Alla Alekseeva before her work.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
N2N Gallery, Abu Dhabi, is presenting the works of leading Ukrainian abstract artist Petro Lebedinets and Alla Alekseeva, from May 12 – June 30. It is the second time Lebedinits’ works are being shown by the gallery - the first time was in 2016, at Abu Dhabi Art. The artists are husband and wife; they find their synergies in colour and the feelings it arouses.
For Lebedinets, abstract art should convey positivity. “I strongly believe that only positive emotions should be infused in art,” he says. “In the meantime, contemporary art is often focused on some sort of destruction. Nonetheless, I follow a purely aesthetic programme. I constantly experiment in the system of vivid harmony, and not of destruction.”
He describes his art as the reality of abstraction, with an existence independent of the visible world. In essence, he manages to breathe new life into the tradition of European non-figurative art. Lebedinets takes colour and texture to new dimensions by weaving a tapestry of hues, wired together with purposeful positivity. The Modernistic avant-garde works, done with wide and deep strokes of colour, resound with humanistic and naturalistic details.
They remind one of the Gardens of Versailles or the Keukenhof flower gardens in the Netherlands. The paintings are harmonious and joyful; there are no breaks in them, no conflict or loss and they are executed with a combination of grace and power. The artist manages to create the most luxurious colour harmonies, and to represent the dazzling brightness of a world bathed in sunlight. This aspect will particularly strike a viewer in the Emirates, who is drenched in sunshine and colour, as a matter of routine.
Lebedinets has another take on this. “Painting,” he says, “is like a classical, symphonic work of large form, with a careful organisation of the musical fabric and its built-in architectonics, combined with free jazz improvisation.” He thus points out the musical and architectural elements in his compositions. He graduated from Kyiv State Art Institute, where, like others, he began his career by studying the basics of academic painting.
However, sensing a need for change, he began to fill his realistic paintings with decorative flowers and symbolic forms. He wanted to move beyond academism and thus decided not to replicate realistic canvases; he began experimenting with colour. The search for his own pictorial language lasted for several years.
Drawing inspiration from Matisse and Gauguin, the colouristic theories of Johannes Itten and Wassily Kandinsky, he developed his own formula of colour. He was answering an inner call. Andrey Kurkov, Ukrainian author and public intellectual, has this to say about Lebedinets’ work: “Each composition is as boundless as the Atlantic Ocean. Each work has its own Gulf Stream directing your gaze, leading it to wherever the imagination will go, among the melting pools of emeralds and blues.”
Ukraine has been a melting pot of cultures and through the centuries, Ukrainian people have evolved a school of art, which incorporates many genres of artmaking. They include folk art, embroidery, wood carving, ceramics and weaving. Intricately patterned Easter eggs in folk style (pysanky), and various forms of Byzantine art seen in mosaics, frescoes and manuscript painting, are dominant motifs of Ukrainian culture.
Lebedinets has borrowed from them and they are an intimate part of his pictures. He was born in Melitopol, Zaporizhia region, Ukraine, in 1956 and is a winner of numerous awards: Certificate of Honor as participant in the art festival Our Heritage (Metropolitan Museum and National Arts Club, New York); honorary prize Artist of the Year at the International Art Festival in Kyiv in 1997; and honorary prize of the jury of the international exhibition Contemporary Art in Nice, 1996.
He was ranked number four out of the top hundred contemporary artists in Ukraine by the national project 100 Artists: Modern and Contemporary Ukrainian Art since Independence. He has exhibited in numerous locations and his works are found in private collections in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, USA, France, Austria, Belgium, Poland, Holland, Spain and Italy, besides others. Alla Alekseeva hails from Kiev and at the heart of her artistic images is figurative painting, as though reinterpreted through the direction of abstraction. The paintings are sensual, juicy and are joyfully expressed. Their aura is such that looking at them, you could forget the subject matter.
Her art journey was perhaps done in the reverse - from non-figurative compositions, she graduated to the figurative. But she too is an aficionado of colour - shimmering, radiant, all-absorbing. They pour, flow, tremble and vibrate, as if the warm sun sprays its bright rays on them uncontrollably. Or it could be that the moonlight, with cold trembling light, reveals the mystery of darkness in her creations.
Indian red, Neapolitan yellow, cobalt, emerald green, ultra marine violet – she uses the whole spectrum of colours to convey a whole range of emotions, from radiant joy, a sense of playful fullness, to subconscious anxiety and premonitions of something that is as yet incomprehensible.
The thick, textured strokes, bursting with life and inner strength, undoubtedly speak of the artist’s own sparkling temperament. Natalya Muzaleva, Founder of N2N Gallery, affirms that “at a time when there is anxiety and turbulence in the world, dramatic and disruptive colour combinations should be avoided. It is necessary to preserve the fundamental principles of positive, creative energy. The artists have done just that.”