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A teenager’s view of her Dad’s art — Yury Bahalika’s sculpture
Yury Bahalika, a well-known Ukrainian sculptor, was born in Kyiv on February 14, St Valentine’s Day. Upon graduation from an art school, he continued his education at the Kyiv Art Institute, in the studio of Vasyl Boroday; his teacher of drawing was Oleksandr Titov. Bahalika is a member of the National Union of Artists of Ukraine. His works can be found in the National Art Museum of Ukraine, in the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, in the Ministry of Culture of Russia, and in private collections of Ukraine, Poland, Austria and the USA.
It is never easy to write about an artist, particularly for a magazine like ours, combining art criticism with a human interest story. When we decided to feature an article about Bahalika, we turned to art critics with a request to write short essays about the sculptor but we had to reject what we received — the verbiage, professional jargon, conflicting theories, obscure reflections were amusingly impressive in their own way but totally unsuitable for our magazine. Anastasiya, a fifteen-year old daughter of Yury Bahalika, on learning that we were looking for an article about her father, offered to write one herself, claiming, “I know my father better than anybody else.” She sat down and wrote a little piece about her dad in the course of one evening. We found the article she produced was worth being published not only because of its adolescent perspective on art and artist but also because our children are our best creations, aren’t they?
Did you ever reflect on how immensely difficult it is to breathe life into the inanimate bronze, amorphous clay or cold marble? Magicians and sorcerers of old were believed to be able to give life to non-living things but then artists came along and proved they could do it for real — in their own special way.
A sculptor spends days putting a soul into a formless piece of clay, transforming it little by little, step by step, into a shape that will live its own life. The sculptor gives his creation a part of his heart and soul, filling it with the warmth of his hands.
The memories of my childhood and images of my father’s sculptures are inextricably woven together. I regarded these pieces of sculpture as his extensions, something that he creates because he just can’t help doing. Sculpture for me was never associated with “work.” The word “sculptor” itself signified for me a cross between a knight and a troubadour; there was magic in this word, some secret meaning deeply hidden, but for some reason I did not apply it to my father. Probably because being a sculptor meant having some work to do, but my father did not work — he created things which were as much part of him as his eyes, hair or hands.
I did not try to penetrate into the secret meaning of all those bronzes and marbles shaped by the hands of my father — I was fascinated with the golden shimmer of polished bronze, chimerical imagery, various textures, smooth or rough, that felt so fine when I ran my finger over the surface of sculptures. Looking at pictures of Michelangelo’s David or Cellini’s Perseus in art books, I wondered why my father’s creations, though they were also called “sculptures,” looked so different from these classical pieces.
Of the things I particularly enjoyed looking at were a snail in one of my father’s still lifes, Nero’s Chimera (my dad sculpted the chimera with my pet dog as a model) and that strange thing that was hanging as a huge earring in a sculptural composition.
Reading a book about the Italian Renaissance sculptor and goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini, I suddenly realized at one point that the image of this Italian artist that emerged from the pages of the book became closely linked with the image of my dad, and ever since they have stayed together, my dad and Cellini.
I’ve heard it said that life of children in an artist’s studio is not to be envied. I don’t know whether there’s any truth in this but it surely is not true in my case. Yes, an artist remains a creator always, at home and in his studio, and an artist’s parental duties may be affected by the creative urges. My dad is more an artist than just a regular father. It’s quite all right with me if my dad does not talk to me when he makes drawings in my presence — I am not at all annoyed when he does not seem to pay any attention to me — you just learn to share silence.
I love sitting in the corner of the sofa, all curled up, and listening to the stories artists — my dad’s guests — exchange puffing on their pipes. I even find the aromatic smoke pleasant. I have learned so much from them — understanding of beauty, love of books, unquenchable thirst for art. I have heard so many exciting stories, sitting on that sofa, about artists of the distant and not so distant past — ancient Greeks, Donatello, Michelangelo, Rodin, and so many others, and I never stop wanting to see new paintings, sculpture, drawings, to enjoy new colour schemes and combinations.
In my childhood, instead of fairy tales I read books of myths and legends and historical novels. The world of my imagination was filled with courageous and courteous knights, dragons vomiting fire, elves and fairies lurking in the depths of forest thickets, damsels locked in gloomy donjons, magicians working magic. All of these fantasies got firmly associated with the world of sculpture.
When I look at my dad’s creations I feel they are alive, each of them being an insight into the nature of the world. They reveal the nature of others by revealing their own nature.
I remember various phases that my father passed through in his creative development, his various “leanings” and changes of interests. I remember a time when my dad followed nature closely; there was a time when he was after the silhouette, creating pieces which looked like incorporeal hieroglyphs, with the elaborate line being the dominant feature. There was a time he was greatly inspired and fascinated by the Ukrainian avant-garde sculptor of international fame Oleksandr Arkhypenko. Traces of Arkhypenko’s influence can be discovered in my dad’s works of the late 1980s — early 1990s (particularly in his “Evangelical” and “Erotic” cycles). At the end of the 1990s, dad entered a new period — period of searching for generalizing symbolism achieved through characteristic details. He created representations of Achilles, Nero, Napoleon Bonaparte and others, proceeding from myths and legends about them that he had made up himself, rather from established facts. When he was working on Nero and Napoleon he did not seek to produce lifelike portraits — he wanted to give us his own understanding of them as personages of history through an emphasis on particular details. In some way, these characters seem to tell me something important about my dad — they are a sort of his self-portrait in a way.
Once, dad told me he wanted to do a combined sculpture of Dante and Beatrice, a double portrait in one piece, but the idea has not been realized yet — other things have been created, new ideas come and urge realization. Seasons change, the expressions in my dad’s eyes change, new creations come into being from under my dad’s hands. Of his recent works, I particularly like Hermes, herald and messenger of the Olympian gods.
I grow up in a world filled with spirit, creativity and search for new art. I know that people have their own definitions of happiness, their own understanding of it, and I know, though I’m still very young, that not too many people have found their happiness — but I have.
By Anastasiya Bahalika
Photos by Mykhailo Andreyev[Prev][Contents][Next]