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From the history of Taras Shevchenko National Prize

Taras Shevchenko National Prize (Shevchenko Award) ‑ a Ukrainian State Prize, the highest distinction in Ukraine for weighty contribution to the development of culture.

National prize is awarded to the authors of outstanding works of literature and art, publicism and journalism which are the culmination of the spiritual heritage of the Ukrainian people and maintain high humanistic ideals, enriching the historical memory of the people, their national consciousness and identity, aimed at Ukrainian state development and public life democratization.

The Shevchenko Republican Prize was established on May 20, 1961 in according to the Resolution of the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR. The prizes that should be awarded annually were established at the same time.

First prizes and honors were awarded to writers Oles Honchar (for the novel «Man and Weapons»), Pavlo Tychyna (for «Selected Works») and to the composer Platon Maiboroda (for «Favorite Songs») on March 9,


In April 1969, it was established Taras Shevchenko National Prize Committee of the Ukrainian SSR in literature, art and architecture.

A large number of changes have been made in the subsequent years. The Profile of Award was expanded, such areas as publicism, journalism, theory and history of literature were added to it. Number of the areas increased to eight. The best work of literature and art for children and youth was firstly awarded in 1982.

In 1988 The State Prize for Architecture was marked out as an independent one and it was awarded by the separately established Committee.

In September 1996, according to the Decree of the President of Ukraine Taras Shevchenko National Prize Committee of Ukraine was subordinated to the President of Ukraine. Then there were established ten State Awards and one Small State Award for the best debut of the creative works of young artists at the age of 35. To enhance the role and prestige of Taras Shevchenko State Prize in Ukraine as the highest award in the field of literature and art, the prize was given a new name ‑ the «Taras Shevchenko National Prize of Ukraine». In according to the Presidential Decree the number of awards increased to five in the following categories: fiction, documentary, scientific and critical literature, music, art, stage and screen arts. In each category the award can be given only for one work.

There are famous Ukrainian writers, directors, actors, composers, critics, art historians, artists in the current Taras Shevchenko National Prize Committee of Ukraine whose works are well known not only in Ukraine, but also far beyond its borders. There are eighteen laureates of Shevchenko Prize, seven Heroes of Ukraine, eight People's Artists of Ukraine, one People's Painter of Ukraine, two national artist of the USSR, the three laureates of the State Prize of the USSR and a veteran of World War II among Committee members.

In 1962-2012 Shevchenko Award was given to more than 600 authors and 9 collective ensembles.

Since 2002, Taras Shevchenko National Prize Committee of Ukraine has initiated publication of a series of editions «Shevchenko Library Committee». In these series Shevchenko laureates' works of different years were repub­lished within the budget program «Ukrainian Book» which implements the State Committee of Television and Radio Broadcasting. Over the past twenty years more than 90 works of such talented wordsmiths as Mykhailo Stelmah, Pavlo Tychyna, Vblodymyr Sosiura, Oles Honchar, Andrii Malyshko, Petro Panch, Vasyl Symonenko, Platon Vbronko, Vasyl Zemliak, Borys Antonenko-Davydovych, Mykola Vinhranovskyi, Dmytro Lutsenko, Borys Oliynyk, Ivan Bilyk and different other were published in the series.

In different years Taras Shevchenko Committee on the National Prize of Ukraine was headed by О.Е.Komiychuk (1961-1972), M.Z.Shamota (1972-1979), P.A.Zahrebelnyi (1979-1987), M. A. Orlyk (1987-1990), B.I.Oliynyk (1991), О.Т.Honchar (1992-1995), V.O.Yavorivskyi (1996-1999), I.M.Dziuba (1999-2005), R.M.Lubkivskyi (2005-2008),M.H.Zhulynskyi (2008-2010), B.I.Oliynyk (2010-2016), Y.M.Sherbac (since 2016).

In May 2011, Taras Shevchenko National Prize of Ukraine celebrated its fiftieth anniversary at the state level.



