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8 February, 2013  ▪  Спілкувалася: Bohdan Butkevych

A Gallery of Inspiration

Pavlo Hudimov talks about popular artists, the change in the cultural vector and why Ukrainians don’t understand contemporary art

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, his name was a symbol of avant-garde music, even if often used with a “pop” prefix, as one of Okean Elzy’s cornerstones. Since the mid-2000s, his name has been associated with avant-garde art as he became one of the best-known art and gallery curators in Ukraine. Pavlo Hudimov is a type of a kulturtrager who keeps working on his initiative with impressive enthusiasm despite the lack of any government support, poorly developed art patronage and the total vulgarization of public space.  

The distance between art and people should gradually close. This is my function as a curator and the function of every artist. Why are we afraid of art? Because we don’t understand it. And we aggressively try to push away that which we don’t understand. This is actually the homo sovieticus syndrome that still runs through our veins. It has pushed, and continues to push people away from art, but this does not mean that it’s impossible to close the distance.

There are two formulas for cooperation between the government and art. The first is the American one, where the government simply does not interfere. The most it can do is to support art funds, while most museums and galleries are privately-owned. Of course, there is a certain national inventory of artwork but it’s not overwhelming. The second formula is French where almost everything related to culture is funded by the government. Ukraine is currently using a pseudo-American model where all major art pieces are from private collections, while the government is supposed to be in charge of storing these treasures in museums. In fact, though, it’s time to admit that art cannot exist without government support, despite long-standing stereotypes. The government has to use the cultural factor to persuade the world that Ukraine is not a third-world country with an obscure past and an even more obscure future.

Ukrainian artists have learned to create significant art happenings on their own. This is the model of how a culture-oriented civil society begins to act. There were several events last year that confirm this and give hope. For instance, the Independent project at Art Arsenal, dedicated to Independence Day. It’s cool that they did it all without embroidered shirts and boasting about agricultural achievements. Another example is GogolFest that took place in 2012 without the involvement of sponsors, let alone the government. And the Louvre exhibited sculptures by the Lviv sculptor Johann George Pinsel. Yes, we are very different from other countries in terms of art, but that doesn’t mean that we are lagging behind, no matter what the stereotypes are. Moreover, the young generation of Ukrainian artists is very inspiring. They are now 20 to 30 years old, proactive, professional, ambitious and bold – in a good way. 

I try to assess Ukrainian art and artists based on international criteria. I’ve traveled the world a lot and talked to professionals in order to be able to do so. This experience helps me a lot in my work. That’s why the artists who end up at the Ya Gallery are globally-oriented, so to speak. 

The art-oriented part of society constitutes only 3-5%, even in super-developed countries. These are people who regularly go to art exhibitions and museums. Of course, there should also be respected average people who come home every day, sit down and eat what they are given – both in terms of food, and in terms of culture. But they are not the proactive and biting intelligentsia capable of changing society. Ukraine does not even have half a percent of such people. Whoever wants to get out of this mass does not have to be a millionaire or an oligarch. It is necessary to stop being an inert object of manipulation and start all over again, in a different way, to live consciously, move and communicate.

INTO THE FUTURE – FREE OF CHARGE

A pool of art promoters and curators cannot be created artificially. On the one hand, you have to take people and train them whenever there is a deficit of professionals on the market. But the question is - who should do this? The government? On the other hand, why do we need some Arts Academy to produce 200 curators annually who will then stand in lines to get a job as a PR manager in a company that has nothing to do with art? I would like to say that if someone wants to be an art curator, he/she has to begin by becoming fully integrated in this sphere. It is impossible to train a curator – he/she can only be cultivated. Again, I think the entire focus must be on the younger generation. They should not be forced to follow a preliminary schedule. They should develop their own language that will definitely be different from mine, for instance.

Art is not a market product. I remember the idea of art banking that was popular among the wealthy before the 2008 crisis. They wanted to set up sort of trusts to buy up artwork and resell it at prices that are ten times higher. I told them that art will take vengeance for this. Such a system is unreliable and fake. Since we’re talking about artists whose future will only be clear in 20-30 years, results cannot be predicted. This means that you have to incorporate yourself in this environment. And you will inevitably lose if you buy up artwork to simply sell it. A business-oriented mind cannot grasp the purpose of making art. This is why we don’t charge an entrance fee at Ya Gallery. In my opinion, even a minimum charge would discourage people who cannot afford to pay. Actually, you have to give something before you get something back.  

