VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY UKRAINIAN ART: maps of feelings of Yuri Solomko
The artist Solomko was named Yuri for a reason. He was born in the year when Yuri Gagarin passed away, it was in his honor that the future painter was named. As a child, Yuri Solomko really wanted to become an astronaut, and, apparently, to some extent, this dream remained in the artist’s subconscious, because throughout his conscious creative career he has been developing the theme of maps, as if perceiving the world from the height from which the planet looks like a globe.Like many Ukrainian artists born in the sixties, Yuri Solomko notes the deep impact, the strong influence of the comet artist Oleg Golosiy. They met in the second year of the institute and later both ended up in the legendary squat on the street of the Paris Commune.
There, together with other artists, they exchanged ideas, shared knowledge, tried to expand their consciousness in any way possible and, of course, did a lot. With the almost complete absence of infrastructure, art institutions and the art market as such, the spirit of freedom and pure creativity that prevailed at Parkommun gave us a whole generation of celebrity artists, among whom, of course, Yuri Solomko.
After searching and experimenting during the period of the capital squat, Solomko finds “his” theme at home – in his native Crimea. There, going to travel around the peninsula, the artist tries to buy a map of the area, but finds only political maps of the world, which inspired him to his own work. The heroes of the first works, printed on the maps, were borrowed from the books of the Marquis de Sade, which had just begun to appear on store shelves.
Yuri Solomko explains his choice by the fact that the cards themselves were not invented by him, this is a document that has been formed for hundreds of years and is still being updated, so the artist did not dare to combine his inventions with such a background, using the plots of intimate scenes of the 18th century, inspired by antiquity and not losing relevance. Solomko calls his art the third that is born from two borrowings – a new layer of meaning based on quotations and, often, irony – in the best traditions of postmodernism .
The painter claims that for him aesthetics is in the first place, but just as a broken clock shows the correct time twice a day, Solomko’s paintings sometimes turn out to be surprisingly relevant. For example, the first work on the map coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union, resonating with the emerging issue of a new division of borders and states. In 2014, after Ukraine lost his native Crimea, his works again turned from visually perfect paintings into acute political statements.
Often, critics and viewers ascribe to the work of certain artists those meanings that the authors did not imply. So it happens with Yuri Solomko: on naked people with maps projected on them, they look for which geographical points which parts of the body are highlighted, and read these meanings in their own way, Solomko’s art periodically, adjusted for the latest trends, is introduced into the context either ecological certain social problems.
The artist does not agree with all interpretations, but socially important topics are really not alien to him. In his work, there was a place for a reaction to the Chernobyl disaster, and to political upheavals, and to global warming. By the way, it is the context of globalism that is considered the most common in the art of Yuri Solomko. But, as the artist says, he gets very tired of this scale and sometimes he needs to be distracted from exhausting thoughts about the world’s problems of mankind.
So, for example, a series “Without GMOs” appeared, in the creation of which Yuri Solomko “escapes” from the tedious globalism of his cartographic works – according to the rules of academic drawing, he moves “from the general to the particular”, only not in the composition of the canvas, but in the subject of reflection and artistic incarnation.
In this cycle, the artist depicts vegetables, berries, fruits, working in a hyper-realistic manner. For the author, such a change in scale and optics allows him to take a break from the race for relevance and enjoy the actual painting process.
But the maps still remain in the work of Yuri Solomko in a confident leadership position. For the artist, they are a tool with which he reveals any topic, a language in which he speaks with the viewer about issues of concern to him.
For Solomko, “the map is one of the most powerful symbols that civilization has created. There are so many things connected in it that when working with one of the layers underneath, something new is sure to appear. The only thing that is not in the map are non-material, non-visual concepts. For example, such a thing as time. There is no map of emotions, experiences. But for this there is a picture. I am inclined to think that any picture is a map of feelings” .
 Tatiana Zhmurko about the work of Yuri Solomko – ArtUkraine, 2018
 Yuri Solomko about his work in an interview with Dmitry Desyaterik, 2000