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STEADFAST STRENGTH AND INSPIRATION: Tamara Kachalenko, a graphic artist from Kherson

STEADFAST STRENGTH AND INSPIRATION: Tamara Kachalenko, a graphic artist from Kherson
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Tamara Kachalenko with her own works from the series «Back to black» (Old people and children)

 

The graphic artist with the creative pseudonym Vita Black was born and lives in the southern city of Kherson.

She studied fine arts at Kherson State University. She believes that the Faculty of Culture and Art gave her a pass in the magical world of graphics. She is also grateful to the teachers of the Faculty of Culture and Art at KSU, who have always encouraged her to pursue independent creative searches and study new areas of contemporary art.

The work with a ballpoint pen is a further independent endeavor based on the works of American hyperrealist artists.

 

«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк What is the first creative moment in your life that you remember?

In 2006, the National Ukrainian Children’s Art Contest «My Small Homeland» (making handmade books) was held — I won 1st place in Kherson and 2nd place in the region. I created a book with my poems and legends, which I also illustrated.

The contest «My Small Homeland» was announced at the initiative of the Ukrainian Foundation of Social Guarantees for Soldiers and Veterans of the Armed Forces and the National Library of Ukraine for Children. The jury was chaired by A. Kychynskyi (poet, winner of the Taras Shevchenko National Prize of Ukraine).

In total, about 1300 participants took part in the «My Small Homeland» contest in Kherson Oblast, and 667 self-made books were created. Afterward, these handmade books created by children from all over Ukraine, including mine, went on a tour of exhibitions and were shown in Kyiv.

This event is reflected in the photographs I have kept. Unfortunately, now the Kherson Regional Library for children named after the Dnipro Seagull has been destroyed by shelling.

I also loved music since childhood, studied at a music school, specializing in guitar, and then entered the Kherson Music School (folk department, guitar).

In my first year at Kherson State University, I was inclined to painting, especially landscapes. I was very inspired by the work of the famous Kherson artist Volodymyr Chupryna.

While studying at KSU, I mastered various techniques: batik, acrylic (on different surfaces — on paper, glass, plywood, fabric, patent leather), ballpoint pen, oil painting, watercolor, gouache, soft materials (charcoal, sanguine), markers, felt-tip pens, non-traditional fine art techniques, even beadwork (I create authentic gerdans using hand weaving).

But in my senior years at KSU, I was attracted to the field of graphics. And my final thesis was a graphic series inspired by the works of Taras Shevchenko.

 

Тамара Качаленко. Робота з серії Back to black (Старі та діти). Папір, кулькова ручка, гуаш
Tamara Kachalenko. A work from the series «Back to black» (Old people and children). Paper, ballpoint pen, gouache

 

«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк What is your creative ambition?

For me, each new work is a kind of springboard that sets certain tasks. Self-improvement as a graphic artist from work to work.

For example, in the latest series Back to black («Old people and children»), created in December-January 2023-2024, I work in a new direction of American art for me — «hyperrealism», which is now at the peak of popularity in the West and in the United States. This series of works is essential for me, which is why I chose the creative pseudonym Vita Black.

However, hyperrealism also has significant differences from the Ukrainian graphic school (for example, it is impossible without the use of photographs), which encourages the constant improvement of the graphic language. Thanks to the use of new technologies, artists’ possibilities have expanded dramatically. But the realism of the image in a painting is unattainable for a photographer’s lens. That’s why photography will never kill art, because a photo is just a material for an artist’s creativity.

I am very grateful to the Dean of the Faculty of Culture and Arts, Levchenko M., for her constant creative support and to the Rector of Kherson State University, Spivakovsky O., for his help with materials (without which it would have been impossible to create a series of works — «Hutsuls», «Ukrainian Cultural Leaders», «Ukraine on Fire», «Glorious Ukraine» and, of course, Back to black).

