Елена Окунева
5 minutes for reading


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Photo: ukraineartnews.com


The reality is that often in order to become famous in Ukraine, you first need to get recognition abroad, which means, as a rule, developed European countries and the United States. This is not surprising, because we have not managed to nurture a critical mass of experts, connoisseurs and other players in the art field yet.

Therefore, the orientation towards the opinion of more experienced and advanced colleagues and institutions seems to be quite logical and is, most likely, a necessary stage in the formation of one’s own strong position with a confident voice.

Nevertheless, there are artists who have managed to win the love of the public and the respect of specialists even without loud foreign history. One of these exceptions to the rule is the artist Nikolay Matsenko.

Matsenko took the path of creative realization by modern standards rather late – after thirty years. However, it did not prevent, and perhaps, on the contrary, helped him to naturally integrate into the professional artistic environment, because his art was devoid of failed experiments, nondescript samples and obscure statements.

Matsenko began to create at the very moment when his worldview stabilized, his life position was strengthened, and ideas really matured. On this fertile soil (it is the soil that has a symbolic meaning for the author) Nikolay Matsenko began to develop his ideological theory, to which he subordinated artistic practice.

Returning to the soil, the author claims that his work can be metaphorically compared to “digging in his own garden”, meaning the study of the history and culture of his land and his people, during which one can find unique artifacts of each era, unexpected symbols of that time and later, in the workshop, to combine it all in an unobvious way, getting an authentic piece at the output.


Neofolk, 2005–2006


Matsenko works in a rather graphic, poster manner, which is conventionally called heraldry. Indeed, works resembling coats of arms contain many recognizable symbols, sometimes incompatible at first glance, but after a close look at the whole picture, it becomes clear why the author intertwined them.

In this sense, Matsenko is truly a Ukrainian artist, who is more appreciated in his homeland, because only a Ukrainian can understand and feel the whole spectrum of ideas and meanings laid down by the master.

It is curious that the author, when creating such works, does not use nature, does not peep how this or that object should look, but creates, relying only on memory and imagination, drawing his own ideas about objects, and not their exact copies. This detail unobtrusively hints that no sphere of human life can do without subjectivity, and especially art.

The author calls himself an artist-cultural studies-amateur, focusing on the research component of his work. “Digging” more and more new knowledge, Matsenko creates art filled with deep love for Ukraine, while having a fully conscious political position and social mission.

Moreover, this mission was even present in his action “To each house –  a square”, where, in fact, there was no author’s technique as such, but the goal was to popularize Ukrainian art.

As part of the action, Matsenko sold inexpensively “black squares” of his own production in the bazaar and acted as a “lawyer for Malevich”, explaining to passers-by the importance of the great artist, who was born in Kiev. Matsenko does not hide the fact that for many years he has been working on the formulation of the identification of the people and considers himself a part of a large-scale “process of forming a political nation”.

Nikolay Matsenko’s art is really tied to the land, history, and traditions of the Ukrainian people. The artist feels responsible for the events taking place with us and, through his art, tries to make a feasible contribution to Ukrainian culture, to its veneration and popularization.

Together with his friend, godfather and colleague Oleg Tistol, Nikolay Matsenko created the project “Natsprom”, in which they fought and continue to “fight for the beauty of the stereotype”, not without irony, picturesquely discussing the themes of popular culture, traditional views, eternal conflicts of the village and the city , different generations and classes.


Art belongs to the people, 2007 / Red rose – flower of love, 2007


Nikolay Matsenko is sure that modernity is just a link connecting the past with the future [1], and therefore the artist sees his task as fully transmitting knowledge from past generations to the next. So long chains appear on the canvases, symbolizing this continuity and interconnectedness of everything that happens.

Matsenko’s works are narrative and rich, always precise and clear. There is not even a hint of blur and mystery in them, characteristic of many Ukrainian authors. Nikolay Matsenko seems to have no doubts, he sees his goal and knows well how to go towards it.


[1] Nikolay Matsenko: How not to live in the world of imitations? – Anastasia Gerasimova, ArtUkraine, 2016.

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