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Alexey Kulakov & Natalia Papirna

Alexey Kulakov & Natalia Papirna

The artwork of Alexei Kulakov and Natalya Papirna is a phenomenon of the contemporary painting of Ukraine. One can witness a so called "perplexity" that characterizes the art of nowadays. But understanding of the meaning of their creations and precise following of their manner of painting ruin this widely spread opinion. The Honored artists of Ukraine - Alexei Kulakov and Natalya Papirna - present themselves as two bright talents, whose destinies were interwisted in an artistic transport. Each artists manner is unique and at the same time includes all specific features of their fruitful cooperation.

Based on classic traditions, the work of A.Kulakov absorbs influences of other methods of painting, producing a highly individualistic style. This approach is sometimes determined as a synergic classicism. In his canvases the aspects of academic school are conveyed by powerful and dignified characters, preferable historical and battle pieces, and frequently used allegories.

Romantic spirit, that reveals itself in swift energy and sense of movement, -is also well determined in masters art pieces. It is especially noticeable in such works as "Chase" and "Horsewoman". In the "Chase" an impetuous run of horses and wolfhounds creates an illusion of movement in space, drawing this art piece close to those of kinetic art. Passionate fight with an unruly animal in the "Amazon" generates spiral movement of the image. An evident resonance of art-nouveau is reflected in "Sakura". But the masterpieces of A.Kulakov, whatever style or trend he would choose are always distinguished by monumental scale and grandiosity of design.

A.Kulakov s talent is most vividly expressed in his monumental canvases, of which the best are "Idols", "The Lay of Knyazh Igor", "Establishment of Ukrainian statehood", and, of course, "The Battle of Grunwald" (400x900). "Establishment of Ukrainian statehood" for which Alexei and Natalia were awarded the titles of the Honored artists, - is an apotheosis of national dignity and a portrait gallery of the statesmen of Ukraine, above whom the God's Grace is spread. An immense canvas of "The Battle of Grunwald" is a result of combined work of A.Kulakov and N.Papirna, with assistance of their children. The masterpiece was ordered by Poland for the anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald. It appeared to be a repetition of the art piece of the same name, created by Jan Matejko in 1878. A.Kulakov called this work a "conversation with Matejko" and an "enormous school" for himself. An expression and an active mimicry of personages, scrupulous study of the crowd, search of lively color and richness of details - that is what became the school of unsurpassed skill.

Monumental wall-paintings occupy a special place in the art work of the painters. Their talent is miraculously adaptable and easily accommodates to any task. The painting of the low-ceilinged Central hall of the Supreme Court of Ukraine was accomplished in the academic traditions. The whole building was restored in the style of national Ukrainian baroque, so the very task was to renew the plafond in the same artistic manner. Space of the picture filled with air and light, soaring figures and illusory architecture remind of the masters of monumental painting of 18-19 centuries. Interior painting of the wine cellar is particularly interesting: historical and national motives are combined with New Testament stories and mythological creatures. The painting melts into a brick background of the walls and is framed by decorative motives. Wall-paintings that one can observe in some private houses are distinguished by the richness of imagination and curiosity of design. Here, as in many easel works of the artists, are born architectural and landscape fantasies.

The artwork of A.Kulakov includes almost all the variety of genres. He is adored by the beauty and perfection of woman's body, singing this grace a hymn in his every masterpiece (in the painting and in the plafond "Muse", "Dancer", "Sakura", "Judith"). In such Kulakov's works as "Gopachok" and "Cossack Mamay" national motives are brightly reflected. Frankness of impression and freshness of the manner are conveyed in artists landscapes, what can perfectly be seen in such canvas as the "Summer". Luxurious still-lives with rich draperies are highly detailed - this is one of the main characterizing features of his art work in whole.

A.Kulakov stays in the circle of academic painting, but experiments with other artistic movements that wonderfully unite with his main style.

The canvases of Nataliya Papirna are distinguished by impetuous "woman like" manner. At the same time the artist tends to "play" with meanings, items, light, color, and outlines. Taking real images as a base, she transforms them, adapting to her artistic system. Composition of her works is similar to mosaic. The spectator seems to be invited to discover the thought-out still-lives step by step.

Papirna's works reveal the world of the theatre, with its action and charming play of life. Behind the masks and biting laughter, behind the doll's faces there is not a humorous scene, but a parody of peoples lives.

The theme of relationship between man and woman is often found in Natalia's artwork. This motive of two opposite beginnings and their unavoidable mergence gains ground in her many canvases. But every time this "co-existing" is presented as a particular situation or a particular type of relationship between these two origins.

A completely different approach can be observed in the other series of the painter. With the help of different artisticc means the author creates the world of high spirituality - "Search of the Truth", "Time Keeper", "Yellow Angel", "Under the Sign of Eternity". This is the other world - the world of Christian faith. There, all the creatures are almost disembodied, and free from their corporeal cover, they dissolve in the air, hardly touching the ground.

The canvas "Decameron" can be considered a significant mark of the certain period of the team-work of the artists.

Two masters, two powerful potentials, united together and thus provided an inexhaustible supply of energy for their artwork. An artistic imagination of each of them, combined with professional execution became a foundation for the birth of the most interesting manner. But their artistic tandem allows them to go even further and find new artistic approaches. For example, A.Kulakov makes papier-mache dolls and N.Papirna sews them. No wonder, that these childhood characters appear in the artwork of Kulakov. Though, as in N.Papirna's art pieces, their prototypes are taken from the grown up life: "Little Ballerina", "Lady with a Dog", "Venus".

A.Kulakov's and N.Papirna's individualities are so bright that they would be able to perform a perfect solo. But they appreciably enriched their art, having decided to sing a duet.

The artwork of Timofey Papirny, son of Natalya Papirna, absorbed all the achievements of the both painters, having discovered, at the same time, his own way of expressiveness: that is a homely corner of the house with all the objects on their common places. There is nothing in them that reminds of artificial composition and cold academic design. On the contrary, the arrangement of the items, that seems to be accidental, fills his still-lives with lively air and some "coziness".

The artist's "self-portrait" is quite peculiar - it presents a certain kind of reminiscence of the theme of the Dutch portrait of 16-17 cc.

There can be also determined a group of his works that reflect the aspects of life of a naked man's body. The rhythm of muscles and their movement create volume that transforms in some ideal mechanism. This period of his work is illustrated by such pieces as "Back", "Tired", "From black to black", etc.

T.Papirny works in various genres, but always leaves place for the play of imagination and subjective basis.

Ekaterina Goudze

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