The sculptor’s family:
Alice, his wife, Anna and Yaroslav, his children, spending summer at a place Gogol has described in his stories.
Valiyev, 42, graduated from the Kyiv Academy of Arts in 1984. In 1994-1995 he attended
courses at the Aix-en-Provence Academy of Arts in France. He showed his works at many
exhibitions the biggest of which were held in Ukraine, Australia, France, Japan, and
Belgium. At the international Art Festival in Kyiv he was proclaimed “The Best Sculptor
of the Year” in 1988. An art critic wrote that his “sculptures combine the dignity and
completeness of the classics with the imagery of modern art”.
The artist was interviewed by Heorhiy-Hryhoriy Pylypenko, a Welcome to Ukraine
correspondent, in his studio.
WU: Which material as a sculptor do you prefer?
Valiyev: My favourite media are stone and bronze. But I like ceramics for its “civilized” look, too. I love yellow sandstone for its texture, for its warmth that it has taken from the sun. One of my works is called The Sun Is Setting. It is exhibited partially submerged in sand. To see the details to their best advantage you should squat in front of it. And then you’ll feel peace and relaxation seep into you. I create in order to understand myself better, my sculptures are the embodiment of my thoughts and visions.The visitors who are kindred souls with me react to my sculptures the way I expect them to. When I manage to bring forth successfully what’s inside of me, I feel satisfied. Many of my sculptures attempt to show the links with both the earth and the sky, to bring serenity to the onlooker’s soul, to affirm our continuous participation in the development of life. Among the pieces I’ve created in recent years The Woman-Life and The Princess embody my ideas best.
WU: Do members of your family show artistic inclinations, too?
Valiyev: My wife, Alice, creates garments. My daughter, Anna, 15, studies at an art school, majoring in painting on fabrics, sort of along her mother’s lines. My son, Yaroslav, who is 10, likes modelling things using Plasticine, he likes drawing, too, attends music classes but frankly he is much more fascinated with the computer.
Alice (Valiyev’s wife joins the conversation): I don’t claim to be an artist, my main occupation is making garments. We’ve been married for 16 years but we’ve known each other since our student years. My husband is a great help in the house but you know, it’s not that easy to get along with an artistically endowed person and an extraordinary personality (Alice laughs when she says it). I feel so elated when my husband’s exhibition is a critical and popular success. But to be a wife of an artist is not easy, I can tell you. You’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to have a lot of patience. Unfortunately, one sometimes runs out of patience. Family life is like some of my husband’s sculptures — smooth surfaces, streamlined shapes and rough textures and sharp angles, all mixed together.
WU: You travel a lot, probably you travel more than any other Ukrainian artist does. Any recent impressions?
Valiyev: Australia has greatly impressed me. Modern civilization there peacefully coexists with nature in its primordial beauty.
I was fascinated with the art of the Australian aborigines.
Now the creations of their art are hot items in Australia. The aborigines’ art is many thousand years older than the oldest of the known developed civilizations. I saw works of art created by the aborigines in their natural surroundings
and exhibited in galleries. Even in the galleries they stand out as remarkable creations with extraordinary imagery. I’ve never seen such a penetration of culture into nature at the poetical level anywhere else. In Australia I felt the closeness
to nature everywhere. In one of the natural preserves I was embraced by a kangaroo. You see, there are no cages or barriers there and kangaroos wander freely everywhere, begging the visitors for bread and dainties.
WU: If one tried to define the present stage of your art, what would the definition be?
Valiyev: Personal symbolism. I explore the eternal themes of mother and child. Mother sacrifices herself for her offspring to go on living in the future. My sculpture is my homage to women, my appreciation of their role in the development of human civilization.
WU: Have you ever taken part in what is known as the European Sculptors’ Symposia?
Valiyev: I have, and it has contributed a lot to the development of my own art. You see,
the idea is to bring sculptors from several countries together and let them work not in the studio but outdoors, so that they could watch each other work. This “creative energy field” influences every participant greatly. One of my sculptures, The Angel, was created in this way in Belgium. It is made of blue granite and it is now exhibited in the Museum of Stone in Sprimont. I took several of my “angels” in bronze to the Japanese town of Nagoya to show them at the Between the Sky and the Earth exhibition. The Japanese are very keen on things that have a national character in them. The Japanese people live in a very limited space of their islands and they tend to look into themselves. Strange as it may seem, I was invited to Japan that time by the association of the classical ballet schools. What’s the connection, you may ask? You see, once I created the statuette for
the Grand Prix of the Serge Lifar ballet contest, and my model for the monument to Sergey Diaghilev was recognized as the best one and it will be erected in the square close to the Grand Opera in Paris to mark the 125th anniversary of Diaghilev’s birth.
WU: Did you like Paris with its high concentration of art?
Valiyev: There is no doubt that the presence of so much everywhere produces a great influence upon the people who live there, shapes their aesthetic and spiritual views. But frankly, the present stage in the development of art in Paris has left me unimpressed. There’s a bit too much of smugness, complacency, refinery. In my opinion, there’s a definite lack of vigour.
WU: What were the greatest influences upon your own art?
Valiyev: The classic art of Greece, of course, Rome, then Michelangelo. In the twentieth
century art I feel a great affinity with Archipenko*, Moor, Brancusi. I’ve learnt a lot from them.
WU: Can your monument to Archipenko in the Tosltoy Square in Kyiv be regarded as an expression of your appreciation of him?
Valiyev: I wanted to draw attention to this great sculptor who was born in Kyiv but who is almost forgotten in his native land though his contribution to the world’s culture is extremely valuable.
WU: You travel to many countries of the world. But do you travel around Ukraine? Where do you
go to have a rest?
Valiyev: I have a house in the village of Velyki Sorochyntsi, not far from the town of Myrhorod.
The house stands close to the river Psyol. Very picturesque place, great scenery. Gently rolling forested hills, valleys, meadows, ponds, all very inspiring. Nikolay Gogol described the land of Myrhorod in his early works in the nineteenth century. He was a great visionary and when you get there you begin to understand better the roots of his art. It is in the village of Velyki Sorochyntsi that I get my strength to prepare for an art exhibition due to take place in September in Paris within
the Days of Ukrainian Culture.
from the archives
Illustrated to article.