Mykhailo Skobalo. Trumpeter. 1995. Oil, canvas.

I was glad of an opportunity to go to Lviv, the town I love. But not the one that is usually shown to tourists but the one that you come to know by walking through its narrow streets, descending into the nether world of tiny cafes in the basement of houses, or climbing to the attics where most of the artist’s studios are. Lviv is an old European town and it has a soul that is worth discovering.
The first painter I visited was Serhiy Hay. It was rather early in the morning and he hospitably offered me a cup of excellently made coffee, even the aroma of which could make you slightly tipsy. I wanted to see his paintings but I also wanted to get to know this enigmatic man better. He is the kind of a person who could be visualized wearing a hussar’s brilliant dress uniform, or impersonate Napoleon.
In fact he has a picture in which Napoleon is depicted and that picture could easily have been his own self-portrait. But in general he and his art cannot be easily defined. He and his art seem to embody the idea of freedom. He does not photograph things he sees like a camera, he paints what he, as a unique individual, sees and how he sees it. He is constantly on the move, in the creative sense. When he gets tired of painting, he turns to writing a sort of an autobiography. He reads a lot. Among his favourites are Nietzsche and William Saroyan (Saroyan’s books in which he finds a lot of wisdom, Serhiy prefers to read in English, and not in translation). Serhiy is of an opinion that a painter if he is any good cannot help loving women and painting them. The women you see in his pictures are very attractive, sensual, seducing, graceful, emotional. Looking at them you understand that they love being adored, pampered, sung. The signatures Serhiy puts on his works are like special signs certifying excellent quality of art.
From Serhiy’s quiet studio, dominated by a restrained black-and-white colour scheme, I went to a bizzarely decorated apartment of Ihor Horin, an architect, painter and designer. For a long time when he was working as an architect and interior designer graphics was his work and painting a hobby. Now he gives most of his time to painting. Every year he creates dozens of pictures, working in a frenzy, making up, as he puts, for the lost time. He can stay in his studio for weeks in a row, never going out. «I’m like a bird in flight, he says. It does not matter how long I stay aloft as long as I’m flying.» Horin does not make sketches, he is afraid of loosing inspiration. It may seem at first that he is a slave of his inspiration but in fact he controls well all the stages of the creation. He impregnates his every picture with his spirit. He is sort of conducting a conversation with his pictures in the process of their creation, he is battling to achieve an absolute harmony and knows he is doomed to failure. There is no formula of either perfect harmony or perfect love. He believes the clue to harmony is in nature and it is nature that inspires him. He grew up in a mountainous area of the Carpathians and the colours he had seen there can be recognized in his wonderful still-lives. He is after art which can combine national and universal. He seeks to restore cultural links with the past. That is how he sees his mission. In the studio of the indefatigable Mykhailo Demtsyu everything seems to be filled with movement. Every next picture is a discovery, an unexpected turn. He paints abstract pictures and he also creates in the style of the Art Academies of the past. What he paints does not matter too much for him. Advance to something new, improvement, discovery — these are things that matter. Ukrainian traditions are reflected in his paintings. He also hails from the Carpathians and his pictures shine with bright colours of the midday sun, of burning luminosity of autumn, of cold green of firs and warm green of herbs. Demtsyu’s pictures are a riot of colours and they create a festive mood, they give you a feeling of something very healthy, emotionally uplifting, joy of life. His pictures have been bought by art lovers from Western Europe and America who have discerned in them a true penetration into the very core of nature which you cannot find in paintings created by those artists who have grown up in heavily urbanized areas.

Serhiy Hay. Morning Coffee. 1997. Oil, canvas.

Volodymyr Petrovich. The Sun for You. 1995. Oil, canvas.

Vasyl Fedoruk. In the Shade. 1992. Oil, canvas.

Serhiy Savchenko. Lviv. Spring. 1997. Oil, canvas.

Ihor Horin. portrait of the Son. 1994. Oil, canvas.

