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Artist Halyna Sevruk and continuity of tradition

 

Halyna Sevruk, a sculptor, who works in clay, is a follower of age-old tradition of using clay for creating sculpture of profound meaning rather than only small decorative figurines and earthenware; Volodymyr ONYSHCHENKO says that in the times of old those who created sculptures using clay were considered in Ukraine to be magicians rather than just artisans, and he has done some research to find out whether this belief could be applied to Halyna Sevruk.

 

Halyna Sevruk was born into the family of the architect Sylvestr Sevruk in the city of Samarkand in Central Asia in 1929. Sylvestr Sevruk was a scion of the family of the Hryhorovych-Barskys who distinguished themselves in many areas of endeavor in Kyiv, city development in particular.

In 1939 the Sevruks returned to Kyiv. Halyna showed aptitude for art at an early age and she went to study at an art school, which functioned at the Art Institute in Kyiv, and later she continued her studies at the Institute itself majoring in painting. She graduated from the Institute in 1959.

In the early 1960s she created several monumental mosaics, Lisova Pisnya (Forest Song) and Lileya being her most significant creations of that time. She was not a freelance artist but worked at the Experimental Laboratory of the Academy of Architecture. The lab was situated at a very picturesque and historic place  its windows faced the garden of the eleventh-century Holy Sophia Church of Kyiv.

The artist tried herself in ceramics, mosaics, painting and sculpture. She created more than 30 monumental mosaics and murals in Kyiv, Odesa, Alushta (in the Crimea) and other cities of Ukraine. At one point in her life she realized that it was sculpture and decorative ceramic work that she wanted to devote herself to. Her Plach Yaroslavny (Yaroslavnas Lament, based on the mediaeval epic The Song of Ihors Host) was praised by art critics as a notable achievement. The artist transferred some of the principles of painting and graphic work to creating ceramic works.

In the second half of the 1960s, the artist changed her style and her approach to art rather abruptly, and her creations of that time are sometimes described as grotesque. While creating her sculptures, she treated human anatomy very liberally, adjusting it to the demands of the image and impression she wanted to convey  broken lines, exaggerated expressiveness, boldly treated shapes, pictorial elements in sculpture became characteristic features of her work. The artists works created feeling of unease, strain and tragic disquietude.

Halyna Sevruk devoted some of her works to Cossack and historical themes, creating a very special world of her own. The texture of her creations became ever more variegated and expressive (Chumak; Koshovy Samiylo Kishka; Bohdan Khmelnytsky and His Troops; Cossack Netyaha; Cossack on Watch, to name but a few of her most significant works of that period).

The nineteen-sixties was the time of growing of national awareness in Ukraine and a number of Ukrainian intellectuals, artists and literati openly protested against the stifling cultural and political conditions of the soviet regime. Halyna Sevruk belonged to that generation of the national-conscious and freedom loving intellectuals and artists who showed their protest in various ways  and who, most of them anyway, were severely punished for that by the soviet regime.

When she signed a collective letter of protest against the pressure exercised by the soviet authorities on artists, Halyna Sevruk was expelled from the Union of Artists. Commissions for art work dried up, and a ban was put on the national-related themes in her work. She did not succumb under pressure and continued to work  she had good friends who supported her during the hard times.

As an artist she developed her inimical style in art. In the nineteen-seventies, the size of her works was prevailingly small but she managed to introduce profound philosophical content into them. She achieved artistic maturity, and harmony became the central feature of her works.

The artist used heightened plasticity and expressiveness of the artistic language for creating imagery filled with psychological tensions and with many-layered meanings. One of the central themes in her work at that time was history, the early-medieval period of Kyivan Rus in particular. She treated history and historic personages in a romantic way, creating visions and images connected with certain events in history and historical personages but interpreted in a twentieth-century way. Her imagery acquired a status of symbols. She probed into the inner world of historical personages revealing their relevance for the late twentieth century and establishing links with the past.

Halyna Sevruk left her work at the Experimental Laboratory of the Academy of Architecture long ago but she has never left her art. She continues to create art in various media  graphic art, painting and clay. She herself as a person and as an artist has established an artistic and human connection between the past and the present; she is a link in the chain of continuity from her ancestors to her contemporaries.

 

Dmytro Vyshnevetsky (byname Baida),
founder of Zaporizka Sich.
Clay, 80 x 60 cm, 2007.

 

Bohdan Khmelnytsky and His Troops.
Clay, 53,5 x 43 cm, 1969.

 

Yaroslavnas Lament.
Clay, 77 x 30 cm, 1964.

 

Cossack Charakternyk.
Clay, 32 x 20 cm, 1977.

 

Kyiv in the 12th Century.
Clay, 28 x 20 cm, 1977.

 

Bohdan Khmelnytsky.
Clay, 30 x 30 cm, 1980.

 

Feast of Paraskeva Pyatnytsya.
Clay, 50 x 29 cm, 1989.

 

Halshka Hulevichevna, one
of the founders of Kyiv-Mohyla
Academy in the 17th century.
Clay, 56 x 33 cm, 1976.

 

Yelizaveta Yaroslavna, wife of the king
of Norway in the 11th century, daughter
of the Kyivan Grand Duke Yaroslav the Wise.
Clay, 32 x 17 cm, 1974.

 

Cossack Hetman Petro
Sahaydachny, in the Year 1622.
Clay, 30 5 30 cm, 1979.

 

City on Seven Hills. Clay, 630 x 300 cm, 1987.

 

Portrait of Alla Horska,
a dissident artist of the 1960s.
Oil on canvas, 70 x 55 cm, 1971.

 

Nadiyka Svitlychna, a human-rights
activist and dissident of the 1960s.
Oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm, 1972.

 

Lords Have Come based
on the lyrics of a Ukrainian folk song.
Clay, 37 x 27 cm, 1970.

 

Mermaid.
Clay, 25 x 15 cm, 1980.

 

Desna River.
Clay, 60 x 15 cm, 1980.

 

Chumak (Salt Trader of Old Time).
Clay, 22 x 47 cm, 1966.

 

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