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Serhiy Zhyvotkov. Postlude
August 1, 2023 - September 11, 2023
Serhiy Zhyvotkov (1961-2000) was a Ukrainian artist and an unmatched master of painting, belonging to the turbulent generation of Ukrainian artists in the 1980s and 1990s. Despite the psychological and sociocultural metamorphoses that occurred in society during that time, vividly reflected in the works of his fellow artists, Serhiy Zhyvotkov remained true to painterly asceticism, the harmonious palette of early Renaissance masters, lyrical depth, and meditative artistic process. Serhiy skillfully combined technical mastery inherited from his father, the academic artist Oleg Zhyvotkov, with refined formal experiments akin to non-figurative art.
The corpus of his works consists of austere landscapes, mostly leading to or chromatically perfected figurative compositions, rich in literary, philosophical, and cultural references, primarily of biblical origin. The exhibition “Postlude” presents works that are part of the “Biblical Series” (1990-1998), where the artist seems to engage in a simultaneous dialogue with the Florentine painter Cimabue and the anonymous master of the Icon of the Mother of God of Kholm. According to the doctor of philosophical sciences, Olha Petrova, this is an “artistic conversation of the artist with archetypes.”
Small compositions such as “Crucifixion,” “Madonna,” and “Assumption,” framed solemnly by the artist, are intimate, resembling domestic icons or altar paintings, while the monumental “Last Supper” is akin to a fresco. The painting “Death of St. Francis” surprises with its unexpected choice of subject, as scenes from the life of this Catholic saint are quite unusual in Ukrainian art. It is likely that the patron of the most ascetic Christian order became an ideal embodiment of Serhiy Zhyvotkov’s painterly asceticism.
In the work “Ancient Motif,” against the backdrop of a ghostly city, generalized, pillar-like figures move in a Giottosque manner, distinguished by glowing halos. Who are they? Where are they going? It remains a mystery. Olha Petrova aptly notes: “The aura of Serhiy Zhyvotkov’s canvases, for those who possess the culture of contemplation, leads to the most secret: it offers insight into the subconscious of the artist, into the peculiar state of his illuminated soul, impressed by beauty. In the silent stillness of his paintings, one can feel the magic of mystery, enigma, and unresolved anxiety.”
In classical music, a postlude is akin to an epilogue in literature. It embodies finality, the approach of the end of the service, and the return to mundane reality. Serhiy Zhyvotkov’s life tragically ended in 2000, on the threshold of a new millennium. Without having the chance to say his postscript, the artist left in his canvases a memory of lost romance, poetry, and elegiac reflections in our critically tuned world. The exhibition “Postlude,” like the final reflections after reading a profound literary work, carries a gentle sadness and contemplation, paying tribute to the artist’s creative path and his service to art.
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