A unique figure in Ukrainian culture!
A unique figure in Ukrainian culture!
|Kriz tmu nevoli, tmu obludy
Bohy vyhodiat v svit, u ludy,
Z eskortom vishchykh obereh!
[Through darkness of deception and captivity
Gods come to world, to people
Escorted by prophetic amulets!]
Sevruk Halyna Sylvestrivna – sculptor-monumentalist, ceramist, graphic artist, painter, member of the Union of Artists of Ukraine, Honored Artist of Ukraine, winner of the V. Stus Ukrainian Association of Independent Creative Intelligentsia Award (1991), the Metropolitan A. Sheptytskyi Award (1994).
Halyna Sylvestrivna was born on May 18, 1929, in the city of Samarkand (Uzbekistan), where her family had been in forced emigration since 1920. Her father, Sylvestr Martynovych, was an architect, and her mother, Iryna Dmytrivna (of the Hryhorovych-Barskyi family), was a great connoisseur of art. (Hryhorovych-Barski – architects, builders, entrepreneurs of artistic porcelain. Vasyl Hryhorovych-Barskyi (1701–1747), a descendant of Barski who settled in Kyiv in Podil even under Hetman Khmelnytskyi, is known to the world as an Antiochian monk, traveler, philosopher, translator and historian. Thanks to cultural studies and sketches of this famous historian it was learned in Ukraine for the first time about the holy places of Europe, Asia and Africa, the features and inventions of foreign architects. His younger brother Ivan (1713–1785), a famous architect of the Ukrainian Baroque era, was distinguished by large-scale design thinking and refined aesthetic taste. According to his project, reconstruction works were carried out in 1748–1760 in St. Cyril’s Church, a monument of the 12th century, thanks to which the church acquired the features characteristic of the Ukrainian Baroque).
In 1930, Halyna Sevruk’s family moved to Ukraine (first to Kharkiv, and at the end of the war to Kyiv). After graduating from the Art School at the Kyiv State Art Institute in 1959, Halyna Sylvestrivna got a painter diploma. She refused to portray party figures, turning them into idols – she chose a decent way to find mental and artistic harmony. Her formation as a person was primarily due to her participation in the Kyiv Club of Creative Youth “Contemporary”, communication with those who are called non-conformist Sixtiers.
Since the 1960s, Sevruk has been looking for new ways in art. At the same time, along with her creative pursuits, she engaged in self-education: she studied the Ukrainian language, the history of Ukraine and Ukrainian art, read self-publishing books (samvydav), and works by banned Ukrainian writers. Halyna Sevruk stood at the sources of the Contemporary Creative Youth Club in Kyiv, took an active part in its events, including evenings dedicated to repressed writers, actors, artists (L. Kurbas, M. Kulish, V. Symonenko). I. Svitlychnyi, V. Symonenko, A. Horska, L. Semykina, V. Stus, E. Sverstiuk, V. Chornovil, I. Dziuba, V. Kushnir and others became her friends in the club.
Working in 1964–1985 in the ceramic workshop of the Academy of Architecture on the territory of the National Conservation Area “St. Sophia of Kyiv”, under the influence of the workshop head Nina Fedorova and her husband – art critic P. Musienko, she became devoted to the creative interests and ideals of Rozstriliane vidrodzhennia [the Executed Renaissance]. There she created the first ceramic work – “The Cry of Yaroslavna”. Together with O. Zalyvakha, A. Horska, L. Semykina and H. Zubchenko, in 1964, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Taras Shevchenko, she made sketches for a stained-glass window in the Red Building of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv – “Shevchenko. Mother”, framed by the line of the poet “I will glorify those little dumb slaves”. The stained- glass window was immediately destroyed, and the stele of H. Sevruk “The Tree of Life” was ruined.
