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February 9, for the first time since independence, Ukraine opened the largest retrospective exhibition of one of the most brilliant local artists of the twentieth century - Maria Pryimachenko.
Birds of paradise with peacock tails, predatory animals and monsters with their tongues out and mouths wide opened - all these fancy vivid images you can now see at the "Art Arsenal".
The exhibition is called "Boundless" - and this word describes not only the most exact scale of the exhibition, which includes more than 300 works of the artist - but also the level of understanding of her work.
Famous animals of Prymachenko are printed on souvenirs and street walls. But there is no one of the researchers who would analyze their origins.
Cognoscente Diana Klochko “decoded” mythological and symbolic world of Pryimachenko.
Relatives of centaurs and sirens
The world of Maria Pryimachenko is primarily mythological and zoological. However, what kind of mythology are we talking about?
It is unlikely to find matches of the beast in embroidery, weaving, decorative painting interiors of buildings in the region of Kyiv-Polissia.
Perhaps the "birds of paradise" with their peacock tails on towels remotely reminiscent of flying fantasies.
Maybe, this is something old Ukrainian,reconstructions of Slavic pagan pantheon era. And even if you remember Teratology network of caps in the Middle Ages books, Medieval "bestiary" – still there is no recognizable connection.
And if you look for an explanation in depth, to antiquity?
It is unlikely that Maria Pryimachenkoin her youth, which accounted for 30 of the last century, read "Myths of Ancient Greece". However, I suspect something about chimeras, centaurs and sphinxes she must have heard.
Otherwise it would be difficult to explain how stubbornly then, in Kyiv Lavra workshops, in landscape format leaves she created images of creatures, which combine two or three natures. Even then, suffering effects of polio, she mostly fantasized about the wonderful symbiosis, where "animal" is framed with "vegetable" and creates a strong fantasy character.
Even then, her animals were not very peaceful. Although their rapine - bold nails, teeth, mouth with long tongues – were toned with lyrical and soft plastic decoration. It was in these kind of girlish shyness, not only modest size, but the coloring given talent where conditional "national" opposes to individual.
We remember that Greek mythology has demonstrated how the human fights animalistic heroically. Hercules tames three-headed dog Cerberus with snake and dragon heads. Perseus cuts off the head of the Gorgon Medusa with snakes instead of lush curls. Theseus kills the Minotaur, a man with a bull's head.
In this context Prymachenko’s world is full of tragedy, like any myth. However, in her visions of the beast, a version of the struggle between horror and beauty, there is no heroism, no pessimism.
Good monsters of imagination
Since the 1960s, when interest in her paintings in artistic circles in Kyiv not only returned, but turned into a constant support and communication material, she found the strength not only to create "large format" and in intensive colored background.
The widow, who survived the occupation, the shooting of her brother, a lonely upbringing of son, twenty years of artistic silence, devotes herself to drawing as possibility in disguised form "decorative", something subjective.
In national flower symbolism is not justa decoration. Pryimachenko knows it, because during her life she wore embroidered shirts not for show, but for every day.
However, she has not been tempted by the opportunity to transfer these principles in her works. Even drawing symmetrical pseudo-baroque bouquets and paintings of the 1970s have not taken her away from the main theme.
Everywhere we see the metamorphosis, side pots sprout from convex heads and studs birds' legs, poppy change to eyes, clusters of lilac dumped on corn cobs, and the snake's tail woven twigs or thistle or colored marigold.
Her animals are becoming more expressive, more plastic. Big teeth, widely opened mouths, long tongues, the ends of which may be a sting in the form of tiny flowers, tails… She played with them.
She overpowers them with major contrasting colors. She uses special effect of isolation the images from land. The images exist without time because where there is no physical gravity and no separation of day or season.
The beast and flower, bird and plant, insect and reptile, human mustache, eyebrows and even sunglasses – everything is dominated incessantly with symbiosis and transformation, blended and recombined.
Something more than the drawing paper
Approximately during the sixtieth, artist could understandher own strength.
Perhaps new quality of brushes and paints contributed into this. For now she is Shevchenko Prize laureate, whose works are regularly bought by museums and private individuals, she could use gouache many and various paints, sparing, including luminescent colors, mixing them and creating new intensity.
Her silhouettes are clear, individual elements are telling. Almost to the mid-1980s, she has been working towards consolidation, monumentality.
It is unfortunate that her strained composition sketches for murals were not included in the urban space, have not turned into animation.
It is a pity that no one asked her then to continue experimenting with ceramics, creating panels or trays of a different level. Brilliant ancient Greek artists would gladly have taken her to a circle.
Talent of Maria Prymachenko has filled the space with some flexible, melodic silhouettes of fantastic creatures, it could evolve into other formats and scales. And her illness would not stop her: Matisse painted Rozer chapel in Vence while being in a wheelchair.
But it had not happened.
Despite continued participation in exhibitions, Pryimachenko faced one-on-one the images that filled her. I believe that she refused to come to her personal exhibitions of the irresistible confidence, as well as she did not want to leave her native village when learned about the Chernobyl disaster.
This reluctance to become popular and public is noticeable in recent works. Mask of repressed sensuality ("brutal" means sexy as well), concealing something important from the Soviet censor (and decorative art has always been a front for criticism), contrasting sentimentality – all these features are gathered into "Prymachenko’s code".
Recognizable from the first moment and still undiscovered.
The irony of expressions and signatures for the work has not approached the audience to understanding of the images.
Monsters, with their impressive symbiosis of zoomorphic, must be overcome: Oedipus must uncover the riddle of the Sphinx.
In "Chernobyl series" artist used dark purple and black background, there are no plants, and animals are looking with a reproach.
Pryymachenko, Bilokur, and Frieda Kahlo
Why require large retrospective exhibitions, such as the one that is held in the Art Arsenal, are needed? When you see the entire length of the artist’s creativity, you see the whole drama of the artist.
The name of the current exhibition is "Boundless", it underscores the inability to freely interpret this phenomenon - Maria Prymachenko. Trying to show a chronology of her life during the Soviet era, certainly, is very commendable.
Maria cannot be compared with Frieda Kahlo or Kateryna Bilokur due to her unique talent.