Findings from archives about masters


As part of the Ukrainian Book program, the Central State Archive Museum of Literature and Art of Ukraine (CSAMLAU) in cooperation with Kyiv publishing house KLIO prepared reference book Documentary Treasury of the Shevchenko Prize Winners, whose release was timed to the 200th birth anniversary of the Bard of Ukraine.

The book provides a brief biographical data on 138 outstanding Ukrainian creators, whose personal collections are currently kept by the CSAMLAU. The publication contains also rare archival photographs of famous Ukrainian writers, composers, musicians, artists, actors and filmmakers, titles of books nominated for the prize, literary and musical works with autographs, drawings, sketches, etc.

The book opens with foreword by Chair of the Shevchenko National Prize Committee Borys Oliinyk. Addressing the reader, this poet and academician says, in particular: “The time flows as a river. We are only variables, and pass on, too. The only eternal thing is the Word, as it is with the God, and comes from the God! This collection, entitled Documentary Treasury of the Shevchenko Prize Winners, offers its reader information about some very interesting facts and events related to more than half a century of the Shevchenko National Prize’s existence. Globally, such prizes which celebrate achievements of national cultures are rare.”

The book includes rare archival documents related to life and work of the prize’s winners, such as Pavlo Tychyna, Mykhailo Stelmakh, Volodymyr Sosiura, Andrii Malyshko, Oles Honchar and many other classics of Ukrainian literature.

The archive museum’s staff found valuable texts and photographs in its collections, allowing them to publish a thorough description of the huge archive of the Shevchenko National Prize Committee, collected by the CSAMLAU over the recent decades, and trace the chronology of the award.




Shevchenko Prize Committee names 2014 winners


Among them residents of Lviv, Donetsk, Kyiv, with award ceremony site being chosen between Kaniv and Kyiv


This year the Shevchenko Prize Committee received some 60 works. Eleven authors made it to the third, final round – when one could expect Ukraine’s most prestigious official award in the creative domain. The secret ballot left five contenders.

Myroslav DOCHYNETS was chosen for his books Krynychar. Diiariiush naibahatshoho cholovika Mukachivskoi dominii and Horianyn. Vody Hospodnikh rusel. His is a new kind of philosophy, creative energy, in-depth approach, even a new vocabulary. He combats existentialism because it leads nowhere. His works assert man’s invincible spirit. Critics agree that Dochynets’ heroes are what contemporary Ukrainian literature badly needs, considering its predominant trend of tearful complaints about the glorious past and current disillusioning realities. People who grow up in the mountains become strong enough to resist the elements, face today’s complicated challenges, and remain true to themselves against the backdrop of spiritual impoverishment and national nihilism.

«Reading Krynychar… is like taking vitamins for the brain and soul…This book is about Dignity, Faith, Hope, and Charity,»says Ihor Kalynets, a noted Ukrainian ex-dissident writer, adding that it is a textbook that shows one how to achieve success and remain true to himself when «star-struck,»and become aware of one’s national identity.

Iryna HAIUK was chosen for her book Iliustrovana entsyklopedia virmenskoi kultury. This illustrated encyclopedia of Armenian culture relies on data borrowed from 44 government-run museums and Ukrainian cities with cultural preserves reminiscent of advanced or historically tangible ethnic Armenian communities. The book contains 593 illustrations, including photos of museum exhibits in Kyiv, Kamianets-Podilsky, Lviv, Simferopol, Feodosia, etc. A great deal of work done to revive the ethnic Armenian heritage, considering that more than 90 percent of the pictures were taken of items kept in the museum vaults.

According to Dr. Liudmyla Fylypovych, the author deserves every praise because she made a synthetic analysis instead of description, and that she demonstrated the way the ethnic Armenian communities lived in various regions of Ukraine, how their culture evolved, pointing out their major fields of endeavor.

Richard Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, staged by the Solovianenko National Opera and Ballet Theater of Donetsk. Conductor: Vasyl Vasylenko; stage director: Mara Kurotschka; choirmaster: Liudmyla Streltsova; stage designer: Vasyl Riabenky; lead singer: Tetiana Plekhanova.

