Елена Окунева
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VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY UKRAINIAN ART: poetry, music and light by Grigory Gavrilenko

VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY UKRAINIAN ART: poetry, music and light by Grigory Gavrilenko
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Photo: wikipedia.org


Today, at times, Grigory Gavrilenko seems to be the guardian angel of modern Ukrainian art. He was appreciated and still appreciated by his eminent colleagues and comrades: S. Parajanov, G. Yakutovich, V. Silvestrov, without saying a word, as one, recalled “Grishin Light”. Not a single material about Nikolay Krivenko is complete without mentioning Gavrilenko; the artist’s influence is also emphasized by another living classic, Tiberiy Silvashi.

There are rumors about an upcoming monograph dedicated to Grigory Gavrilenko, and one might get the impression that he should be “our all”, but categorically little is known about him, his name is not heard even in those interested in art, and only a few will be able to recall his works.


There are many factors that contributed to this situation. One of them is that Grigory Gavrilenko was so devoted to his cause that he could not build a family, he simply had no one to pass on his legacy, which, unfortunately, now there is no one to defend.

Another reason can be called the ruthless meat grinder of the Soviet ideological system, throwing overboard everyone, even in the slightest degree, does not fit into its rigid framework. Gavrilenko’s contemporaries note that, despite the artist’s amazing delicacy, intelligence and benevolence, people were annoyed by his independence, steadfastness and a special way of life, subordinate to creativity utterly and completely.


VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY UKRAINIAN ART: poetry, music and light by Grigory Gavrilenko
Cherry orchard near the house, 1964


Grigory Gavrilenko was a real workaholic: from the memories of his associates, we know that he worked all day long. And this his attachment to the sun and light is manifested in his paintings. Gavrilenko carefully watched that the shadows were not too dark, and strove to write in such a way as to create the illusion of a transparent, infinite space. “According to his view of spatiality, one should depict a blank fence, walls of houses, greenery of groves in such a way that they would not stop the viewer’s gaze into endless space” [1].

Grigory Gavrilenko was undoubtedly an adherent of academic painting and drawing. Parajanov himself spoke with trepidation about the artist: “Grisha is the embodiment of Renaissance purity,” implying, of course, not only a technical or stylistic approach, but also spirituality, a state of sublimity with which we associate the Renaissance.

However, Gavrilenko took the technique of performing his works very seriously. For example, for shading, he developed his own system, which has rather rigid canons. In general, his approach to drawing and painting resembles Buddhist teachings, where, by limiting the body, you liberate the mind. Grigory Gavrilenko deliberately created a technical framework for himself, within which his creative freedom only became brighter and stronger.

But one should not assume that, having given preference to the classical school, Gavrilenko ignored current trends. He was well aware of European contemporary art, at least as much as the current situation in the country allowed. Its shading is inspired by Morandi, the linear portraits are inspired by Kulisevich, and one of the women from the sketch to the largest oil painting Gavrilenko formally resembles an absinthe-lover by Picasso.


VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY UKRAINIAN ART: poetry, music and light by Grigory Gavrilenko
Two women in nature, 1965


Grigory Gavrilenko tried in non-objective painting, which, by the way, he distinguished from abstract art, putting it an order of magnitude lower. It is worth noting that many of Gavrilenko’s landscapes and portraits, being in fact “subject”, were in fact even more abstract than geometric compositions, color fields and monochromatic colors of other artists, because the faces depicted by Gavrilenko were often so pure and emotionless. and the landscapes were so transparent that almost only light remained in the picture, which the artist tried to preserve and convey to the viewer.


VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY UKRAINIAN ART: poetry, music and light by Grigory Gavrilenko
Untitled, 1963


Grigory Gavrilenko was fortunate enough to be friends with the brilliant representatives of his generation: artists, musicians, poets, directors. They all inspired and nourished each other. The main Ukrainian composer of our time, V. Silvestrov recalls how in the transparency of Gavrilenko’s landscapes he “heard the quietness” that formed the basis of his works.

And vice versa, in the music of Silvestrov, Gavrilenko felt the images that he later brought into his painting. So it was with the poetry, which he loved and which he created in his own way, but not verbally, but artistically.

Largely due to the influence of such big names as Silvestrov, as well as in connection with the increasingly confident steps of researchers towards the restoration of “memory gaps” in the history of Ukrainian art of the twentieth century, there is hope that in the future we will see more high-quality materials about Grigory Gavrilenko and we will be able to appreciate its influence on the artistic landscape of our country.



[1] Fragments of the text first published in N. Krivenko’s article What Grigory Gavrilenko gave me // Gallery. – 2002. – No3-4. – from. 26-27


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