 

Тамара Качаленко. Стара гуцулка (за фото В. Дубаса). Папір, кулькова ручка, кольорові маркери
Tamara Kachalenko. Old Hutsul woman (after a photo by V. Dubas). Paper, ballpoint pen, colored markers

 

«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк What prevents you from realizing your creative ambitions?

The war. I didn’t evacuate from Kherson either during the occupation by the rashists, or during the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant disaster, or now, during the constant shelling of the city. But it is very difficult to create under the sound of explosions and sirens. It was the war that turned me into the black-and-white world of graphics. I also painted during the rashist occupation of Kherson.

During the occupation, the main rule was to try not to contact the rashists in any way. The surrounding reality with the «zetas» on the Kherson roads was so wild that only art helped me survive those times.

Then I started creating a series of graphic works: «Ukrainian Figures», «Hutsuls», and «Ukraine on Fire». The mobility of a ballpoint pen helped a lot because it was easier to take with you to a hiding place, unlike paints.

 

Тамара Качаленко. Гуцул (за фото М. Сеньковського). Папір, кулькова ручка
Tamara Kachalenko. Hutsul (after a photo by M. Senkovsky). Paper, ballpoint pen

 

«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк How do you start your day?

With the news. I read a lot of media, both national and regional. Posts in social networks and support from Kherson residents who are now in other regions of Ukraine, even abroad, help me survive another day of war.

 

«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк Which artists do you admire the most?

I am fascinated by the hyper-realistic works of Samyel Silva, which he creates using only 8 colored pens. And the wonderful works of Enam Bosoka, who paints with only a blue ballpoint pen. Their works were a guiding light for me in the realm of hyperrealism, specifically in the ballpoint pen technique.

 

«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк Is there anyone in your life who constantly inspires you?

In today’s reality, the most inspiring movie is Clint Eastwood’s «Sully. Miracle on the Hudson» is the most inspiring movie for me because of its sincere love for professionals and optimism. Now I’m discovering old Hollywood films — «The Loves of Carmen» (1948) (with Rita Hayworth), «White Cargo» (1942) (with Hedy Lamarr), «Grand Hotel» (1932) (with Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo) and «Love Nest» (1951) (with the unforgettable Marilyn Monroe). When the world is overwhelmed by the news, I turn on my favorite movies as an effective remedy for depression.

 

STEADFAST STRENGTH AND INSPIRATION: Tamara Kachalenko, a graphic artist from Kherson
Tamara Kachalenko. Work from the series «Back to black» (Old people and children). Paper, ballpoint pen, gouache

 

«Люди стали менш жорстокими», — український скульптор Андрій Возницький Define a muse. And who is your muse?

The British singer Amy Winehouse is one of my favorite artists. Amy Winehouse’s black-and-white music video Back to black (2004) inspired me to create a series of graphic works Back to black («Old people and children»).

Children and older people were deliberately chosen as the most vulnerable categories of people who perceive war very painfully. Now, in Kherson, there are children with eyes and facial expressions similar to those of older people. And it is painful for the old people to watch their world collapse every day… Life has become black and white, without halftones. And I try to express these Kherson realities with the help of graphics.

In addition, children and the elderly are the most vulnerable members of society, so, in my opinion, war leaves a particularly cruel mark on their faces. As the French novelist Marc Levy aptly put it: «Only old people and children see what most people do not. The wrinkles of old age form the most beautiful scriptures of life, those on which children learn to read their dreams…» And the war also writes its story on their faces.

 

Тамара Качаленко. Херсонський дідусь, папір, кулькова ручка, кольорові маркери
Tamara Kachalenko. Grandfather from Kherson. Paper, ballpoint pen, colored markers

 

«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк How do you react when faced with a superior mind or talent?

I learn. Artists are in a competitive environment, so there is simply no time for envy. «To be jealous is to admit that you are defeated», to quote Skryabin. Besides, it’s never too late to learn.

 

«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк How do you act when you face obstacles to success or the threat of defeat?