Staging this opera was a unique joint Ukrainian-German cultural project in commemoration of Wagner’s 200th anniversary. The opera premiered on December 8 and 12, 2012, marking a major event in Ukraine’s cultural life (as previously reported by The Day). In Ukraine, this was the first rendition of Wagner’s masterpiece in German, using the original score.

Liubomyr MEDVID was chosen for his Reminiscences series of canvases. Works created by this painter convince all who care that the fine arts are carriers of images above all, that works of art vividly demonstrate the unity between things instant and eternal, and that art must be given weight in the modern world, so it can influence cognition, human values, and consciousness. He uses a unique combination of techniques, ranging from classic to modern ones. This determines his unmatched style. His attitude to our world is sarcastic, albeit with a touch of empathy that does not meet the untrained eye. Each of his works is a painful experiment on himself. In his pictures this world emerges transformed, with new heretofore unseen forms. Yet one can see that this world will continue to exist, even if in another endless series of unpredictable images. For the past five years, Medvid has been working on the large Reminiscences series, including the canvas The Prodigal Son, in which one can perceive space and time, also timelessness – nonexistence; the relationship between Man and Nature. All this dominated by lofty intentions that have a worldwide meaning.

Liudmyla MONASTYRSKA (lyric dramatic soprano) was chosen for her brilliant impersonations as a prima donna of the National Opera of Ukraine in 2009-13. She has performed in the box-office productions of La Scala, Covent Garden, and Metropolitan Opera. Foreign critics agree that Monastyrska is the best Aida these days. Each opera starring her has played to a full house.

This year the sum due the prize winner will be twice as much – 520 instead of 260 thousand hryvnias awarded previously, as stated by President Yanukovych when addressing a meeting of the Public Humanitarian Council and the Coordinating Council on Measures to Mark Taras Shevchenko’s Bicentennial. The president’s press service quotes him as saying: «In order to duly reward the winners of the Taras Shevchenko National Prize, I have instructed the Cabinet to increase the sum of the award by two times compared to last year».


By T.Polishchuk, The Day,

20 February, 2014


Liubomyr MEDVID: “The crown of glory should be tried on with a healthy sense of humor...”



His name at the turn of the 1970s entered the constellation of the names of outstanding Ukrainian painters after the series of works by Liubomyr Medvid “Suburbs (Periphery)” (1962-68) and “Evacuation” (1964-68) confidently won recognition in the artistic circles of the country. His positions of an original artist became even stronger after in 1970s-1980s the master created a gallery of portraits of outstanding personalities of national and world culture, in particular Lesia Ukrainka, Leo Tolstoy, Mykola Hohol, Mykhailo Hrushevsky, Ivan Franko, et al.

In 2001 Medvid received the academic degree of a professor of the department of monumental-decorative painting, the Lviv Academy of Arts. A significant event in the artist’s creative bio was creation of the ensemble (painting, stained glass, icon-painting, installation-iconostasis), which is impressive in terms of artistic resolution, in John the Baptist Church in Ottawa, Canada. For his large-scale series of paintings “Reminiscences (Prodigal Son)” he won the Taras Shevchenko National Prize.


At the turn of the 1960s-1970s you were fond of the creative work of American artist Andrew Wyeth. What influence did he have on your paintings of that time?

“In the end of the 1960s I painted the series ‘Reminiscences of Childhood,’ where irrational world was hidden behind the seemingly realistic form of presentation. This language allowed me to express my views, which were incompatible with the then official ideology at unofficial exhibits (I mean in particular the series of paintings entitled ‘First Collective Farms in Lviv Region’; in summer of 1972 this series was mercilessly criticized; I was recommended in no uncertain terms to ‘open the dusty windows,’ in 1973 my exposition was removed from the exhibit hall in Kyiv). It was then that Volodymyr Pylyshenko, a Ukrainian graphic artist from the US, presented me with an album of replicas of Andrew Wyeth’s works. I was impressed: the stylistics I managed to master, incidentally, thanks to applying the tempera technique, turned out to be almost a twin of the stylistic manner which brought popularity to the author of Christina’s World. Apparently, the stylistic manner of Wyeth’s works belongs to the cultural phenomenon which is traditionally called postmodernism, but in my point of view this term is controversial and blank. The main impact produced by the outstanding American on me was above all in my ability without any essential effort to exceed the limits of the manner in which the American was the only master due to his right of a pioneer.”


