01 Dec Oleksandr Zhyvotkov: “Humanity needs culture to exist”
We spoke to the extremely private while incredibly sincere artist.
Oleksandr, I am obsessed with the chain saw, discovered by you in 2010…
I don’t discover anything new. To me, the material is secondary and, in the meantime, is great. You can draw on sand, on the floor, in your mind… Material is everywhere — on the ground, on the street. It comes and goes. Oil paint, chain saw, wood, metal, paper — it is all one. I use brilliant ethyl green, as well as iodine and shoe polish.
It’s an interesting contrast, because nowadays many young artists, when they turn to art foundations and galleries for support, claim that they need e.g. only American paint, because Ivan Marchuk uses it.
Of course, one can flaunt it, e.g. inquire for blue Guadeloupian paint. Why not — all this is just a game. The most important is that such flaunting wouldn’t turn into snobbery, because it won’t work out. I think that snobbery is not good.
When I came into your studio, I thought that I was visiting a collector, not a painter.
That’s right: more or less painters are collectors. But I am not a collector — I just like different stuff. It simply comes to me and goes. An object’s life is longer than a human being’s. The relation with it is quite interesting. The object is everything — clothes, shoes. You can even work with a radiator if you understand what to do with it.
One needs a talent to understand it.
Not only talent. Once Paganini said: «God gave me only one talent — and it’s work». No talent can exist without work, it’s poor without it.
Oleksandr, you rarely put your paintings on display. When will we see your next exhibition?
I like the StedlyArtFoundation exhibition space very much, plus we’ve found each other on emotional level. I’m extremely comfortable there. It’s practically my second home. We have been working together for five years — it’s a long time, practically a marriage that we contracted as adults, as formed personalities. This is where I stage my exhibitions. I must say that I am quite obstinate when it comes to working with the galleries. When my exhibitions were over, I immediately took paintings back home. It was necessary for me to protect, to hide them. As for the StedlyArtFoundation, I don’t bother with my paintings’ safety. I don’t worry about them. And thanks to this I feel extremely comfortable. It’s the first time in my life.
It’s very rare these days to see such an anxiety for your own paintings.
You see, Zhenya, we’re talking about love that is the base of our whole life. If a person loves what he does, loves the art, he’s bound to be so. But part of the point is that history repeats itself. Human soul or energy is forever, that’s why the man is immortal. There used to be such devoted people as Varvara Khanenko. The culture is needed for the mankind — actually, for the world — to exist. Unfortunately, we rarely think about it. E.g. in Soviet Union the first pages of cities’ information booklets had articles on agricultural progress, on sport, and only then — on culture and how to get to the mall. That’s it.
That’s why after collapse of the USSR we got specific cultural heritage. Do you think that the attitude toward art has changed in Ukraine in recent years and become more European?
In Europe everything is in museums, guarded and protected, and in our country, unfortunately, many treasures are still buried in the ground. Do you know how it is made in the civilized world? They find an artifact, put it under glass, build a museum around it and advertise it, so that people would come and visit the place.
Maybe someday this is what we will see in Ukraine.
No, we won’t. Turn to the past to answer your question. Do you remember, what was going on, when the works of Theophanes the Greek and Andrei Rublev were destroyed? Even now the museums are being bombed. This wildness coupled with normal attitude toward art has always been the same here.
In the context of a grave situation in Ukraine, has it crossed your mind to leave the country?
No, it hasn’t. I was proposed to emigrate as early as in the end of the 1980s — I was offered French citizenship, received an offer to stay in Germany, but always came back. This is my territory, this is my place. I was born here for a reason.
How did you bear the events on the Maidan? Were you able to work?
Yes, I never stopped working. I worked to the sounds of TV. Otherwise I would have lost my mind. This is my territory, this is where I was born!