Byzantine-style icons hiding in the architectural treasures

My short post on this church on Facebook reached over 500 people and received over 20 likes within some 48 hours. I feel that the reason for this is very simple. One of the two singular aspects of being Carpatho-Rusyn is religion, the other is the Rusyn language. Both came under so much trial throughout the long Rusyn history that it is remarkable they were able to survive, repeatedly revived during different cultural “renaissances” in countries where Rusyns have lived.

A church like this one, dedicated to Archangel Michael in Uličské Krivé from 1718, is not the only one. Historically, there have been around 300 churches in Slovakia of this architectural style – only wood and no nails, with Byzantine and Roman stylistic elements, dating from 16th to 18th century. Today 50 of these churches remain, the richest group being the group of churches of the Eastern Christian rite in eastern Slovakia. All these churches contain impressive Byzantine iconography and most of them are still in use for daily masses and holidays. To enter a church like that is to enter a place where yesterday meets today.

Miro Potoma – a follower of the naive art tradition

For this post I had to delve a little into new art terminology. One of the contemporary Rusyn artists from Strocin, Slovakia, Miroslav Potoma, now 55 years old, is an artist whose most fruitful creative years have been marked by a tendency towards naive art (pioneered by Henry Rousseau). The term itself should not be read as childish and immature, but rather as innately genuine, native and natural.

The Village of Korejovce by Miroslav Potoma. Source: Miroslav Potoma Website
The Village of Korejovce by Miroslav Potoma. Source: Miroslav Potoma Website

Potoma’s passion for painting developed in his early years and he’s now an internationally known and award-winning artist specializing in landscape painting using different media – lino-cut, oil, pastel, drawing. He’s still living and working right there in his homeland so if you are looking for something authentic through and through, something that will bring out the magic of your Rusyn traditions and half-forgotten childhood memories, his paintings are it.

Biljana Roman – an art teacher with a surprise

I was very happy to open my inbox the other day and find a treasure in the spam folder – it does not happen very often, now, does it?  Biljana Roman from Ruski Kerestur, Serbia, sent me samples of her very original artwork – designs from textile, or better yet – fiber designs. You can click here to read the full descriptions of the creative process of my two personal favorites and to see more.

You will find out that her creations seem weightless and fluffy, as if floating in space unsupported. I just want to point out that when I first laid my eyes on them, I felt that the sheer physicality was taken apart and down to the finest and tiniest fibers and then recreated in something surprising. Yes, it is a miniature pillow, but I can’t deny I see life pumping through the veins and arteries. Was it intentional? Very intriguing!

Coutesy of Biljana Roman

The piece below, titled Unfolding, raises more questions than it answers. Myriads of tiny threads float around two almost identical shapes that remind me of lungs, to be sure, and that, for some reason, make me take a breath every time I look at them.

Courtesy of Biljana Roman

Biljana has exhibited solo and collectively over fourty times in Novi Sad, Subotica, Belgrade, Krinjica (Poland), Presov (Slovakia). She does illustration, painting, drawing, set design, and has worked full-time as an art teacher in the Elementary and High School Petro Kuzmjak since 2006.

Source: Courtesy of Biljana Roman

Dezider Milly – a big artist from a tiny village

Dezider Milly was a Rusyn artist born in Kyjov, in the district of Stara Lubovna in eastern Slovakia. He achieved the status of a nationally recognized artist. As you can see, his style was unique (the painting On the Way From Work gives the viewers a feeling of being unfinished, yet it has enough to present the subject matter in a satisfactory way), and already as a graduate he was critically acclaimed. One of his lovely fairy-tale like landscapes was used for a stamp in 2006. For more information on this re-known artist, visit this link.

On the Way from Work (1956) by Dezider MillySource:
On the Way from Work (1956) by Dezider Milly
Source: Web Umenia
The landscape that made it into a 2006 stamp
The landscape that made it into a 2006 stamp
The 2006 stamp

Andriy Kotska – a sensitive observer

Karpat Art offers a great variety of works by Transcarpathian visual artists, past and present. I greatly encourage you to explore its galleries in order to experience the spirit of the Carpathian land through the collection of the artworks they hold. Here is a portrait by Andriy Kotska, an Uzhorod native, of a girl in a traditional dress. The immediacy of the hasty brushstrokes brings the viewer right into her presence, and the light illuminating her face and highlighting the whites adds to the feeling of festivity and hope.

Girl from Kolochava 1952 by Andriy Kotska