Sevruk was one of those who signed a letter to the leaders of the Soviet and Party Bodies against the repression of the Russian and Ukrainian intelligentsia, known as “The Letter of Protest of 139” (1968). As a result, a “court” was organized in the Union of Artists of Ukraine – and those who did not intend to repent were expelled, including Halyna Sevruk. For a long time, she was deprived of the opportunity to work creatively. For 20 years, her works were not accepted at art exhibitions, were not presented in museums, and orders to be placed in cult educational institutions were banned.
From the late 1970s, Halyna Sevruk turned to work on monumental paintings. In 1990-2000 she conducted a ceramic studio at the Kyiv Artistic Creativity Center for Children and Youth.
Creative work of Halyna Sevruk includes two major mosaic compositions – “The Forest Song” (1963) and “The Lily” (1964-1965), numerous stelae, interior and exterior design of hotels, sculptural images of ancient Slavic gods, ceramic works on the themes of Kyivan Rus and the Cossack era, paintings, portraits of historical figures and contemporaries, in particular D. Baida-Vyshnevetskyi, I. Mazepa, B. Khmelnytskyi, M. Braichevskyi, A. Horskaia, I. Svitlychnyi and others. As a ceramist she worked on the motives of the old Ukrainian statehood and the heroism of the Cossack times, where the historicism of her art resonated with the works of S. Caraffa-Korbut.
Sevruk summarized the works dedicated to Kyivan Rus in the monumental high-relief panel “The City on Seven Hills”, which was presented on the wall of the Kyiv “Tourist” hotel, 1985 – 1987.
Recently, in 2020, during the renovation of this hotel, the panels were dismantled. At the suggestion of volunteers and with the consent of the administration of the National Conservation Area “St. Sophia of Kyiv” this work was moved to the building of the Consistory of the Sophia’s Architectural Ensemble. The composition will be placed on the wall of one of the best halls of the recently restored Consistory building.
Halyna Sevruk’s works are interesting psychological compositions that give an idea of human characters and moods. The artist pays the most close attention to extraordinary people, representatives of the elite: clergy, statesmen, artists, scientists, writers. A special page in the work of H. Sevruk was a series of “Cossack era” compositions designed in various guises to reveal the phenomenon of Cossack chivalry, which still reflects to us the true gold of true art. Portraits of historical figures made in the classical form, with heraldry sprinkling such as I. Bohun, D. Baida-Vyshnevetskyi, P. Doroshenko, S. Kishka, M. Kryvonis, S. Nalyvaiko, P. Sahaidachnyi, I. Sirko, B. Khmelnytskyi make the golden fund of Ukrainian art on historical themes. Her works include portraits of fellow Sixtiers, with whom she shared her destiny with dignity: here are the beautiful, independent, with a keen sense of self-worth Alla Horska, and the knight of the Sixtiers movement Ivan Svitlychnyi in the “cemetery of illusions”, tired but unconquered; and the suffering Nadiika Svitlychna – alone, among the snow-covered forest, barefoot, alarmed by the fate of her arrested brother and young son…
H. Sevruk also did not betray graphics and painting. These traditional techniques saved her when she needed to soothe pain and confusion, pour it out on paper or canvas. These are mostly philosophical works of the early period of creativity, among which the most expressive are the tragically painted canvases: “Broken Wings”, “Betrayal”, “Loneliness”, “Suffering”, “Father Is Going”, “On the Other Side” – written in the period when her father dies, they convey the drama of the finiteness of human life and at the same time reflections on the meaning of life.
Halina Sevruk’s art is a history of dynamic and creative thought, a significant layer of our artistic culture, where there is a place for sketes, ancient Rus architects, and glorious ancestors Hryhorovych-Barski. The artist’s works include more than 500 chamber ceramics on the history of Ukraine, more than 30 monumental ceramic panels in various architectural monuments of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Odessa, Alushta. Her works are known far beyond Ukraine. Honored Artist of Ukraine, exhibitor of all major Ukrainian museums, Halyna Sylvestrivna Sevruk is a unique figure of Ukrainian culture.
Prepared by Svitlana Moskalenko
Translated by Natalia Tymoshenko