Oleksandr Dubovyk with his wife in his studio.

In most cases, painters can hardly explain why they choose to paint in this or that particular manner, they express themselves in colours and not in words. Oleksandr Dubovyk happens to be master of colours as well as of words. His paintings combine intellectual and decorative approaches, figurative and nonfigurative features, warm emotion and cool construction, "ironic eclecticism" (in the words of an art critic) and "refined aestheticism imbued with hidden meaning."

Dubovyk was born in Kyiv in 1931, into the family of a well-known poet. After a secondary art school he went on to study at the Kyiv Art Institute, from which he graduated in 1957, and only a year later he joined the Painters' Union, a prestigious organization. From 1962 to 1965 he studied at the postgraduate school of the Arts Academy in Moscow. But for almost two decades he did not take part in official exhibitions because his art was at variance with "the art of socialist realism." Only after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he made himself known to the world and the world accepted him. In 1995, for example, he and his wife, also a painter, were invited to decorate a 16th century chapel, situated not far from Nice, France, with wall paintings. Only those painters are commissioned to do a work like this who have proved their high artistic merits. Dubovyk's works can be found in private collections and museums of modern art in Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Iran, Germany, USA, (Zimmerly Art Museum, New Jersey), Moscow and St Petersburg. And of course in Kyiv. His likes bold, unmixed colours, his likes a feeling of tension in his paintings. He creates art which does not seem to be related to any particular time. He does not limit himself to easel painting - stained glass, tapestry, mosaics, he is master of them all. He is a painter that belongs to the 21st century, and yet he wishes he had been an artist of the 12th. He is of the opinion that the industrial civilization has done too much harm to nature. Heorhiy-Hryhoriy Pylypenko, a journalist of Welcome to Ukraine (WU) Magazine, talked with Oleksandr Dubovyk.

WU: There does not seem to be much spontaneity in your work, is there?
Dubovyk: It depends on what you mean by it. Spontaneity is energy of a special kind, it can be embodied in different things at different levels of an actual art work, sometimes in can be present only at the moment the work is conceived.
WU: You seem to have a very peculiar imagination.
Dubovyk: Information of all kinds is a raw material for imagination. Then you have to let yourself go and creative energy will do the rest.
WU: What's genius in art in your opinion? The one who creates something radically new, is rejected and then accepted by art critics and later by the general public?
Dubovyk: Yes, sort of. It usually takes about forty years to get accepted as a genius. As late as the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th some museums refused to accept works of impressionists even as free gifts. Then came a wave of new painters who revolutinized art once again and at first were also rejected, painters like Malevich, Mondrian.
WU: What's your attitude to abstract art?
Dubovyk: Abstraction is a way of looking at the world, it's a special outlook, and not just a trend in art.
WU: You seem to combine purely emotional and rationalistic approaches in your painting.
Dubovyk: We know very little of the world around us and one can't apply the laws of human life to the laws of nature, though we have come to understand that we, humans, and the Universe are made of the same, as it were, elements.

Self-portrait. 1958, oil on canvas.
42 cm x 85 cm.

They have come. 1999,
oil on canvas. 150 cm x 150 cm.

The Cube. 1980, oil on canvas.
100 cm x 100 cm.

When I paint I divide the canvas in my imagination into four squares, and each square lives its own life.
WU: Is the square a magical geometric figure for you? Dubovyk: Look, there are four cardinal points of the compass. Pythagoras thought it was a magic figure. A square foundation for the statue of God to stand on... yes, I like the square.
WU: Malevich also liked it, his Black Square was painted way back in 1913.
Dubovyk: Yes, it was a revolutionary square, but I think this painting reflects the pragmatic 19th century oriented towards sciences. Incidentally, Malevich at the end of his life returned to figurative painting. But I follow my way.
WU: As far as I am concerned, your realistic paintings are great, particularly the portraits. They are highly spiritual, one wants to talk to the person portrayed. One of your self-portraits, painted in 1958 is just stunning in its revealing realism. Probably, not too many painters would risk to be as realistic in their art, it would take quite a lot of courage on the part of the artist.
Dubovyk: In the 1960s, I tried so hard to get rid of my naturalistic leanings, it was very painful, too. But I don't think it's worth going back. Now I combine realism and modernism.
WU: What is your view of the further development of civilisation?
: Ecological damage can be very dangerous. There is something wrong in our, human, attitude to nature. Maybe the humanity have walked into a blind alley of evolution? I don't believe humans can be changed for the better. Probably we are just an experimental civilization. Which does not mean any catastrophe will happen to us in the nearest hundred years.
In my paintings I try to look at the beauty of man and nature from an unexpected point of view, it should come as though seen for the first time. We live in the epoch of post-modernism. It's not a style any longer, it's a new dialogue.
: Many of your works are called Dialogues. Dialogue is the essence of culture. Isn't it why modern artists now use achievements of art of all epochs and of all nations?
Dubovyk: I feel myself to be a person out of context with any particular epoch. I try hard to see all the things around me as they are by themselves, without any relation to a particular point in time. I want to present my own view of things and of people and their relations, and relationships, too.
WU: You mean those between man and woman?
Dubovyk: Of course! Women are responsible for starting all the revolutions, you know. I think that men and women have had different ancestors, we have developed from apes of different species. A joke, of course, but speaking seriously, I'm sure women are better adjusted to life. It's silly to go against them, and dangerous too. Men can neutralize them only with love. (It must be mentioned here that Oleksandr Dubovyk is very happily married; his wife, Iryna, has devoted herself totally to her husband, she is his muse and also a generous hostess; even now, at the age of 70, he writes love poems for her; Iryna is planning a big exhibition of Dubovyk's works to mark his 70th birthday).
WU: Speaking about love some of your paintings do not seem to have been inspired by love. There is something mystical in them.

Requiem. 1977, oil on canvas.
100 cm x 100 cm.

Sheath for Wings. 1999, oil on canvas. 150 cm x 150 cm.

Dubovyk: You can find mysticism everywhere now. In fact, art works are manifestations of mysticism. An artist, by putting a familiar thing in an unfamiliar context, creates something mystical. I'm after stopping the moment by putting it onto my canvas and framing it with frame. I'm after capturing eternity. My pictures are my confessions.

Oleksandr Dubovyk writes books too, philosophical and humorous. In his book Palimpsests, he presents his thoughts about time and history, art and life.
"The most absurd, the most hopelessly human, the least useful and at the same time the most significant event in the history of humankind is the Picture, a work of art."