Tag: carpatho-rusyn iconograpy

Jerzy Nowosielski – “painting is a sacred act”

When researching Jerzy Nowosielski, I suddenly wasn’t certain which type of works of this world-renowned Lemko painter and historian I should show you in this post. The highly abstract nudes or the biblical scenes?

His devout faith lead him to creating icons and religious paintings for churches in Poland, his strong ties to the Lemko region informed his creativity through and through. His secular art is intense and bold in color, subject matter and composition – and I came across some pretty heavy-worded and quite contradictory interpretations of his works. It always makes me wonder how much of such analyses the artist really intended. His religious pieces are without any pretension or conspicuous elaborateness. The figures tend to stand against plain backgrounds and all the focus is on them – on their interaction, or distance, their facial expressions, if any, and the effect of the dominant colors.

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“Just look at my paintings” – Volodymyr Pavlyshyn

It happens here and there that an artist themselves contacts me and that makes my researching work less of a research. I am lucky if I can get to know the artist through the things they say to me, through the way they respond – or don’t. It was back in April that I became aware of Volodymyr Pavlyshyn from Uzhgorod, Ukraine. When I asked him whether he had any Rusyn roots, he was very clear about it:

“I was born here. My whole work is infused by the history of my people. Look at my paintings.”

So I did. And I thought how powerfully he expressed it, both in words and in colors. I was captivated by that recurring shape of a woman who seemed one and the same to me, emerging from the blots of colors applied in such a controlled and determined manner that looking at them for longer than a glimpse revealed this whole living world. And whether it was an angel, Virgin Mary, or a woman,  Pavlyshyn revived in modern terms the features of the 16th century Carpathian Madonna, who, with her sad expression, tilted head and a tiny Jesus in her arms, became emblematic of the Rusyn iconography. Executed with a knowing tenderness and using contemporary techniques, Pavlyshyn achieves a deep fusion of the past and present, gently playing off of their contrasts.


Thoughts from the trip

I asked a wonderful RusynArt fan, Marjorie Markusen, to summarize her recent experience at Studium Carpatho-Ruthernorium when it comes to art. She was only too kind to do that for us so enjoy her input:

Source: Courtesy of Marjorie Markusen

“My daughter, Jessica and I had the opportunity to travel to Poland and Slovakia during the month of June. We were there for over four weeks. Three of those weeks were spent living in Presov, Slovakia where we attending the 4th Annual Studium Carpatho-Ruthernorium. This is a summer school program where we studied the language, culture, folklore and history of the Rusyn people. We enjoy our time there so much and met so many wonderful people from the United States, Slovakia, Poland and the Ukraine. It was so wonderful to share this experience with my daughter.

My maternal grandparents came to the United States (Minnesota) in 1903 from the villages of Stebnik and Chmelova (Komlosa), Slovakia. We had the opportunity to spend time in those villages and we met so many relatives. It was a life changing experience for us. 

Poland and Slovakia are beautiful! We had the chance to experience not only the visual arts but also folk music and, dance. We attended the folk festival in Svidnik and Presov. We enjoyed hearing folk music in Kurov, Presov and in Stebnik. Those tunes will be forever with us!

We especially enjoyed seeing all the beautiful Wooden Churches, and other churches and cathedrals, with their beautiful artwork and icons. We went to the Icon Museum in Bardejov and were overwhelmed by the lovely icons. They are so beautiful!

We spent some time at the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art in Medzilaborce, Slovakia. It was very interesting to see the art in this special place. 

We saw some work by local artists but didn’t have the opportunity to see as much as we would have liked. Although, we did have the chance to see a potter work at the Spis Castle. Next time we are back in that area we hope to witness more of local folk art.

We know that we will go back to Slovakia and Poland some day. It is forever in our hearts and we are so proud of our Rusyn heritage.”

Written by: Marjorie Markusen

Yosyp Bokshai – “I am and will remain a Rusyn”

Well, there is very little I can say after quoting the title of Bokshai’s first triptych of canvases. And he meant it. Writing about him puts us back to the beginnings of the Rusyn “Barbizon” in the early 20th century, now considered a classical period of Carpatho-Rusyn art. Bokshai was devoted to his homeland and his artwork shows the depth of that commitment. He was one of the founders of the Transcarpathian School of Painting and the Public School of Painting, training younger generations and giving a distinctive direction to Carpatho-Rusyn art.

Bokshay has a great online presence so you can find his works easily. I picked The Castle in Uzhhorod for its almost metallic quality, a modest color palette, gorgeous play of twilight against the castle walls, and, well, because I am intrigued by castles in general so – forgive me.

The Castle in Uzhorod (1962) by Iosyp Bokshai
Source: http://www.artfact.com/auction-lot/castle-in-uzhgorod-204-c-5942119f0a

What I did have trouble finding was his altarpieces and frescoes, although he decorated numerous churches in Transcarpathia. I found one photograph from a Greek Catholic Church in Uzhhorod – his ceiling fresco, and a very important one, too – The Exaltation of the Life-Giving Cross from 1939.

Exaltation of the Life-Giving Cross (1939) by Iosyp Bokshai
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Uzhgorod_Greek_Catholic_church_Kapitul’na_Geom_11-3.jpg

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.