An artist should not be a promoter. You don’t necessarily need to graduate from an arts academy to become an artist. Artists live with their art even if they have no food or home at a specific time. Most artists I work with are still artists, meaning creative people who do not work to earn an immediate profit or transform their art into money. They want to do something edgy and independent. They appreciate the cultural rather than the commercial component of art. Modern Ukrainian artists do not have a guaranteed income, exhibits, auctions, and so on. This is why Ukrainian modern art will be studied in great detail by art critics in many years, because the commercial factor did not play a part in its creation – neither in the past, nor today. In other words, it’s real.   

It takes 100 years to achieve real art. Okay, time is denser now, so let’s say 20 years. Time puts many things in their places. Ukrainian society is not yet educated enough to accept contemporary art. Look how pieces from the 1990s are now reaching the public, which is finally beginning to partly understand and accept them. But at the time of their creation, no-one understood the artwork, although it is the same now as it was then.  

THE ART OF INNUENDO

Art is a spice added to life. Without art, you can’t really experience existence in full. This is why it cannot be for everybody, or it will turn into a fast food. When art “for everyone” emerges, it immediately turns into social realism or some other totalitarian form. But art, albeit on the level of innuendos, is a true portrait of the essence of a country, rather than some abstract notion or a dream of a lonely intellectual.

It is more likely that the grandchildren of an avant-garde artist will get his dividends, rather than the artist him-/herself. Somehow, artists who were outsiders in their time, such as Goya, Bosch or van Gogh, have become major players, the symbols of their epochs. The fact that the artist’s generation does not understand his/her art does not mean anything. Meanwhile, fashionable “art artisans” – of which there are plenty in any epoch – are quickly forgotten. Those who remain in history were largely unsuccessful during their lifetime.

Art has the right to speculate. An artist using the language of the body, explicitness, provocation, kitsch and even pornography, cannot be judged as immoral and deleted from art history. The West and Europe are going through difficult times in terms of finding a moral standard – the process often turns into a trivial witch-hunt. The widespread tendency today is to simply attack the art that people don’t understand. In this sense, the situation in Ukraine is much better as compared to that in Russia, where art curators are simply imprisoned. 

At the turn of the millennium, the vector of cultural development changed. The 20th century seemed to have had it all, from puritan burnings to sexual revolution and degenerative art. That’s why everything seems sort of undefined today. And there is no empire to take over as a cultural leader, such as Austria did in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and France in the 1920s. The UK is using its art legacy extremely effectively to increase public revenues – only they know how to sell their artwork, books, movies and music so efficiently. But there is nothing new about it, and effective development is impossible without this spark of innovation. Much has been expected of China, which is once again developing its grand empire, but its artwork is not good enough to become a global leader. Therefore today, the contemporary art vector is best represented as a question mark.

BIO

Pavlo Hudimov is a musician, the curator of Ukrainian and international art projects, as well as a gallery owner. Born on 12 October 1973 in Lviv, Pavlo started playing music in 1991. His first band was called Klan Tyshi (the Clan of Silence). In 1994-2005, he was a guitarist in Okean Elzy. In 1998, Pavlo moved to Kyiv with the band. After he left Okean Elzy in 2005, Pavlo established his own band called Hudimov. In April 2007 he started the Hudimov Art Project, a cultural holding that includes ArtBook publishing house, Aktsent creative group, Ya Design architectural bureau, and Ya Gallery art centre.

The selected projects of Ya Gallery

Folk, contemporary. The project draws parallels and oppositions between naïve folk art and contemporary Ukrainian art.

Lobotomy. Artists Ihor Yanovych and Anton Lohov worked on the project together in spite of a 40-year age gap.

Dialogue. Abstract paintings by Ihor Yanovych interact with sacral wooden sculptures from the 18th-19th centuries.

I Feel! An activation project - an attempt to go beyond purely visual art and involve music as a fully-fledged element of an art exhibit.

Kill Photography. A radical upgrade of documentary photography through transformation into an autonomous piece of art using an artist’s tools.

Abstract Vision Test. A test is proposed to the viewer, to see whether he/she is capable of seeing the abstract in reality.

The Land. The model of the Cherkasy Oblast Art Museum became the basis for a game with the classification and location of exhibits. 


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