How can modern person be saved from degeneration caused by mass hysteria, provoked by mass media? Can pictorial art become a kind of a barrier which will not only protect Homo sapiens from collective psychosis, but will make them think and make correct conclusions?

“The epithet ‘mass hysteria,’ is accurate, without doubt. I can say it is symbolical. The mass hysteria has been raging up to the frontline where art wins the battle here and there, but is incapable of winning the war. Technological luxury at present-day stage of civilization turn does not help the modest luxury to which human soul has been aiming since primordial times.”


Why don’t you accept the commercialization of modern art? For we are living in market conditions. Should not a culture product created by an artist be aimed at the consumer, i.e., be in demand?

“An artist must paint for the sake of something. He must not paint with an inclination to nowhere, be splashing the paints because he is drunk or silly. Our drilled time is nonsensical enough without a brazen enthusiast who decides to pushily become an artist because he has nothing else to do. I am disturbed and don’t accept any commercialization of modern art on the level of kitsch of any kind and quality.”


Can natural fear be a powerful impetus in creative work of an artist? If you did not face danger for your life during the Vistula operation, maybe your series of works “Evacuation” (1964-68, 1986-96, 1996-2004) would not have seen the light?

“Fear and feeling of danger are obligatory for a broad soul and deep mind. If soul and mind are abandoned, fear stirs a beast in a person. The evacuation I experienced in childhood obliged my mind with a quality of concentration and ability to use this concentration when the thing is about worthy perception of the many-faced world of things and circumstances.”


Why out of the huge number of biblical stories you paid attention to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, so that with the help of artistic means to try to show relationships between man and God? I mean the series of paintings “Reminiscences” (2009-14)?

“I am an aware Christian not only owing to my kin and tradition, but above all due to the revelation which pierced my essence, helps me endure, and gives a feeling of balance in the complicated intertwining of life circumstances. I am deeply convinced that without realization of Christian values in the life of society, modern civilization (based on an important Christian component) does not have any prospect other than fading, in spite of material successes. The protection of Father is possible only when the concerned and self-willed Prodigal Son fully returns to the House of Father. Therefore in 1995-96 in Lviv and later in Khmelnytsky and Kyiv I exhibited the series ‘Parables’ (‘Prodigal Son’). This series preceded the ‘Reminiscences’ of 2009-14. In ‘Reminiscences’ the thing is about the wanderings of Evangelic Prodigal Son through seductions and sinful turns of modern civilization with application of not quite polite expressions in certain cases.”


Where do you find support to overcome depression, disappointment, and apathy, which you probably feel because of creative dissatisfaction?

“The feeling of dissatisfaction is able to safeguard the dignity of an artist, so he should properly perceive the vibration of dissatisfaction with himself. I think art is not an elegant appendix, but an organic quality of humankind, with the help of which it is able to perceive adequately its place in the universe. High art, maybe first music, purifies a man from the refuse burnout of the metabolism and helps to reach the greatness of limitlessly great God, even in ‘a petal of a smallest plant,’ like Shevchenko reminded in a letter to Bronislaw Zaleski.”


Why have you become so interested in French artist Jean August Dominique Ingres over the past years, so much that influential art expert Olha Petrova mentioned this at the launch of your solo exhibit in the Academy of Arts of Ukraine?

“Olha Petrova noticed what is important for me personally. She said that if ‘Reminiscences’ (Prodigal Son) were to some extent marked with falsehood, it would seem blasphemy when the Heavenly Sotnia was killed. I am thankful to God for saving me from blasphemy both in the case with ‘Reminiscences,’ and in my other works, even the most contradictory ones.”


