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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

Kyiv Suite in Bukovyna

A memorial exhibit of paintings by the renowned artist Serhii Shyshko opens to celebrate his 100th anniversary
6 September, 2011 - 00:00
KYIV. VIEW OF THE DNIPRO, 1951 / Photo from the website KORNERS.COM.UA

An exhibit to selebrate the centennial of a famous Ukrainian painter Serhii Shyshko has been opened in Chernivtsi Regional Art Museum. The board of art exhibitions at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Ukraine have planned the exposition of Shyshko’s paintings in almost all of the oblast centers of our country as a part of celebration of this anniversary. The first ones to see the painter’s masterpieces were residents of Zhytomyr, and now the exhibit is being displayed in Chernivtsi. As a reminder: this is the second show from the board of art exhibitions (after Hlushchenko’s paintings exposition) that draws a lot of attention in a wide circle of art admirers.

Shyshko’s life and creative work are quite typical for the former USSR era. Shyshko was born on June 25, 1911 near Chernihiv. Later he would skillfully depict the beauty of his home land in his landscapes. He studied at Kyiv Institute of Art (1993, Fedir Krychevsky’s class), graduated from the Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture at the Russian Academy of Arts in Leningrad. His most famous cycles are Samarkand and Zagorsk sketches, battlefront sketches, the sketches of post-war Kyiv, a cycle of Carpathian sceneries, and Shevchenko’s places landscapes, Crimean sketches, industrial views, rural scenery, and paintings depicting farm life. There are also portraits and still life paintings among Shyshko’s work. His canvases have been displayed at numerous shows in the USSR as well as abroad.

But Shyshko’s main artistic achievement is the portrayal of Kyiv. This city inspired the artist the most. He had been creating the series “Kyiv suite” for over than 40 years. It contains more than 100 paintings and sketches. One of the painter’s favorite motives was the street with its whirl of life. He paints city streets in different seasons, on holidays and week days. Human figures are an everpresent and artistically inevitable element of the composition in his paintings – because the people themselves, their lives, their feelings and emotions make the city.

Landscape is often mentioned as the artist’s favorite genre. But in his masterpiece there are works that seem to combine several genres. Window (1959) can be an example of this peculiar symbiosis. The whole foreground of the painting is occupied by a window-sill with a complete set of painter’s attributes: the palette with colors mixed on it, paintbrushes in a jar, a vase of wild flowers behind. It would’ve been a regular still life if not for the background. Through an open window we can see a city by night, new buildings that are being built, apartment houses with glowing windows, and far, far away, distant hills almost completely shrouded in darkness (in which you can recognize Kyiv hills if you wish so).

High professionalism and deep artistic talent, a wonderful sense of color and skillful composition – that is how art critics characterize Shyshko’s work. His paintings only speak of the most important things, which he himself knew and loved. “I paint what is around me. For me, landscape painting is a way to explore the world... I always start working only when poetry and beauty, first of all the beauty of the color scheme, unfolds around me; I paint only when I feel I can’t resist painting. What matters in this is not only the immediate impressions but my memories, associations and dreams as well,” the master used to say.

It should be noted that decades 1970-80 are marked by changes in stylistics and themes of paintings. The artist takes a great interest in still life. Flowers in vases – this motive is very typical and a great passion of this period. Still life paintings with huge amounts of various kinds of flowers form one more cycle of works and perhaps are the most vivdly coloured and optimistic. These paintings are alive, they seem to be components of Nature, which inspired and gave shelter to the author. Unfortunately, his private life of that period was full of tragedy. His wife was gravely ill, his talented disabled daughter died young, these things are not usually talked about. But his paintings are a hymn to life and eternal and wise laws of the universe. Colorful and different in mood; delicate and tender (Still Life with Lilies, Still Life with Cornflowers) or bright and ardent (Summer, Flowers on the Balcony), all of them are picturesque personifications of ideals of Beauty, Kindness and Truth, without which the act of creation is not possible at all.

Shyshko’s talent was always recognized, he probably posesses all the highest artistic awards of the Soviet times: he was awarded most of the state prizes, had a People’s Artist of the USSR title, was awarded with the Order of Lenin and Order of Friendship of Peoples.

Shyshko passed away in 1997. According to those who remember him, he was a firm believer that any kind of art has to be based on Love, and only then it will live through generations and genetic memory of descendants. This artist’s painting is life-asserting and buoyant indeed. It comes from the heart, it came through the heart of the painter and speaks to people’s hearts.

In 1992 Shyshko visited Nizhyn, with which he never broke the connection, for the last time. Already being a famous painter, he frequently stayed there, was an initiator and organizer of paintings exhibits – his own as well as other painters’. A whole cycle of canvases is dedicated to Nizhyn scenery. After all, the city got a generous gift from him – a collection of paintings. Though works by this painter can be found in museums of Kyiv, Chernihiv, the largest non-private collection right now is the one at the Hohol Nizhyn State University gallery. It preserves memory about a person and an artist with great soul.

The exhibit in Chernivtsi represents a couple of paintings from the city cycle, the rest is picturesque, lyrical landscapes and still lifes – 35 canvases created in the period from 1940 to 1980. They represent an artistic reflection of the surrounding world and clearly deliver the spirit and color of the past era. The exhibit will be open until Septemper 9.

By Inna KITSUL, director, Chernivtsi Art Museum

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