«It’s not scary to fall, it’s scary never get up», as a German proverb says. Everything that does not kill us makes us stronger. Perhaps the obstacles on the way to the goal emphasize that the vector of movement is correct.

 

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«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк How do you understand mastery?

This is when the artist himself cannot explain how he creates a work. It’s as if the work is created separately from the artist as a melody comes to a poem.

 

«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк What is your biggest dream?

To meet the Victory and create a graphic series of joyful and happy Kherson residents.

 

STEADFAST STRENGTH AND INSPIRATION: Tamara Kachalenko, a graphic artist from Kherson
Tamara Kachalenko. Work from the series «Back to black» (Old people and children). Paper, ballpoint pen, gouache

 

«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк In Ukraine, things have changed over the last decade…

There is a shift towards European art. We are gradually getting rid of the Soviet legacy, but unfortunately, not as fast as we would like.

Art is also a weapon in the war. Ukrainian graphic art is now opening up new horizons for creativity, new themes, and new viewers. I sincerely believe that in combination with modern Western artistic achievements (for example, American hyperrealism), the Ukrainian graphic school will surprise the world.

 

STEADFAST STRENGTH AND INSPIRATION: Tamara Kachalenko, a graphic artist from Kherson
Tamara Kachalenko. Work from the series «Back to black» (Old people and children). Paper, ballpoint pen, gouache

 

«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк I want to change my hometown…

I wanted to change a lot of things in Kherson before the war, but now you see that it will take a lot of work to bring back at least what it was before February 24, 2022. Today, the city is striking with craters and broken windows. Kherson is called «the city of old people and volunteers». But Kherson is alive, and it is not a ghost town that exists only on the map. Although ordinary civilian life in a city under fire twenty-four hours a day is becoming a heroic act. But the Kherson residents who stayed in Kherson continue to «carry the city in their arms», as I. Kolikhayev, the pre-war mayor of Kherson and the city’s leader in the first months of the war, accurately expressed it.

 

Тамара Качаленко. Парижанка Карпат, (за фото М. Сеньковського). Папір, кулькова ручка
Tamara Kachalenko. A Parisian of the Carpathians (after a photo by M. Senkovsky). Paper, ballpoint pen

 

«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк I miss…

I am in Lviv. I planned to enter the creative postgraduate program at the Lviv National Academy of Arts. I was preparing, writing a theoretical paper, creating practical works (including a series of hutsuls). But the full-scale war broke these plans.

 

«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк A metaphor, a literary hero, an association for modern Ukraine…

«Fight — you will overcome», as Taras Shevchenko bequeathed.

 

STEADFAST STRENGTH AND INSPIRATION: Tamara Kachalenko, a graphic artist from Kherson
Tamara Kachalenko. Work from the series «Back to black» (Old people and children). Paper, ballpoint pen, gouache

 

«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк Is it possible to forgive an enemy?

A difficult question. «I can forget, but I can’t forgive», as E. Roosevelt said.

 

«Сучасна Україна — це коли рій бджіл душить шершня захищаючись», — український скульптор Петро Грицюк The best advice you’ve ever received in your life…

«It doesn’t matter how slowly you move. It’s important that you don’t stop» — this brilliant statement by Bruce Lee characterizes the current creativity in Kherson. Because sometimes I would start creating a work before the shelling. Then I would run to the shelter and finish it at 3–4 o’clock in the morning when the drones were destroyed or the massive bombardment of Kherson stopped.

In general, I spend 6–8 hours and 2–4 ballpoint pens (depending on the amount of hatching) on one work with a ballpoint pen.

 

«Там, де не вистачає таланту, наростає майстерність», — художник із Києва Владислав Шерешевський Is there a phrase that guides you through life?

 

There is an inscription on a rock. When wealthy people read this inscription, they cry, when poor people read it, they rejoice. When lovers read it, they begin to appreciate every moment they spend together. And on the rock, it is written: «Everything passes»

 

Photos provided by Tamara Kachalenko

 


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