03 Apr Yuriy Pikul: “Do something – it’s the only creative action plan I have”
A very special artist and a unique person, Yuriy Pikul doesn’t like to talk the talk, as he prefers to walk the walk. But he made an exception for us and even gave us a tour of his own palm tree plantation.
You paint a lot of landscapes. Does it have anything to do with your education at the Academy of Fine Arts?
No, I don’t think that my love of landscapes has anything to do with it. Yes, I studied Academicism, academic rules. But I paint a lot of landscapes just because I feel them very well. I first started working en plein air to have more practice, to see true colors, to learn something new. For me painting began with the works of Van Gogh and Levitan. These artists inspired me to take up art. But now painting from nature feels to me as a specific psychedelic experience, a ritual, a process that pulls me together, it’s a way to live in the moment without thinking about the future or the past, about anything… Everything around seems like a diorama in a museum, like a reserved territory, like something I’m forbidden to touch. You can look, but you can’t interfere in it…
Your own paintings are hung on the walls of your studio. Doesn’t it distract you from work? You see, many artists usually just reverse their pieces once they’re finished or take them to another room.
It’s not a problem for me. Though, large paintings are indeed hard to look at when they’re done. You spend so much time working on them not to stare at them once they’re finished! I feel a little exhausted when I complete another large painting, so I take a rest and put the piece away. And what you may find on the walls of my studio is different. These are small cardboard pictures that remind me of important things, of places that made me happy. So these paintings bring me back to the situation of happiness, they serve as a source for my desire to do something. These cardboard pictures, perhaps, are not even art objects; they’re rather the prints of particular periods of time, of highly concentrated time, of very special time.
Your studio looks very tidy and neat. Do you like order?
I guess so. I think it’s just a quality of mind – to structure and organize information.
What do you do for recreation? Judging by your landscapes, you like spending time in the countryside, don’t you?
Yes, I do. This is where these sketches were actually made. Spending time in the countryside is the best way for me to relax. In a nutshell, I like going on vacation alone or, to be precise, I enjoy watching people from a distance, when I don’t have to communicate directly.
How often do you paint outdoors?
As often as I have a chance. I can make about 30 sketches in a week. Later I look through them to choose material for further work.
You’ve got so many palm trees!
Yes, I like cultivating plants. Especially palm trees.
But that many? Or is it some sort of business?
It’s just my greed, the consequences of fighting winter depression. I sowed many seeds during cold weather, but went a little too far. Now I look after them alone. I enjoy spending time next to plants; they’re pleasant on the eye.
You didn’t stick to the Academy of Fine Arts, nor did you stick to the National Union of Artists. What was the reason?
It’s because both of them (especially the Union) are an absolute frickin’ anachronism, the vestige of the old system. So it just happened. By the time I entered the Academy, I already though of myself as an artist; I felt confident about becoming a painter and I knew what to do. I already took this path, worked on my skills. My friend and I laughed at the thought that one fine day, after six years of bullshit practicing, some professors will call us artists. We already called ourselves artists, so it was our own responsibility. I was really surprised when I managed to enter the Academy. I knew that if I had been enrolled, I would have had to forget everything I learned and be a decent student. But that was definitely not an option for me!
Do you keep an eye on any contemporary artists?
I just try to watch what’s going on in art community in Ukraine and abroad. Yet I find Oleg Tistol the most interesting Ukrainian painter.
So were all these palm trees inspired by his paintings?
By the way, yes, they were! I relate to Tistol as a person, as a painter, and as a teacher. I don’t intentionally watch anybody’s work, but when I mention something, I try to understand it and take into consideration. An artist should know contemporary context, even the local one, since his/her work and statements are the dialog with own environment, with the abovementioned context in the first place. Though, you can’t know even local context without understanding global background, because what is happening in local contemporary art is not isolated from the wider world. It’s as if I were a part of the Ukrainian process of contemporary art, but, at the same time, I only partially belonged to it. The thing is, painting is far from being a modern medium. As a technique and as a language it’s unsuitable for creating contemporary art. But I like painting, and with the help of it I want to say how sorry I am that it’s a dead medium. For me art is a field of maximum freedom. It doesn’t matter whether you attended the Academy or not. The extent of freedom depends solely on your own mind, on what you can allow yourself.
Therefore, your journey is an individual choice from the very beginning and till the end, isn’t it?
What’s your creative action plan for the near future?
Do something – it’s the only creative action plan I have. When you’re gathering material, it’s becoming clear what you should do next, what’s there to improve. My next project is already clear to me; I have its picture in my mind. I just need to do it.
How many hours a day do you spend painting?
I don’t track hours, probably about five hours daily. Painting is my main activity.
Have you ever wanted to join any artistic group?
No, I haven’t. I don’t want to join anybody. You see, each group has its leader, a person that pulls the group forward. While I don’t need a leader, since I’m better off alone. Some time ago my friends and I founded a group “MMM” that resulted in two completed projects. But now we all prefer to work alone. Though it was an interesting experience. Actually the group emerged long before we began calling it a group. We used to live and work in one place, we had many things in common, but everything changes. And it’s all right.
Maybe the reason is that all artists are introverts?
All artists are different. But contemporary art in general is quite an extroversive thing!