When he was a schoolboy (who was not, let’s admit it, very well behaved), Serhiy Poyarkov was told by his geography teacher that it was in Ukraine that the geographical centre of Europe was situated. When he grew up, he became an artist, not a geographer, though he remembered well where the centre of Europe was. And he thought he should try to become the centre of European art. Artists do get crazy ideas sometimes, you know.
“I’m much too energetic. People like me are sometimes called “electronic besoms,” if you know what I mean. I am also a sort of a male version of Cinderella. But in contrast to that fairy-tale personage I have horny elbows because I keep elbowing my way to a good place under the sun. I’m managing my own life. That’s my disadvantage. I’ve got too much energy. I release the excess of my energy when I work. Also, I never seek inspiration or relaxation in drugs or alcohol. I don’t even smoke. Even in sex for sex’s sake, there’s not much for me, since I’ve come to realize that quantity can never become a substitute for quality. I’m happy though that my schooldays’ dream to become an artist illustrating books has come true.”
Serhiy Poyarkov, dressed in black, told me this when I paid a visit to him in his studio which is also his home. The walls had wood panelling which he made himself. He made coffee for me in a microwave oven. He kept talking and I kept drinking my coffee and listening.

Survival of the Fittest. 1998.

A Train. 1998.

“A real understanding can come in a conversation between two people. Though sometimes it feels so good to share silence with someone. I’ve known my best friend for 33 years now and I believe, together with our rock star Makarevych, that you cannot have “new best friends.” Also I feel responsible for my dog who is called Hoebbels. My sign of Zodiac is Libra, and I am also, according to some other calendar “a Snake.” My roots are in the land of Chernihivshchyna. My father disappeared from life when I was three. In fact, I’ve never felt I needed one. Well, I somehow managed. I’ve bought my mum an apartment, not far from here. My mum is a teacher.’
In school the subject he hated most was algebra. The only respite from tedium of the classes was drawing. His drawings reflected his moods and sometimes attempts were made to convey night dreams on paper. Even now Poyarkov likes sketches better than the finished work. In his drawings the human figure is an integral part of nature, it is a reflection of the state of mind. For Poyarkov art is Action, “art is an ability of a person to create a thing out of something which is a typical inner feature of this person.” Among the artists he likes best are Bosch, Dali and Russian painter Vrubel. Poyarkov does not care for realists, he believes a good photograph is better than the best realistic picture. Poyarkov crams so much into his pictures. Life in its entirety seems to have been shown in A Birthday Party (this drawing has been published in various periodicals more than a hundred times). Some of his drawings are melancholy, others are close to horror pictures, some show despondency and loss of hope.
In 1991 Poyarkov was awarded a gold medal at a competition of book illustrators held in Los Angeles, USA. The award opened an access for him to the western markets. His drawings were published in Poland, Bulgaria, Sweden, Czech Republic.
He had his pictures shown in Britain and in the USA in 1996, 1997 and 1998. For February, 1999, an exhibition of his works is planned to be shown on Broadway, New York. At the end of 1999 two German cities want to exhibit his works. Poyarkov is a member of the ASFA (American association of book illustrators). In Ukraine about fifty periodicals have so far published more than a thousand of his drawings. In March, 1999, a big exhibition of Poyarkov’s drawings will be held in the Olymp Gallery in Kyiv.
“Serhiy, could you explain to me, a person with a thoroughly Soviet backgrounds, how does someone who grew up in the Soviet times, before independence, achieve a financial success in the West as an artist?”
“Well, I’m as much Soviet as you are, or anybody else in this country who is over, say, twenty. You’ve got to be pushy, you’ve got to be a go-getter, you’ve got to promote yourself, you’ve got to find the right market for your works. You’ve got to be working hard at improving your skills all the time. And you’ve got to know English.
He turned on TV, NBC news channel.
“Are you a cosmopolitan, Serhiy?”
“No, I’m Ukrainian. Unfortunately, it takes so long to explain to people you talk to in the West what and where Ukraine is. My pictures help show people that I’m from a different galaxy. We, in Ukraine, are really different from people in the West. I’m trying to explain through my art the nature of our differences.

Winter. 1997.
Agreeing to disagree brings us closer together. Also, I feel myself a citizen of Europe. Europe is so much different from America. I don’t like the stereotype of an American — an ignorant lout with his feet on the table. I like American tolerance. Don’t forget that the European civilisation has a tradition of many centuries of aggressions and bloody wars. You must not pass a judgement on American civilisation judging by American films. Americans never confuse these two things — their real life and their films.”
“Some of your pictures are nightmares captured on paper. Irony, great thoroughness of execution and philosophical approach differ them though from real nightmares. What’s your understanding of what constitutes something usually called ‘a norm’? What did you think about when you were making illustrations for Cervantes’ Don Quixote?

A Goblins’ Banquet. 1997.
What’s your attitude to Sancha Panza, a hero of all-powerful mediocrity, a parasite on the personality of Don Quixote? “There are quite a lot of normal people around, but everyone is “normal” in his own way. The common thing people share is commonplaceness and mediocrity, and they try to paint it in bright colours to the best of their ability. And an interesting personality can do it better than the others. In this respect such a personality is not normal. We, here in Ukraine, can often hear people say: I’d be satisfied with anything that is not worse than what other people have. I think it’s a pathological approach to life. You have to excel, to do better than others.”“So you think it is thanks to the artist that we, non-artists, can understand the measure of our normality?”
“Artists are just the viewing public who have been spoiled by an artistic education.
I think I have not been spoiled by any of the art schools I studied at: neither by the Kyiv Art Technical School, nor by the Lviv Printing-Trades School, nor by the Academy of Arts in Kyiv.
Serhiy Poyarkov has won himself a status of a graphic artist creating grotesque fantasies. He has put his pictures on his own Web site in the Internet, thus getting himself into the virtual reality as well. He does not believe though that the Internet will kill the Book. His own home is lined with shelves filled with books.
“The more you learn and perceive,” says the artist, “the more able you are to analyse things and your place in the world.” When he is working, his TV set is on, with the Euronews telling him what is happening around the world. “I want to feel that I live on the planet Earth rather than just in Kyiv.”
Poyarkov’s art, which can be probably described as “romantic fantasy,” sells well. His works find their way to private collections and to museums in many parts of the world. Those who buy works of art help, in Poyarkov’s opinion, artists develop their art in no less measure than art critics. For him art collectors, wealthy people, who buy works of art, are entitled to be treated with great respect.
He is liberal with advice given to promising and budding artists. “Work a lot and try hard to work well.

A Zoo. 1989.
  But in your own style. And be nice to those who, you think might be potential buyers of your art. You cannot be excessively polite, you know, the more polite you are the better.”
Poyarkov is very meticulous in his work, he represents the horrors of modern civilisation in his own special way. If you take some time and spend some effort in trying to penetrate the world of Poyarkov’s grotesque fantasies, you may be rewarded with finding something that might help you preserve your own personality in this strange world of ours.

By Heorhiy-Hryhoriy Pylypenko
Serhiy Poyarkov’s works can be seen in the Internet at the following Web site: http:/mink.org/mink/sergey.html
You can send your messages to the artist to: e-mail:s.poyarkov@usa.net

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