The moment the weather permits, the snow begins to melt, the sun starts giving not only light but real warmth, the painter Demtsyu leaves for the Carpathian mountains, his source of never-ending inspiration.
My next visit was to Volodymyr Petrovych, whose paintings are like songs eulogising the beauty of women, flowers and the sea. Golden and blue are his favourite colours. Maybe his love of these hues comes from the reminiscences about sea voyages he used to make. In his young years he used to draw giant figures on the sand of sea beaches. Women in Petrovych’s pictures always look like ancient Greeks or Romans. Pegasus and a Muse, Penelope and Odysseus and other similar subjects are widely represented in his pictures. Petrovych is a sensitive, reserved and highly gifted person who seeks true spirituality and love. In addition to being a painter, he is also a sculptor working in stone, wood and bronze. Fire-clay seems to be the medium suiting best his emotional, unhurried nature. His works, regardless of their size or style they are made in, reveal his search for harmony. His pictures show depth as though they were three-dimensional. The central image of Petrovych’s works is a woman, her fluid movements and grace. He rarely sculpts directly from life but when he finds a type of face or body he likes he keeps working until he captures the image he wants to create.
Mykhailo Skobalo is a painter in the third generation. Improvisation, emotional outburst seem to be characteristic of his art. His drawings demonstrate an exceptional dexterity and lightness of touch. His driving ambition is to be happy, to achieve an inner state of serene happiness. But the road to it leads him through art which is a battle ground of black and white, of darkness and light, of good and evil. He is a champion of justice in real life as well. Searching for his own place in art and life, he reads a lot of philosophy and psychology. In his art he is very whimsical, and very often it is impossible to has inspired say what
Serhiy Savchenko represents probably the youngest generation of artists of Lviv. Mostly he works in the graphic arts but plans to create big-sized paintings as well. He has been happy to do illustrations for a children’s book. It was a demanding work that helped him achieve a new level of mastery over his art. He seems to be quite a carefree person but in fact he is not. He knows well what he wants to achieve. He believes that all his dreams come true. It was his cherished dream, for example, to have his works exhibited in Kyiv and he did have them shown at a one-man exhibition! He dreams of travelling around the world in 80 days. It’s not quite clear when — or if — this particular dream of his will come true, but only a short time ago he dreamt of having at least one commission to design or illustrate a book or a booklet, and now he has had several!
Lviv is situated on several hills, so moving from place to place in town involves going up and down several times even on a relatively short walk. My next stop was at Ivan Tverdun’s studio. Since his student days he has been fascinated with petroglyphs, prehistoric rock carvings and paintings. He is attracted by their unpretentious and yet forceful execution. The pre-historic painters used some symbols, among them that of the sun, and Tverdun loves sunshine. Unfortunately there are not too many sunny days in Lviv throughout the year and maybe making up for the lack of sunshine outdoors, he fills his canvases with a whirlwind of bright colours. His pictures are emotional celebrations of colour. Tverdun likes to paint in the open air, his sketches are imbued with energy of nature which is later transferred into finished paintings. His favourite medium is tempera. He experiments with various techniques, uses the achievements of Symbolism,Surrealism and other trends in art. In order to go forward, says the painter, you have sometimes to go back a little, take a good look around and then push forward with a new vigour. He is in no hurry to show his works to the public, he wants to make sure that each new work is no worse than the previous one which has been praised. Ivan Tverdun is looking for new ways in his art.
Volodymyr Petrovych.Autumnal Madonna. 1997. Oil, canvas.

Ivan Tverdun. Sense of Touch. 1998. Oil, canvas.

Serhiy Savchenko. Portrait. 1998. Oil, canvas.

Vasyl’ Fedoruk was paid a visit by me on a sunny morning. His studio is in the attic. He is a man of many talents, and if he had not become a painter he would have become a poet, a writer of fiction, a composer. His works are imbued with a poetic feeling. Looking at them one seems to hear gentle music. In his art he has passed through several stages: almost naturalistic, classicist, abstract. Women in the pictures of Fedoruk are creatures any man would declare his love to. A pregnant woman in one of his pictures is full of spiritual light, of gentleness, of happy expectation.
There is what is called the «Lviv School of Painting» and the artists we have paid visits to, belong to this school. They are of different age, of different artistic temperaments.
The Kyiv OR-Gallery whose curator is Professor Mykola Volga, organized an exhibition of works of Lviv artists in Kyiv in1995. The exhibition received a wide critical and public acclaim. It was a major artistic event and a big success. The Vidrodzhennya («Revival», «Renaissance») Fund helped organize exhibitions of paintings from Lviv in America. They were shown in the Harvard University Gallery in Boston, at Ukraine’s Mission to the UN, the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York, Ukraine’s Embassy in Washington, the Ukrainian Educational and from Cultural Centre in Philadelphia. I am sure that art from Lviv will be shown in many other places too.
Now we know that part of Lviv’s soul is in its art.

By Lyudmyla Korniyenko
OR-Gallery telephone: 380 (44) 412-6031

Illustrates to article