Artist draws dark side of Ukraine with ballpoint pen

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Kiev – whatever the subject – the big people who live big while many are hungry, the goats hired to disperse the protests, the poor Ukrainians who have been driven abroad in search of work – the artist Serhiy Kolyada l ‘written on paper with a simple tool: ballpoint pen.

Inspired by “everywhere,” 49-year-old Kolyada straddles the turbulent era of 30 years of life and art since gaining independence at the end of the Soviet Union and in 1991, with a simple structure at the forefront of the great. The paper draws the image it says and represents the lower abdomen of Ukraine.

It’s the bad social, national and greed reviews, corruption, sex travel, poverty-related labor movements, alcoholism and, as he sees it, Congress.

See also: Image and identity of the Ukrainian attempt at cultural diplomacy

He calls it “zhlob” art. The term is difficult to skillfully translate and has a variety of meanings, from “parasites” to rude and narrow-minded villains. But Kolyada’s work is replete with such “anti-heroes,” whether it’s a venal oligarch or a thug the oligarch uses as a paid muscle to forcefully acquire the company. is.

“He is a moody person who behaves in a warlike manner in society,” he said. “Let them not pick up trash after them… in the crime world, they ride drunks for money… and later these people go into politics and are in power. Meanwhile, they promote corruption by continuing to steal the national budget. “

It is a social symptom of “starting from the bottom up,” Kolyada added.

A painting by Serhiy Kolyada of a father and son outside a prison in Kiev.

Kolyada’s work can be offensive, which can be his goal. Speaking to RFE / RL at his temporary home studio in Kiev, he said his target was not the viewer’s eyes, but his brain.

“We already have a lot of works of art that perform decorative functions that are pleasing to the eye. What we need is art that makes people think, ”Kolyada said.

Over time, the menacing figure in his series of paintings became Katerina, a woman with bare feet and furrowed brows. 1842 painting by Taras Shevchenko, A versatile poet, a noble figure of Ukrainian culture, an artist and a farewell to the Russian Emperor officer.

Serhiy Kolyada holds one of his works in front of paintings by 19th century poet and artist Taras Shevchenko. In both cases, a person named Kateryna is represented.

He inserted the same image of her in various places including the Capitol in Washington, Red Square in Moscow and the Maidan barricade in Kiev, partially inflamed with anger at corruption, pushing a president friendly to Moscow. Massive protest Viktor Yanukovych came to power in 2014.

Drawing by Kolyada featuring Katerina, who appears frequently in her work, in Maidan, Kiev, where a wave of protests precipitated in 2013-14.

Through Katerina, Kolyada said: “I’m trying to show what Ukraine is and what it means… In the former Soviet Union we were all Russians… Here we are another country. I want to show this. “

Placing her in various foreign environments, the artist said she underlined “the plight of Ukrainian women who had to go abroad to earn money as work immigrants”.

He chose her, he said, “because nothing has changed in Shevchenko’s life for over 200 years.”

The government still has the same attitude towards the people… the same social problems exist. We still have a feudal system with the baron, ”Kolyada said, referring to the well-known tycoon who wields political influence.

Another painting by Kolyada. This time, SexTour.com.ua represents Katerina in a vehicle on the side.

President Volodymyr Zelensky was democratically elected, but behaved like a “monarch” and “has an oligarchy for the prince,” he said, without providing details to substantiate his statement. It was.

Kolyada also returns to the Bible of Kiev-born Soviet-era writer Mikhail Bulgakov, and in the meantime looks at many other figures from the past. It mixes elements of pop culture with Renaissance imagery (Michelangelo’s David on nude beaches) and the work of another great Ukrainian figure, Nikolai Gogol.

Kolyada has sacrificed their lives since Maidan added a scene of protest to his paintings after Russia occupied the Crimean Peninsula and aided anti-Kiev forces in the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine. It shows that there are people ready to do it for freedom, for their country, and to protect their compatriots.

“In my dream”

Kolyada’s dissatisfaction with state and society is firmly rooted in the Soviet era when it ended around 20 years old.

He cites his keen sense of justice while listening to Voice of America (VOA), RFE / RL and BBC broadcasts on shortwave radio.

Kolyada said the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was the source of his distrust of the Soviet system, as was the case with many in Ukraine and elsewhere. He listened to Western broadcasters at night and started writing letters to editors.

Drawings by Kolyada, including depictions of Chernobyl and religious images.

“I think that’s when the KGB starts contacting me, especially when the priest who ran the program in VOA answered me and the envelope was opened,” he said. .

As he grew older, Kolyada participated in anti-government protests, skewered Soviet authorities, began drawing pictures showing empty store shelves, and took art lessons.

After that, his application to the Kharkov art school was rejected. He spent a month in Sweden during the August 1991 coup that accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was refused political asylum and met a KGB officer when he flew to Moscow.

After that, he returned to his university in Zaporizhia, where he was quickly expelled in an “anti-Soviet attitude” and trained to become a professor of Ukrainian at the University of Berdian’k, a port city of the Sea of ​​Azov. . He grew up after his birth in Odessa.

Kolyada’s main tool is a ballpoint pen, but he can add gouache and watercolors to his work as well.

Finally graduating in 1997, Kolyada went to Kiev and continued to paint with a ballpoint pen, using some of the money he earned from selling sketches to the university.

Kolyada said he was inspired “from everywhere”, in the streets, in the news, in books and advertisements, and “in my dreams”. When an idea for a work of art germinates, “it takes a long time for the subject to boil in my brain.”

Written on paper, his work can reach $ 3,000, depending on the size, but it sells on average between $ 500 and $ 600. This is far from what the most famous Ukrainian artists can achieve. The work of Lviv-based painter Ivan Turetskiy sold for $ 21,250 at an auction in April at Sotheby’s, New York.

The creation of Ukrainian art and galleries has largely avoided his work. Her work often features eroticism and nudity as well as facial images.

“The gallery owners love my work on Facebook, but never offer to show it,” he said. “It’s a confusing situation and they don’t provide a specific reason.”

COVID-19 A photo by Kolyada showing Mona Lisa wearing a mask, hinting at a pandemic.

He said the gallery owner offered to show his work, but demanded that he pay $ 1,000, while still allowing them to choose which work to show. ..

“It’s a closed circle,” he added, adding that he would offset his income by working as a graphic designer and shrugging his shoulders. “I don’t pay attention to them [gallerists]… They ignore me and I ignore them.

Kolyada is more popular with expats abroad and in Ukraine.

Occasionally, Kolyada adds gouache and watercolors to his ballpoint pen work, such as the paintings of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. As for the materials, he says he’s tried them all.

“I drew in pencils, watercolors and oils, but I always came back to ink,” he says.

It is not a crowded field. Kolyada said he was the only prominent Ukrainian member of the informal ballpoint pen art movement.

“There was another bullet pointer in Luhansk,” he said, referring to one of the towns in the east owned by Russian-backed separatists. “But when the war with Russia started in 2014, I lost sight of him, and I don’t know where he is now.”

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE / RL, Inc. Reprinted with permission from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC20036



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