Сергей Форкош
Ukrainian Thinker, Doctor of Philosophy, translator
7 minutes for reading

NOTES FROM VIENNA: the image of dialog in the works of Ivan Marchuk

NOTES FROM VIENNA: the image of dialog in the works of Ivan Marchuk
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Ivan Marchuk. Dialogue,1990 / Artwork: huxley.media via Photoshop


From the 9th to the 18th of February 2024 in Vienna, Ivan Marchuk’s major exhibition, «The Voice of My Soul», was held, where more than 300 canvases were presented.

Although the works of the master from various periods are different and represent a particular evolution of ideological searches and stylistic developments, I would like to focus on a concept that, for me, is central to Marchuk’s work. It is the concept of the fabric of the image.

It is not without reason that his technique is defined as plyontanism (from the Western Ukrainian dialectism «plyontati» — to weave). However, in my text, we will talk not about the technique of drawing but about the concept, which is intended to reveal the structure of the image, its emergence, development, and completion.


Reflecting on Marchuk’s work, walking between the master’s many marvelous canvases in the open space of the gallery located in the Aula der Wissenschaftler building in the center of Vienna, I was reminded of Gilles Deleuze’s concept of «the fold», which referred to the model of a complex «wrapped» world, Leibniz’s monads and the topology of meaning; the correlation between art and Heinrich Rombach’s image also came to mind:

«Art has a high value because it is an image. If something is presented in the form of an image or transformed into an image, the whole or absolute becomes available in a very particular event, in a very particular place, in a very simple and accidental form».

So, contemplating Marchuk’s paintings, inspired by the ideas of Deleuze and Rombach mentioned above, I asked myself the following questions: «How does Marchuk himself understand the image?» and «How does he realize this embodiment of the absolute in particular?»

To answer these questions, I propose to start at the beginning. It is clear that we will talk about the beginning as Marchuk himself understands it, so first of all, we will talk about the thread. Then, following the thread, we will deal with how the fabric is formed, and finally, we will see how the image is woven from the fabric.




Thread is woven from fibers. A fiber, meanwhile, is also a thin thread. The strands of the fiber are twisted lengthwise, and so the thread remains one-dimensional. There is inevitably a space between the spun fibers because the fibers remain thin threads and do not merge into a single thread. Thus, some diversity is preserved.

The thread as a line has length, but its width is not yet revealed. So far, the thread lasts only longitudinally. The thread, while remaining a thread, does not meet itself. A thread can even bend while remaining a thread without becoming a fabric. The thread itself is continuous. This means that a thread can fill a space so that any loop that is formed through a fold can be stretched indefinitely. A thread remains a thread until it crosses itself in such a way that it becomes an obstacle to itself.

A thread as a thread, at the maximum scale, can become a multidimensional pile of loops, but at the moment when the thread crosses itself, becoming an obstacle for itself, a fabric emerges.

The first structural element of the fabric becomes the binding, the thread that has returned to itself and bypassed itself. The binding is possible only through this bypassing, when the thread, meeting itself, bypassing itself, finds itself not only as continuing itself but also as expanding itself. Binding is a meeting and a detour.


Иван Марчук.  Накануне, XXI век
Ivan Marchuk. On the Eve, XXI century / arthive.com




Weave — is the surface. The structure of the fabric — is the intersection and the empty holes between the binding. No matter how tight the binding is, emptiness as a moment of binding is inevitable. If the hole is eliminated, however, a continuum, some uninterrupted medium, results.

If we consider the simplest form of cloth, it is represented by perpendicularly intersecting threads. On the loom, the longitudinal threads, the warp, intersect at right angles with the weft, the cross threads. The fabric itself is something dense, compressed, and constricted.

The fabric aims to hide the empty holes and thus manifest the property of the threads themselves, their density. Another thing is knitwear. Knitwear opens up and utilizes the holes, transforming the fabric into something flexible and soft, stretchy and pliable.

The core of a fabric is the intersection, and the core of knitwear is the loop. Knitwear shows us how the thread limits the space, but does not seek to suppress it, to squeeze it, but on the contrary, opens and plays with it. In knitwear, the thread gives way to space.

The weave itself is a constant removal and return of the thread, so the fabric remains whole but also filled with emptiness. You could say that in the fabric, or from the weave itself, is where some space arises. In other words, the thread that crosses itself, while not dissolving into itself, weaves a space. The empty space between the threads is dots as something negative. These dots are not a «what» but something «from where». The dots between the threads are only an inevitable and unrecoverable residue.

One of the most essential properties of both woven and knitted fabric is rhythm. After all, the weave itself consists of some waves, where there is a decline and a rise. A pattern can be woven into the fabric, and knitted fabric can form this pattern from the shape of the weave by forming different kinds of loops. Fabric and knitwear are both already forms of rhythm, which means they show repetition and difference. In fabric, the repetition of the weave is primary, and in knitwear, the difference is primary (in some cases, they coincide). Rhythm is a renewing repetition.


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Иван Марчук. Скажи мне правду, 1997
Ivan Marchuk. Tell me the truth, 1997 / arthive.com




When highlighting something in our perception, we must remember that it is the result of a synthesis of points and that the interwoven threads themselves are hidden from us. It is as if we are in the density of the weaves, but we gather our reality only through the empty holes between the weaves. Probably, our consciousness is organized in such a way that by seizing we interrupt the continuous flow of what is happening.

This seizing is not a tearing of the fabric of reality but only a holding of the through points of the binding. So, all we can do is turn these voids into fibers, twist them into threads, and weave the image. Could it be that we ourselves are some pattern on the original fabric of being?

The image must emerge from the fabric. We must remember that the image is a creative void. The essence of the image is easily understood by touching our own reflection on still water. We will touch in one place on the water’s surface, but our entire reflected image will change. Yes, the image is something interconnected within itself. Maybe the image is pure interconnection, something that is inherently fundamental to the other?




Let us consider how the master embodies the image and how he realizes it as something concrete, using the example of the painting «Dialogue» (1990). Observing this canvas, we are immediately immersed in the world of intertwining. In front of us, we see a multidimensional weave of threads of different shapes, lengths, and colors.

In the upper part of the fabric, various shades of yellow, green, and blue form combinations of stable contrast, which become more intense towards the middle of the fabric, saturated with refined yellow and red threads. The weave itself forms a depth in this density.

Some threads seem unwound, revealing their multiple fibers, which is itself an unfolded surface. Others seem taut, like tendons that attach muscles to joints, giving the impression of a tense dynamic.

Another type of thread can also be distinguished, which, when unraveled, seems to float, blown by an invisible, free wind that permeates the whole cloth. Hence, one gets the feeling that viscous weaves are living fabrics that contract and expand.

As it moves, the reviving mass seems to become saturated with moisture and, in places, sticky. Textile fabric turns into living tissue (Greek: ιστός). The interweaving of tensely bending threads of different shapes and colors forms certain surfaces, shapes that slowly emerging shadows can distinguish.

Continuing to follow the dense dynamics of the weaves, we can finally encounter the previously recognized, emerging outlines of faces. We can notice the light from darkened eyes, a yellow pointed nose, rippling teeth… Images emerged from the weave. These images are deeply connected, intertwined in the primordial substance of their existence.

Their very difference is an imaginary difference. Marchuk does not hide the conventionality of differences between individuals. It seems that they receive their differences only when the element of the fabric expands; when contraction occurs, it seems that everything must return to a state of internal identity.

Therefore, difference and originality arise and disappear synchronously with the breathing of the world. In genuine dialogue, this original unity of the interweaving of the world appears. Thus, dialogue is a creative return.


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