Roman Chaikovsky, 37, was born in the town of Boryslav, Lviv Oblast. He creates sculpture ranging in size from miniature to monumental. Chaikovsky’s sculpture was shown at many exhibitions. His designs have been used for commemorative coins struck at the Ukrainian Mint. Possessing a wide knowledge of ancient cultures that existed in the territory of the present-day Ukraine, Mr Chaikovsky has his own view of history and cultural traditions of Ukraine.
Andriy Hlazovy, a Welcome to Ukraine (WU) correspondent, has interviewed Mr Chaikovsky.

WU: My first question, if you don’t mind, will not have anything to do directly with sculpture. I know of your interests in history, and so, may I ask you which period of Ukrainian history attracts you most?
Chaikovsky: Now, a lot is being said about the times of Ukrainian Cossacks. Very often folklore supersedes facts. Yes, those were heroic times, full of romantic adventures. But we should remember that Ukrainian history started long before the 17th century. Ukrainian culture has its roots in the times distant from ours by thousands of years.
WU: Do you have in mind the early mediaeval state of Kyivan Rus-Ukraine? As far as I know, the official language of the Principality of Lithuania, Ukraine’s neighbour, was Old Ukrainian.
Chaikovsky: You’re talking of the mediaeval times, and I’m talking about cultures that flourished in the territory in the centuries before Christ and in the first centuries AD. Ahead of anything else I have in mind the ancient Scythians.
WU: By education I’m a historian…
Chaikovsky: So you should know what I mean. Different cultures existed in Ukraine at different times, each of them made its contribution to what we call ‘Ukrainian culture,’ which is a mixture of many elements, pagan as well as Christian.
WU: When did you become interested in the Scythians?


The Hailey Comet.

Two in One.
Chaikovsky: At the time when I was a graduate student of the Kyiv Art Academy.
I discovered that though we know something about the Scythians whose civilization flourished in Ukraine twenty five hundred years ago, our knowledge is very limited, we know dismally little about them.

WU
: As far as I remember they were both nomad and settled Scythians. Some of their customs were cruel, but at the same time Scythian artefacts show they were cultured enough to appreciate good art. There is some evidence that they had among themselves people who might be called philosophers. Do you see a contradiction here: cruel and primitive customs on the one hand and refined art and philosophy on the other?
Chaikovsky: Not really. It was Heraclitus who said: “The one who does not understand that day and night are a unity cannot be called wise.” The more I learnt about the Scythians, their religion, everyday life, customs and arts, the more fascinated I became.
WU: Yes, I remember your sculptures created in your “Scythian period.” Looking at them, I felt I was ready to believe in transmigration of souls. You seemed to have become Scythian yourself. But then, you changed your style rather abruptly. One of your creations reminds me for some reason of Stonehenge.
Chaikovsky: The change in style did occur and it is connected with my taking part in what we call “symposia of sculptors”.
It’s not an old style conference or a get-together of grey-haired prize-winning artists who languidly discuss problems nobody’s really interested in .

The Law of Self-Sacrifice.