Kobzar in photographs and Shevchenkian landscapes

Vasyl Pylypiuk’s new album, published by Svitlo i Tin, presents his travel photographs




We know from the history of the Taras Shevchenko National Prize of Ukraine that only twice was the highest national award for the humanities achievements presented to photo artists. The two were Yakiv Davydzon, who worked as photographer for Kolhospnyk Ukrainy, Fotokhronika RATAU, and Za Radiansku Ukrainu newspapers (Shevchenko Prize 1977 for photographic coverage of the wartime events and the reconstruction of the country) and Vasyl Pylypiuk, photo artist, Honored Artist of Ukraine (Shevchenko Prize 1993 for photo art albums Galipot, Lviv, and To Fly to You).

These photo artists enriched Ukrainian photo art with their talented works, which actually reflected the history of the 20th-21st-century Ukraine. Davydzon’s work can be discussed in retrospect, but Pylypiuk’s is very much ongoing. This artist recently added to his creative legacy, which, by the way, already includes dozens of highly artistic photo albums, a new exquisite publication, called Shevchenko’s Dedication and published in the series “Postati” (Outstanding Personalities) to mark the 200th anniversary of the Bard of Ukraine. This richly illustrated photo album comprises photographs depicting landscapes, architectural buildings, folk household items which Shevchenko admired while traveling to Ukraine, as well as museum exhibits dedicated to Shevchenko. Each photograph is accompanied by a brief information about the time and location of the poet’s stays in Cherkasy, Poltava, Chernihiv, Sumy, and Kyiv regions. The album contains also well-known poems by the Bard of Ukraine which he created while impressed by what he saw.

Famous Shevchenko scholars Serhii Halchenko and Roman Yatsiv contributed introductions to the publication which analyze the text and illustrations of the album as well as reveal interesting creative discoveries made by the artist.

“The name of the publication is, in fact, the reader’s key to the book’s inner world, full of ‘intellectual and visual adventures’ in an array of general information about the life and works of Shevchenko and the factors that produced his large-scale artistic outlook,” Yatsiv noted.

Photo album Shevchenko’s Dedication, created by Pylypiuk, was published by the Lviv publishing house “Svitlo i Tin” and funded as part of the “Ukrainian Book” state program.

By Taras HOLOVKO. Photo illustrations from Shevchenko’s Dedication album


The phenomenon of Danylych

Kyiv’s House of the Artist exhibits a new cycle of the well-known Transcarpathian painter


TEMPERA, 90x100 cm, 2012 / Photo illustration
from Taras DANYLYCH’s archive

The National League of Ukrainian Artists has nominated a cycle of paintings by Taras Danylych, which the artist symbolically titled “Silver Land,” for the Shevchenko Prize 2015.

Taras Danylych was born in the village of Turia Poliana, Perechyn raion, Zakarpattia oblast. After leaving a secondary school, he entered the Uzhhorod School of Applied Arts which he graduated from in the early 1960s. Among his first teachers were Vasyl Svyda, Mykola Medvetsky, and Edita Medvetska-Lutak. Danylych has been living for about half a century in the mountain village of Dubrynychi in the Uzh valley.

Incidentally, Danylych began his artistic career as a woodcarver. Later on, taking part in the exhibits of local artists and influenced by such masters of the paintbrush as Ernest Kontratovych, Andrii Kotska, Anton Koshshai, Zoltan Soltesz, Havrylo Hliuk, Volodymyr Mykyta, Yurii Hertz, Stanislav Prykhodko, and other no less brilliant representatives of the Transcarpathian school of painting, Danylych began, as he notes in his autobiography, to develop his own painting style.

One can amply see the artist’s original and particular manner in his solo exhibition at the House of the Artist. Three halls display several dozen canvases the painter has created lately.

