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An amazing world of precious stones transformed by human artistry
There is probably nothing older on this earth than stone. It took Nature — or the Creator — millions of years to create the amazing and inimitable patterns of gemstones. These patterns seem to possess some mysterious quality and there appears to be but a little chance to solve the titillating puzzle of precious stones. Their enigma is beyond human comprehension — or is it?
Recently, an unusual exhibition, Rozmova z chasom (Talking with Time), was held in Kyiv. It was mounted sequentially first at the Music Children’s Theatre in Podil, then at the National Aviation University, at the Ukrainian Culture Fund, and lastly at the Kyiv City Lavra Art Gallery. In between being shown at these venues, the exhibition was taken to New York.
It may be difficult even to give a definition of the works exhibited — the unique patterns that can be seen at the cross sections of semi-precious stones have been transferred on to a special paper or canvas with the help of the cutting-edge digital technology. And in the process of this transference two Kyiv artists, Prof Mykola Volga, enamoured of gems, and Vitaly Solodov, an experienced designer, used their artistic skills and imagination to create remarkable pieces of art.
Mykola Volga, educated as an architect, has been awarded the honorary title of People’s Master of Ukraine for his contributions to Ukrainian art, and Vitaly Solodov, honoured with the title Merited Worker of Arts of Ukraine, is a master of creating refined artistic compositions. Their collaboration produced works of art which have no analogies in the history of art. They create images in a way never tried before. The patent they were awarded confirms the unique character of their invention.
The artists use the bands and patterns of colours that appear on the cross sections of agate, jasper, opal and of other semi-precious and precious stones and add “something” that transforms the work of nature into a work of art. They do it in their very own, unobtrusive way, but that “something” is a bit of a transforming magic. This new technique has been made possible only thanks to the newest advances in technology which have opened a new way of enjoying the wondrous colour schemes.
Looking at the “digitalized gem colour” creations of Volga and Solodov (no word has been yet invented to describe this new, gem-inspired art), you discover something that reminds you of the art of ancient Hellas, or of mighty Rome, or of splendid Byzantium, or of the mysteriously wise Tibet, or of the Mayas, or of the olden African empires, or of refined classical Japan. Some of the emerging associations are purely fantastic, or naturalistic. The range of associations inspired by these “gem art works” is truly amazing — from decorative Japanese through severe nomad on to Van Gogh. There are moments when you feel you are close to guessing what this or that “picture” awakes in you, but you fail to grasp — and then, a happy moment comes, you begin to see clearly, and exclaim inwardly, How come I did not see it right away!
I’ve known one of the artists, Mykola Volga, for quite a few years now. In addition to being an accomplished artist, he is a true cognoscente, a connoisseur of art, both of the past and of the present. He is also a great enthusiast of the gallery business. It was thanks to his untiring efforts that a gallery in the section of Kyiv called Podil, OR-Gallery, was opened more than ten years ago, and since then this gallery has shown a great many works of modern artists from all parts of Ukraine.
It is a widespread conviction that all the great artists lived and created in the past, and their works can be found only in museums and in private collections. It’s a wrong notion — there are many extremely talented artists living today. They are our contemporaries and you can meet them, without suspecting it, in ordinary coffee shops, sipping coffee; you can rub shoulders with them — literally! — in crowded buses; you may find yourself even being pushed by such an artist at the rush hour in a subway train.
Mykola Volga, and a few others like him, discover these talented artists and give them a chance to exhibit their works, to become known. And we, lacking the artistic talent but not the artistic taste, also discover that great art continues to be created.
Thanks to Volga, several exhibitions of modern Ukrainian artists were recently held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in New York, Washington and Philadelphia. I read some of the essays written by New York art critics about these exhibitions, and one common feature in all of them was — it comes as such a great surprise that Ukraine is not only Chornobyl, Chicken Kyiv or the boxers Klychko, but it is also a country whose artists create excellent, refined and very modern art.
Mykola Volga comments his new gem-inspired art in this way: “It’s an entirely new direction in the development of art. It has become possible thanks to modern technologies but it becomes art only because there is a living human soul and intellect to give it life. I became enamoured of gemstones over thirty years ago, and the starting point was my chance discovery of two fine-looking stones in the Crimea, at a place called Karadag. The stones turned out to be real carnelian and were the first items of a collection of minerals which has grown to be, I dare say, unique. In my collection you can see only those stones which I’ve found myself and cut and polished myself. And only those stones find their way into my collection which have superior artistic qualities.”
Professor Volga travelled widely through the countries of the former Soviet Union, looking for gemstones — the Urals, the Caucasus, Lake Baikal and beyond, the Arctic Circle, Far East, and Kazakhstan were the places that enriched his collection. “It’s the harmony of the Universe embodied in these stones that I’m looking for,” says Volga. “I tried to imitate the patterns and fantastic colour schemes of these stones on canvas or on paper but I failed. No paints could do it, and then came a discovery that it can be done with the help of state-of-the-art digital technologies. And now we have very good ‘portraits’ of these stones.”
Gemstones seem to have been waiting millions of years to reveal their beauty to the discerning eye. In an age like ours, much too pragmatic and disillusioned, it is so rewarding to come into touch with the eternal, universal harmony and beauty.
Among very many comments and reviews dealing with the exhibitions staged by Mykola Volga and Vitaly Solodov I have found one which had been written in a guest book to be particularly touching: “I am eighty years old, and the time will soon come when I’ll have to depart this life during which I’ve seen so much. How sorry I’d be THERE, in the afterlife, if I had not seen these wonders HERE, in this life!”
These words of great appreciation were written by Volodymyr Ovsiychuk, an art critic, Ph D, a corresponding member of the Academy of the Arts of Ukraine.
“These wonders” can be seen in Mykola Volga’s studio at 34-b Andriyivsky Uzviz, Kyiv, and at his hospitable home. In July they will be exhibited in New York, and in October they will be shown at the Lavra Art Gallery within the framework of the 10th Osinny Vernisazh — Autumn Exhibition Opening Day, and later at the Ukrayinsky Dim Culture Centre at the very end of December 2004 through early January 2005.
By Andriy Hlazovy
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