Andrej Gavula – “as natural as mountain springs in the Carpathian forests”


In 2014, Daniela Kapralova,  a Rusyn photographer and a curator at Sninsky Kastiel in Snina, Slovakia, put together a little book about a woodcarver from Čabiny near Medzilaborce – Andrej Gavula. Beautiful photographs of the woodcarvings accompany her warm but erudite interpretation of the artist’s life and work.

Gavula has been carving for over 18 years. Even now, although his health prevents him from working on big pieces for too long, not a day goes by without him at least touching the wood. Kapralova writes: “Andrej Gavula has a God-given gift and an innate feeling for this natural medium… He perceives it as a living matter that he communicates with. He focuses all of his artistic efforts on capturing the authentic, everyday work of the villagers that is strongly connected to the nature and traditions. On many levels this authenticity reflects upon the artist himself, because he is part of that community. Gavula’s carving avoids unnecessary detail; it is restrained, sober and rhythmical. His artworks are as natural and pure as mountain springs in the Carpathian forests.”


Vladimir Dado Koljesar – with Kerestur in his heart

It was months ago that Gavra Koljesar, a former journalist from Novi Sad, Serbia, shared with me the works and the biography of his cousin, a Rusyn photojournalist, a documentary and a fine art photographer, Vladimir Dado Koljesar.

Koljesar was born in Novi Sad and lived in Ruski Kerestur his whole life. As a member of a club Druztvo, he supported the Rusyn language, culture and literature. He had five joint and seven solo exhibitions.

Vladimir was tightly connected to Kerestur, one of the oldest Rusyn towns. Gavra Koljesar writes: “Through his lens and on the film are captured the moments when Kerestur was happy and celebrating, but also when it was sad and crying.” No subject matter was too ordinary for him: plowing the field, fishing, Easter, school events, weddings, views of the nature… Koljesar was looking for poetry in the scenes around him, for simple, accessible, but innately beautiful rhymes that could be read and understood by everybody.

I think that Gavra is right to suggest that it was the two landmarks of Kerestur (the church and the castle, and their Rusyn-ness), which the artist saw growing up so readily from his house that unconsciously shaped his close relationship with the town. Being confronted with powerful testaments to faith, continuity and community reminds one about things that are larger than the self and towards those Koljesar was turning his lens.


Diana Guralev – a woman’s life

The Life Series was painted in 2012 and was inspired by a woman’s maturing – by her journey from childhood to adulthood, her self-search, questioning her identity and contemplating those life experiences that shape who she is. It is also about leaving home and coming back to it, leaving “the mother” and all that she stands for and an inevitable sense of loss that accompanies such journey.

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Andriy Khomyk – no room for mistakes

Time To Go Home by Andriy Khomyk. Source: Andriy Khomyk
Time To Go Home by Andriy Khomyk. Source: Andriy Khomyk Art

Andriy Khomyk was born in 1962 in Lviv, Ukraine, to Lemko parents who, as many others at that time, were forced off their lands and homes in Poland during “Akcja Visla.” He now lives in the United States and has been actively involved with Lemko organizations there. In 2014 he was elected the president of The Lemko Research Foundation.

Khomyk is a graphic artist and an illustrator, but his broader artistic effort is directed at preserving an old art form – reverse glass painting. This technique has been around for centuries, was widely used in medieval sacral art and can be found, for example, in Transylvanian Orthodox icons. Unlike a stained glass painting, a reverse glass painting does not need for the light to go through it (for viewing), but at it, and so it can hang on a wall. It is quite a demanding art form, especially when it comes to realism and correcting mistakes.

Khomyk’s body of works draws not only from the Ukrainian folklore and culture, but also dwells on more abstract themes, distant themes, and modern ones, flawlessly executed in styles that directly support the subject matter. His artworks are vibrant, loaded with atmosphere and color, and – they will surprise you with their boldness, detail and innovation.

Corryda by Andriy Khomyk Source: Andriy Khomyk Art
Corryda by Andriy Khomyk Source: Andriy Khomyk Art

Orest Dubay – a graphic artist

A Self-portrait by Orest Dubay
A self-portrait by Orest Dubay

Orest Dubay was born in 1919 in Velka Polana and passed away in 2005. He was one of the most distinguished painters and graphic artists of the 20th century, known in Slovakia and abroad. Together with Šafranko, Hapák and Milly he greatly contributed to the development of painting and graphic arts in the second half of the 20th century. Dubay is known especially for his woodcuts and linocuts that impress with their directness, yet that do not simplify the themes from the lives of ordinary people. In 1989 Dubay donated a large number of his works to The Museum of Humenne where a permanent exhibition was set up. Click here to see one of his etchings called The Partisan (“partisans” were volunteer men and women who were helping to fight the Nazi Germany in WW II; in Slovakia especially they were instrumental in freeing the country from the Nazi influence).