“Just see how fantastically the artist depicts the mountains where his fellow countrymen live,” says Vasyl PEREVALSKY, People’s Painter of Ukraine, corresponding member of Ukraine’s National Academy of Arts. “The impression is that each of the figures in the picture is a concrete individual whom he knows personally. You can see here the characteristic poise of a highlander, funny facial expressions, and the colorful Hutsul apparel – all that is typical of a miniature portrait. Danylych’s pictures have something imperceptibly in common with works by the outstanding Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. But, unlike the latter, whose artworks are permeated with tragic and mystical motifs, the author of the ‘Silver Land’ cycle shows down-to-earth optimism and a serene perception of the surrounding world by his heroes – Lemkos, Boikos, and Hutsuls.”

It is known from history that Transcarpathia owes its poetic name – Silver Land – to the Ukrainian poet and thinker Vasyl Pachovsky. It is he who composed the poem Silver Bell, after the publication of which in 1938 Transcarpathia began to be called Silver Land in the art and literature circles.

By all accounts, Taras Danylych’s oeuvre is a certain continuation of the cause once pursued by a kindred-spirited poet. For each of the paintings by the talented Transcarpathian artist is full of sincere love for his native land.

The exhibit will last until February 6, 2015.



How Mykhailo Guida opened up Ukraine to the Chinese


This year’s Shevchenko Prize winner is going to donate a part of the received money to his mentees who suffered in the ATO


After the award ceremony, Mykhailo Guida told the media that he had already sent one of his mentees for rehabilitation to Germany, where he had an artificial limb put on.

As is known, the artist has won the Shevchenko Prize in the “Fine Arts” nomination. In the opinion of Ukrainian art critics, his painting cycle “In the Same Space” (which comprises such high-profile pictures as Warm Autumn; After the Ball; The Beginning: to Victory!; The Bathing of Horses; The Chumak Road; Serhii Parajanov; Near a Spring Well; and Easter Day) not only have made a considerable contribution to the treasury of contemporary Ukrainian fine arts, but have also gained immense popularity in the countries that know very well and highly appreciate the talented artist’s oeuvre. Incidentally, Guida is one of the first to open up the European, Ukrainian, and Kyivan schools of painting to the Chinese. He, a master of the portrait, is gentle, sensitive, vulnerable, refined, and elegant in every touch of his paintbrush to the canvas.

You were born in Kuban and educated in Kyiv. You teach at the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture. Your surname, Guida, is very colorful. I wonder if you have traced its etymology.

“I am Guida on my father’s side and Chupryna on my mother’s. These are Cossack family lines. My great-grandfather, Demian Doroshenko, headed a local department of education in the Russian Empire times. As an inspector, he supervised Kuban Cossack schools that educated the future elite of the Kuban Cossack Army.

“As for the surname Guida, my colleague Oleksandr Fedoruk, Doctor of Art History, a professor at the Academy’s Department of the Theory and History of Art, helped me clarify its etymology. The name is based on the Turkic word ‘guid’ – a piece of outer menswear that somewhat looks like our zhupan – which spread during the Tatar-Mongol invasion. Interestingly, the surname Guida occurs today not only in the Krasnodar region, but also in Transcarpathia which the Asian nomads reached in the 13th century.”

You graduated from the Kyiv Institute of Art in 1982 and were admitted to the League of Ukrainian Artists a year later. It was a flying start in your artistic career.

“Let me reveal a little secret. The League of Artists wanted to admit me when I was still an art institute student – at least Tetiana Yablonska, the then head of the League’s painting section, suggested that I prepare admission documents. She was surprised that I was still a student who hadn’t yet defended his diploma thesis. Maybe, many people, first of all, artists and art critics, took quite a positive view of my active participation in Ukrainian and USSR exhibitions which displayed some of my first paintings. They marked an original manner of painting and the content of my works. So, I filled the ranks of Artists League members a year after graduation from the Institute of Art.”

When did you feel a desire to try yourself as easel painting instructor?


When did you feel a desire to try yourself as easel painting instructor?

“When I was an institute student. I occasionally drew from life in the classroom before classes. My instructor Viktor Shatalin approved this in general, still making some corrections. Then all my classmates began to draw. Besides, I even delivered lectures to younger students at the institute administration’s request, although I was still to receive a professional degree. It is perhaps at that time that I saw that I could combine artistic work and teaching.”

