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Cultural > Artists of Odessa

Artists of Odessa

Odessa artists group  

Light, Lucidity and Freedom

Victor Mariniuk,
"Slopes of Odessa", 1979,
Oil on Board, 37x47cm,
The city of Odessa is arguably the most important artistic centre in the Ukraine. Its landscape stands firmly within the artist's field of vision, transformed into a creative image by figurative experiment. Indeed, with its spectacular topography and pan-meditteranean, Odessa has long been an inspriation to the great painters, who exploit the bright sun filled colours of the Odessa landscape. Odessa painters are able to capture the purest elements of art, exploiting not just the airy brightness typical of the city but also the rectilinear and cursive shapes of rock formations along the shores of the Black Sea and even the expanse of the shoreline repeated in horizontal stripes on their canvasses.

The importance of light in their work can not be overstressed. The unique qualities of light on the Black Sea shore have caused artists working their to deploy a diversity of spacial solutions and to develop special notions of plasticity to convey volumes and outlines. Formal experiment with light developed during the 1970's in contrast to the deepening gloom of social reality and the slow decline of national consciousnes; the works of Odessa artists more and more are imbued with the strongest sensations of purifying, cleansing sunlight in all its depth. One Ukrainian painter in the 1970's defined her aesthetic credo as: 'light, lucidity and freedom'

Victor Mariniuk,
"The Flower", 1977

Oil on Canvas, 80x70cm,

The Specific Characteristics of The Odessa Group

There is a strong folkloric tendency in Odessa art and an awareness of the Black Sea's ancient cultures. One ritual characteristic is the ubiquitous female form. Totemistic 'stone women' are plentiful on the steppes of the Ukraine and in the museums of Odessa and contemporary Ukranian art reflects this. The woman is invoked to protect even the modern artist. She is the original source of life whether mother or mother-earth, both stone goddess and contemporary icon. The woman has become the symbol of a primeval deity, invoked to protect the work and lending it a spiritual (pre-Christian) intensity. She can be an angel, lover, mother-earth or goddess but always a woman.

Characteristically, Odessa art is non-literary and rejects narrative implication. These artists strive for the purity of the image, with an emphasis on decorativeness and on a specifically painterly professionalism. Formal experiment often leads to metaphysical flight and aesthetic rebellion is confined within the frame of the painting without reference to any social theories. There is an implicitly optimistic psyche motivating the creative energy of the artists. It is a psyche in which there is no room for fatalistic notions.

Whether in exile in Munich, New York or Washington, in internal exile in Moscow, or living in Odessa, these artists have remained true to their century-long traditions of formal pictorial experiment.

The artists of the Odessa Group:


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