The Law of Mutual Preservation.
“Sculptors’ symposia” I’m talking about bring together anywhere from a halfdozen to a dozen sculptors, young and old, who create their works right in the open air. Then these sculptures are taken to adorn parks in urban areas. “A symposium” like that can last up to two months.
WU: Sounds very interesting. Do you know where your sculptures have been taken to?
Chaikovsky
: Sure. You can find them in the towns of Vinnytsya, Yampil, Zhytomir, Odesa.
On the one hand, these creative “symposia” develop imagination, teach you to respect the material you create your sculpture in, not to waste it needlessly, and on the other hand, they are an excellent test - you have to realize your idea in a rather short period of time, you’ve got to create something that would be good enough, and you can see what the others have done. It’s one thing to create something in your studio, and quite another - in the open air. You can immediately see how it fits - or does not fit - the environment.
Often enough, a piece of sculpture, created in the studio, and then enlarged to be put in a park or elsewhere, turns out to be a much too dominant feature in the particular environment where it is placed, and the other way round, it turns out too insignificant in the air and open space. This understanding of the pressures of the environment gave me an idea - to create grossly outsized things modelled on the artefacts from the Scythian life: earrings, a door hinge, an axe, anything like that that would weigh, say two tons!
WU
:
But you are not centred only on everything Scythian, are you?
Chaikovsky
: No, of course not. I’m planning to develop motives picked from other cultures that existed in the territory of Ukraine.
WU: I see. It fits your theory: the more cultures, the better. Your work for Ukrainian Mint - is it from nine to six thing? I can hardly see you working in the capacity of a clerk.
Chaikovsky: No, I am not a clerk. I do work for them which means I do have to be there at a certain time. And, of course, the Mint is not a place which you can come to and leave whenever you please.
WU: I’ve seen the coins which were minted to your design but they are not in wide circulation, they are just what they call “commemorative pieces.” I can hardly imagine anybody paying in a store with your hundred-hryvnya coins.
Chaikovsky: Those coins should be looked upon as art rather than a medium of exchange. These coins are minted in limited numbers and are meant mostly for collectors. There are several dozens of mints to be found in the whole world and all of them release such commemorative coins.
WU: I used to be a sort of a numismatist myself and from what I’ve seen, ancient Greek, Roman, mediaeval coins are true works of art. Do you regard yourself and your colleagues as those who continue age-old traditions in numismatics?
Chaikovsky: Any coin, a commemorative coin in particular, is a sort of a visiting card of the country where it is minted.


20-hryvnya coin dedicated to Ukraine’s national liberation war led by Bohdan Khmelnytsky.


10-hryvnya coin with Danylo of Halych on the reverse.


100- and 200-hryvnya coins dedicated to Eneyida, epic poem by Ivan P. Kotlyarevsky.


10-hryvnya coin with Kyiv Pechersk Uspensky Cathedral on the reverse.


Vergil.
My first design for a gold coin commemorated the 200th anniversary of the publication of Kotlyarevsky’s “Eneyida”, a burlesque epic based on Vergil’s “Aeneid.” Kotlyarevsky’s long poem was the first work published in vernacular Ukraina. At the time when I was working on the design for the coin, I worked on a 3-D sculpture portraying Vergil himself. In fact, I have long-range plans, as far as making designs for coins are concerned. I want to design a coin made of two metals - the central part gold with silver all around at the edges. They should commemorate ancient cultures that once existed in the territory of the present-day Ukraine: Palaeolithic, Trypillya, Scythian, antique Greek, Slavic.
WU: What about regular coins, in everyday exchange?
I understand, they are made of base metals and cannot adequately reproduce the artist’s lofty aspirations… But I’ve seen some very nice-looking foreign coins.
Chaikovsky: Yes, I know, I’m working on designs for some everyday coins too.
WU: You seem to be living through a period of heightened artistic activity.
Chaikovsky: Well, yes, there is some truth to this statement. You see, 1998 was the year, according to the Oriental calendar, of the Tiger. And the Tiger year always favours me.
WU: Oh, are you an adept of astrology?
Chaikovsky: No, not really. In general, I’m rather sceptical about horoscopes and that kind of thing but believing or not believing in horoscopes does not change the fact that the year of the Tiger has always been lucky for me. Twelve years ago - it was the year of the Tiger - I left home, came to Kyiv, was enrolled at the Kyiv Art Academy as a student, got married.
My child was born. After a twelve-year period, within which there were quite a few interesting events, came another year of the Tiger and there was an upsurge of, as you put it, artistic activity.
I exhibited many of my works at a show together with my wife, Valentyna Chaikovska - she is a painter - began working for the Mint, plus much more. In the times of old, people used to bring sacrifices to the gods in gratitude for having been given some favours, similarly I have given one of my best sculptures, Two in One, to the National History Museum… In general, I try to do what the signs and omens suggest. Once, when I had to make a serious decision, I had a dream at night - in this dream, I found myself on the top of a tall bell tower. The hurricane wind was so strong that I felt I could be thrown down any minute. In order not to be dashed to pieces, I grabbed the cross firmly fixed to the very top of the bell tower and held on to it. I was saved.

Photos by Valentyn Landar

Equal Among the Great.