Tell me please about the cycle “In the Same Space.” It comprises heroic-theme pictures, such as Ivan Mazepa Meets Charles XII, Koliivshchyna Rebellion, Haidamakas, and The Beginning. What made you turn to the Ukrainian people’s historical past, when glorious victories were very often accompanied by ignominious defeats?

“Maybe, it is because Cossack blood flows in my veins. These works did not emerge all of a sudden. They were preceded by rather a long preparatory period, when I drew dozens, if not hundreds, of sketches. I gradually saw which expressive means I could use to portray one figure or another.”


What was your idea of portraying the figure of Ivan Mazepa, for no authentic portraits of this famous Ukrainian hetman have survived?

“When I began to paint the picture Ivan Mazepa Meets Charles XII, I was aware of the fact that the surviving engravings depicted a different person. In all probability, it was a generalized character imagined by previous centuries’ artists. So the spectator can see no other than my idea of this military leader on the canvas. It is my own vision of his image. If you look attentively at the pictures you mentioned, you will notice that they show no details in the attire, interior, and landscape. Instead, there is a certain emotional explosion caused by what you have seen, the statement of a concrete historical event that sealed the people’s fate.”

Your oeuvre comprises a lot of portraits, landscapes, and genre pieces connected with your sojourn in China, where you taught painting at higher educational institutions and staged solo art exhibitions for several years in a row. What made you develop a liking for Orientalism?

“It’s pure chance. It all began with a business trip to China with Anatolii Haidamaka at the invitation of a company. We were to design the interior of a trade house located in China’s free economic area. Later, at the invitation of some higher specialized educational institutions, I taught painting at Zhejiang Pedagogical University and at Hangzhou’s University of Science and Technology.”

I wonder how you adapted to China.

“I’d been interested in the Orient since I was a student. I was keen on Chinese philosophy, particularly the teaching of Confucius, studied the literature, art, and mythology of ancient China. Already a mature artist, I discovered an interesting pattern. Our European painting is three-dimensional, while in China and Japan it is two-dimensional. For this reason, these countries’ painters tried to master the dimension they didn’t know – in other words, to bridge the two continents. Or take, for example, Edouard Manet, Van Gogh, or Gustav Klimt, who brought Oriental motifs to European painting. Therefore, the Chinese art environment was not alien to me – on the contrary, I found comfort in teaching art to students.

“In general, the Chinese have the same scale of values as the ordinary Ukrainian has: family, education, work, material wellbeing, moveable and real estate, health, recreation, etc. But there is also a major difference between them and us. Unlike a Ukrainian, a Chinaman never envies anybody and is content with the little. This may be the result of being brought up in the traditions of thousands-year-old Chinese philosophy. Likewise, a governmental official or a successful entrepreneur will not take the available resources outside his territory to enrich the population of other countries.”

And, finally, many of our art critics spotlight the gallery of prominent Ukrainians you have created in the past few years. It includes the portraits of Les Kurbas, Bohdan Stupka, Serhii Parajanov, Raisa Nedashkivska, et al. What do you think is the most difficult in this genre of visual arts?

“There are different kinds of portraits. For example, the artist can paint a study portrait very fast, for he does this from life. There can also be a life portrait that takes several sessions to paint. And there is also an artistic portrait, a picture-style portrait. In my view, the latter type is the most difficult for an artist. I can’t remember how many portrait sketches of Parajanov I had to make until I finally decided on how to express his image. Everybody notes that I managed to convey his appearance and, what is more, his character in the portrait. To tell the truth, I always paint portraits from memory, not from life. This helps avoid any tiny details that could thwart the main idea of an artwork.”

By Taras HOLOVKO, The Day, 23 March, 2016, №19.


Ode to song and word

Photo by Artem SLIPACHUK, The Day

It is no accident that Anzhelina SHVACHKA, a National Opera soloist, has won the National Taras Shevchenko Prize of Ukraine this year. Her vocal roles have helped her achieve the status of one of the most brilliant Ukrainian opera singers whose talent is appreciated not only in this country. It was reported recently that the artiste had been awarded the Order of the Star of Italy for outstanding contribution to the development of friendly relations between our countries and enrichment of the two states’ culture.

