Keep the Roots by Alexander Zhyvotkov at YermilovCentre

Alexander Zhyvotkov could have emerged as an artist only in Ukraine at the brink of the centuries. His distinct and expressive art pieces could only be compared to the archaeological layers of artefacts unearthed in the Great Meadow. Zhyvotkov’s creative effort combines elements of European and Asian heritage and could be compared to the process when the remnants of different cultures intertwine and mix together in the course history. Long forgotten religious idols of the Polovtsy nomads, Tripillya pottery, and Ukrainian folk icons; wall paintings in the early Christian catacombs and Fayum portraits; Georgian stelae and Tibetan manuscripts – all of these come together in Zhyvotkov’s multi-layered artwork. The artist able to combine cultural heritage in such a manner must be well versed in the modernist tradition of the XX century. Zhyvotkov’s artwork does not just merely copy archaeological artefacts. He re-interprets the archaic language of expression through coarse lines, dimmed colours, and sensuous recognisable shapes, which include the dove, female form, circle, tree, and the cross. He takes the path of interpretation – just like Giacometti was inspired by the Egyptian sculpture and Picasso and Modigliani by the African art.

The Stedley Art Foundation presents Alexander Zhyvotkov’s Project – Keep the Roots; where the artist creatively re-interprets and examines ancient cultural symbols and as a result they suddenly become relevant to the life we live today while keeping their ancient meaning. The artwork created in the last five years – which was a tremendously intense creative period in the artist’s rich and varied life, was used as the basis for the project. This period could be broadly defined as the Wood and Stone Period. In his artistic search Zhyvotkov has acquired enough confidence and creative freedom to forego oil and canvas – the mundane standard mediums of expression, which are as reliable as they are limiting and debilitating to the artist in his expression and to the spectator in his perception. At the first glance Zhyvotkov’s attraction lies in his use of the artistic medium, usually the artist would utilise large oak boards and not even stone but lumps of untreated rock. But as you move closer, your gaze looks past that because the raw material becomes a sturdy foundation for Zhyvotkov’s unique tangible language of expression; which once again confirms the idea that the medium is secondary to the artist’s will to create.

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