equilibrium, others – Oriental philosophy in particular, Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, the Japanese, and many others – search for peace rather than for the sense of life. You need to find a measure where you feel relatively comfortable, because everything can be busted at any moment. Inner harmony – mutual relations with people, attitude towards state, towards God (I am not very religious) – is a huge pyramid of human dimension. Staying in it constantly, to know that my fate depends on what is going on around. Everything crumbles down, so the mine crumbles down too. The unity of sympathy, art is sympathy itself. This is a way of reconciliation with life, a way of getting rid of cruelty. Topical art, on the contrary, says that man is rotten, disgusting, an ultimate animal which eats, drinks, and ruins. But what for? We know this, why dump all this negative information on our minds? I am not saying that one must create a sweet little picture. This ballast must be ousted of our minds, of our feelings, it prevents us from being harmonious, from existing in harmony – primarily, with ourselves.”

The Day is happy to congratulate the artist on his birthday and wish him long years of health, inspiration, and creativity.

By Svitlana AHREST-KOROTKOVA. Photos by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day