Ms. Shvachka, you sing most of your repertoire’s parts in the Italian and French languages. I read the libretto of your favorite opera Carmen by Georges Bizet, where you play the main role, in the original for sheer interest and was baffled with complicated linguistic patterns…

“To tell the truth, I perform various operatic parts in six, not two, foreign languages. Indeed, my almost whole repertoire is in Italian, but I also sing in French, English, German, Spanish, and Latin. It is easier to do so in Italian because I studied it in the conservatoire and have no problems with pronouncing and learning texts by heart. But you should also take into account that works were created by European composers in different epochs. To come closer to those times, you need a certain stylization. For example, preparing to sing the parts of Amneris, Eboli, and Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi’s operas Aida, Don Carlo, and Un Ballo in Maschera, I traveled to Vienna for master classes conducted by Italians who, as native speakers, brushed up my pronunciation until it sounded characteristic. Incidentally, it is a practice of the National Opera of Ukraine to invite experts from foreign embassies in order to hear a piece of good advice whenever an opera by a West European author is being put on.”

You’ve been working on Kyiv stage and toured a lot of European and Asian countries for about 20 years. In what foreign country did you feel the most comfortable?

“Naturally, it is Italy which is called the contemporary European Mecca of operatic art. It may have been a stroke of luck, but I always saw a professional approach to things in all the countries I toured – Estonia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland… The opera is really appreciated in these and other European countries. I liked Japan very much, although everything is different in it – be it culture, architecture, or traditions. This sometimes raised a question: how could they achieve colossal results in any sphere of social life on such a limited territory? I gained bright and lasting impressions from my appearance at the Stade de France in Paris a few years ago, where I sang the part of Amneris in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Aida in the presence of 75,000 spectators. The organization of this grandiose extravaganza deserves the highest praise, for everything on the stage went off like clockwork.”

Were there any flaws in your artistic career, which you are sorry for or do not want to recall?

“Every vocalist has flaws, for we are all human beings. In my opinion, it is much more difficult for a female, than for a male, vocalist. We have such things as pregnancy, childbirth, and breast-feeding, which produces a hormonal surge and changes your voice. I can admit that I did not fully exert myself, so to speak, on the Bolshoi stage, where I once sang the part of Carmen, because I was six months pregnant. Besides, I had been taken ill with the flu on the eve of the performance, and my temperature ran up to 38 Celsius. Naturally, I was first thinking about the child I was pregnant with, not about the role of Carmen…”

How do you manage to meet the stage director’s and the conductor’s demands and, at the same time, defend the right to your own vision of an opera character?

“I finished a music school as pianist and became a choirmaster, and later, in my first year at the conservatoire, I was invited to work as a part-time vocalist at Kyiv’s opera house. For this very reason, I feel very creative. Performing abroad under a contract, I can express my dissatisfaction to an inexperienced novice director about his modern-style staging. Even if I fail to persuade him, I will still put in a couple of my innovations. Incidentally, in contrast to most of his Western counterparts, our theater’s chief producer Anatolii Solovianenko is doing very much for opera singers, trying to make sure that they feel as comfortable as possible. As for the conductor, any disputes are out of the question. It is a taboo for me. All I can ask him for is to speed up or, on the contrary, slow down the music tempo.”

From now on, one of your regalia is also the title of a Shevchenko Prize winner. What impresses you the most in Taras Shevchenko’s oeuvre?

“Since my school years, I’ve been captivated by the melody of his poetic works. As I felt myself as a composer even in my childhood, I’ve always wished to set his poems to music and make songs out of them. When I feel blue, I take his two-volume edition, which is conspicuous on a shelf, and begin to read the Bard’s lyrics. This immediately produces some energy and then easiness. Far from every poet can penetrate into the human soul – only the one whom the Creator vested with the power of a spoken word.”