Just talking to Dmytro Dobrovolsky gives you an optimistic feeling and faith in the future. You begin to realize that Ukrainian intellectuals and artists have preserved the continuity of Ukrainian culture. Kyivan Rus-Ukraine, says the painter, with its richly fertile soil is now a young and independent nation. Its thousand-year history is full of cultural richness; there are so many art treasures yet to be appreciated and rediscovered.
Dmytro Dobrovolsky is a painter, a master of cityscapes. He was born in Kyiv in 1968 and has lived there ever since. Like so many other residents of Kyiv, he loves his native place. There is really a lot that can make one love Kyiv: a mighty river rolling through the city; hills, from the top of which open breathtaking panoramas; trees everywhere, along the streets, in parks, in the yards of high rises; candle-like blooms on innumerable horse chestnut trees in spring and billions of horse chestnuts and their shells under foot in autumn; golden domes of ancient temples. Dobrovolsky, upon graduation from an art school, went to study at the Academy of Art of Ukraine in 1988. It was then that he realized he wanted above all else to paint cityscapes of Kyiv. He devoted most of his time to painting, ignoring the temptations of carefree and tumultuous students’ life. His sketches are like frozen moments of life, movement arrested by the artist’s will power. Looking at some of them, you can almost smell the fragrances of blooms and lilacs. Some sketches allow you to feel the emotions that surged through the artist at the moment of their creation. “Once,” says the painter, “I was painting sketches in the Lavra Monastery, I was so deeply engrossed in my work that I didn’t notice that it had begun to drizzle. It was late afternoon, and as the time drew towards evening there were fewer and fewer people left wandering through the monastery. At one moment I had a feeling I was alone in the whole world, surrounded by the scenery of unparalleled beauty.


Evening at the Sea.
Oil on canvas,
60 cm x 80 cm, 1999.


Yellow Snow. Oil on canvas,
80 cm x 90 cm, 1998.

I was enwrapped in the silence of the Cosmos, I felt the breath of the skies, the reality of everyday was gone and I found myself in a world of unreal. And then the pealing of the bells cut through all this, I was brought back to reality, but it was a different kind of reality, a reality that had gone through a profound change. I felt myself part of the Universe, a son of the ancient land. I was happy to be alive, to be able to see so much, to create!” It is probably in such moments of bliss, solitude and creative inspiration that such paintings as Kyiv Motif, A Side Street near the Lavra Monastery, Following the Sun, In the Month of April were created. Dobrovolsky’s works paradoxically unite faithfulness to minute details presented almost naturalistically, and generalization. The spectrum of feeling that the artist wants to bring across to the viewer is very wide indeed. The way he sees the world unites reality and fantasy.

Birthday. Oil on canvas, 75 cm x 85 cm, 1999.
His palette is equally rich but there is a definite influence of icon painting colour schemes that can be observed in many of his works. There is something of an icon painter even in his appearance. Maybe, it is genetic heritage - his great grandfather was a remarkable person who made icon frames. After the Mykhaylivsky Zolotoverkhy (St Michael’s Golden-Domed) Cathedral “was brought back to life” (it was demolished by the Bolsheviks in the thirties and in 1999 it was built anew, as an exact replica of the one destroyed) Dobrovolsky was commissioned to paint icons for the iconostasis (a partition with tiers of icons that separates the sanctuary from the rest of an Orthodox church), and to decorate the interior of the resurrected church with paintings. This commission meant a lot to him, both as to an artist and to a person.
He became convinced that his country was reclaiming its spiritual heritage. Dobrovolsky travels a lot and each new place he comes to gives him new artistic ideas, new colours, new shapes, new moods, different world outlooks. He captures the most essential features and colours of the places he visits with a sure hand obedient to the keenly perceiving eye. England has a reputation of a country of subdued colours, subtle shades and hues but Dobrovolsky saw it differently and his London Venice is a picture full of cheerfulness, warmth and brightness of colours. However, Dobrovolsky’s heart belongs to the sunny lands. In many of his paintings he masterfully brings forth the sunlit glories of Istanbul-Constantinople, the Crimea. Many of these paintings have found their ways to private collections and museums of Ukraine, the USA, Canada, France, Spain and Israel.
Dobrovolsky’s riotous colours and warmth of his art have found a response in the hearts of the British art lovers as well. He was invited several times to exhibit his works in Great Britain. His recent exhibition of twenty-five canvases was shown to their best advantage in a spacious hall of the Ukrainian Catholic University on Oxford Street, right in the centre of London. At the exhibition unveiling ceremony there were present employees of the Ukrainian Embassy, representatives of the Ukrainian community in London, English businessmen, art dealers, painters, friends. The British visitors, in addition to enjoying Dobrovolsky’s art, also discovered that there is a country called Ukraine which turned out to be rich in nature and in artistic talent. At another exhibition, The Wind from Ukraine, works of several Ukrainian painters were represented, among them Dobrovolsky’s works which were described as “earnest, moving, musical.” The artist stayed abroad for quite some time but never stopped working. He socilized with British painters, visited galleries, famous auctions, Sotheby’s and Christi’s. Comparing the art he saw in the west to Ukrainian art, he came to the conclusion that Ukrainian painting has some unique qualities which distinguish it from the western painting. He felt proud and privileged to represent Ukrainian art in the west. Dobrovolsky took part in the Edinburgh Art Festival where his paintings were shown at the Ukraine House which was opened by the Ukrainian community of Edinburgh to promote Ukrainian art. The sincerity and harmonious beauty of Dobrovolsky’s paintings, not marred by the rationalistic and pragmatic approach to life so widespread in the modern world, were enjoyed and appreciated. A big exhibition of Dobrovolsky’s paintings, Sunlight from the Kyiv Hills, is planned to be shown in the Leighton House Museum (12 Holland Park Road) November 13 through 25, 2000. About thirty works are to be exhibited in the museum that was formerly a castle-like house and belonged to Baron (he was the first English painter to be created baron) Frederick Leighton of Stratton, 1830-1896, a British academic painter of immense prestige in his own time, a friend of (among others) the English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, the French novelist George Sand, and the English poet Robert Browning. And the fact that the Ukrainian painter will be honoured with a privilege to exhibit his paintings in the house of Lord Leighton is significant in itself.


London. Little Venice.
Oil on canvas, 80 cm x 90 cm, 1999.


Southern Night. Oil on canvas,
75 cm x 85 cm, 1999.


Christmas Eve. Oil on canvas,
80 cm x 90 cm. 1997.

It is a recognition of Ukrainian art, of a new generation of Ukrainian artists. Dobrovolsky, whose colourful works are rich in texture and vibrancy, brings forth a fresh wave of hope and optimism. He proceeds from classical imagery taken from traditional Ukrainian painting and creates a powerful and expressive personal style. This new exhibition, straight from the heart of Kyiv, with its spirit of warmth and originality, reflects the dynamic development of Ukrainian contemporary art. When he is abroad, Dobrovolsky is always eager to come back home, to his beloved Kyiv, to his studio (which is also an apartment where he lives) situated in one of the oldest parts of the town, with which many legends are associated. According to one of them, in times immemorial, there used to live a dragon in that neighbourhood and that dragon was believed protector of the land. In his art, Dobrovolsky brings together fairy tales and present-day reality, leaving hardly anyone unmoved by his creations.

OR-Gallery telephone in Kyiv:
380 (44) 412-6031
Dobrovolsky’s telephones:
In Kyiv: 380 (44) 213-7065, 245-5834
In London: 181-743-6325
Mob.: 07833-761533