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An interview with 20th century born artist Tatyana Palchuk

As an art critic my very first thought went like a merry-go-round when I saw Tatyana’s paintings!

Academic perfection of techniques, calculations and drawings can be related to Leonardo's and Michelangelo's, trained with renaissance perfection and expression of concept inspired from early Picasso, Miro and Dali. Well, this is the final art piece, it’s Tatyana’s painting. A lot to look at, a journey one must try to walk in and rejuvenate with these paintings.

A sense of peace, joy and aesthetic pleasure of the renaissance time period is felt along with the expressions of current time period.

Let’s explore more in this interview with mid 20th century born artist Tatyana Palchuk

Born on 6.12.1954 from Riga, Latvia, Europe.

Matured by looking and learning from the wealthiest cultural tradition of academic perfectionists. The figures, musical instruments, drapery, birds and animals, the objects, set perfectly in the background looks like a heavenly scene. Fresh color application of blue, yellow and red brings her modern renaissance style to reality.

You almost take the audience back and forth from Renaissance to Present time. How do you manage to create this balance between two totally different time periods? And do you find any similarities between these eras while painting, as they both are felt on the same canvas?

The Italian painters beginning with Giovanni Cimabue (1240-1302) up to Rafaello Sanzio (1483-1520) had always raised excitement as well as a sense of the deepest respect towards their creative work as I stood in front of their frescoes and paintings. The art of that period amazes and surprises me. It is very emotional, genuine, optimistic and contains enormous interest and curiosity in life. It is not just a simple reflection of life but more, the attitude and perception of life, it’s philosophy. It is turning to the very beginnings of humanity, of humans. This is the position that absolutely corresponds to my inner world although 800 years separate us. I receive natural excitement when I watch their pieces of art. I am not sure how consciously I transfer these feelings and emotions to my paintings.

And I am going to feel myself restless if I don’t admit the Northern Renaissance- the Dutch, Flemish and French painters. They differ from the painters of the Italian Renaissance, they are different, but as regards to the emotional impact on the viewers they stand next to each other.

It feels like your paintings have in born roots of renaissance techniques, skills, perfection and realism. Your painting process has been appreciated by numerous art critics, said to be very well graphed, and you find perfect faces just like Greek artists did followed by numerous drawings, and that you begin the painting in grayscale. So, what really is this highly skilled process? And how did you develop this?

I suppose work of the artist contains a huge percentage of craft. It is necessary to have skills and experience to work with paints, diluents etc. It is essential to have academic classical drawing skills. Without this skill , it is impossible to realize idea and concept. The idea which can appear absolutely from "nothing" out of wind; storm; sounds of music; a sunbeam; a pumpkin; a human face; out of something having been read or experienced before. Talking about the beginning: everything “boils‘’ in my head , after it is brought to paper - thus sketches appear , plenty of them as it is the real search for composition and as for me, it is the most important and the most difficult stage of the work. That is the so-called creative process, the way the idea releases through a shape.

In the period of Renaissance to create a fresco the artists created a drawing within the size one on one. The particular drawing was thought of and drawn in detail.

That is a fundamental method of my work as well. I find the necessary version of the composition on the paper and in the drawing. That is the drawing where everything is counted and measured up to a centimetre.

For me it does not matter what size or style of composition I make, what matters most is the drawing. I just love to draw, so lately I finish the drawing very seriously and often exhibit my drawings as completed graphical pieces. Such drawings exist only in one piece having no printing circulation. But in my mind , I see the painting in colors . At the end I just need to technically realize it using oil colours onto the linen canvas and finalize creating process and sign it .

You noticed it right ‘“the shade of grey”! The grey colour is rich in its shades: from warm to cold, shades of all rainbow colours are possible, tonal gradations as well. At the same time, it depicts and emphasizes all the other colours in a wonderful way not competing with them but working for them. I would award Oscar for this colour for the best acting as the second role player.

Tatyana your paintings are said to make people “feel a thousand emotions”. During the interview you talked about the power of strong emotion of music that makes you even cry, please share with us your emotions and how it works in your paintings and with the audience?

The words of Bernard Berenson (he was a famous American art historian specialized in the Renaissance) are very close to me. His famous quote: "Not what man knows but what man feels concerns art. All else is science". In my opinion where there is art, we can find feelings. But for me, music has been at first position out of all kinds of art. Sound has nothing of the material matter, it cannot be touched. But combination of particular vibrations affects me in a fantastic manner. Music opens the soul, shakes it up, calms it and then returns it back.

In childhood I had a teacher, Mrs. Karina Weber. (She gave private music lessons). I was not very good at playing piano. But then one day my teacher told me to love music, to feel, understand and perceive excitement out of it. With this understanding I used to play piano well and I am very grateful to have her as my soul teacher.

While working in my workshop there is music around all the time. What music? Any music that reflects in my soul. For instance, it can be Albinoni-Adagio for Organ and Strings; Joaquin Rodrigo -Concerto de Aranjues-2/ II. Adagio; Astor Piazzolla -Liger tango. It can also be Joe Bonamassa with Beth Hart- ‘’I’ll take care of you’’; Status Quo- ‘’In the army now’, etc.

In my latest figurative painting series ‘’Anthem to Creativity’’ and in ‘’Anthem of Joy’’ I try to convey the feel of music to the audience. It is like representing music that is intangible form of art through painting which can be very well seen and felt.

Born in 1954, in Mark Rothko's homeland, you have been in the art world for more than 60 years now. How do you see the changing art world now and since then?

I acquired academic skills at eighteen years of age. I began since I was 12 and till today I am learning: I study from the artists of the past, art history and from the nature. But now I am a teacher to myself , an art critic and a student for myself. Sometimes is not easy. The painting has to be carried – from the idea to the signature on the completed version. Creating a piece of art takes time, of course if there are symbols, thoughts and feelings brought in. The good technical accomplishment also takes time. Painting cannot be baked as a pie; it is not a race for speed as well. Haste is not welcomed here. To my mind contemporary fine art has, in a way, become more primitive. I have more questions than answers. Why do people so eagerly stand in queues in the Louvre, Museums, the Vatican? Why can’t I observe such a situation in the museums of modern art? I attend museums to feed my soul, heart and mind. For instance, in Padua, Oratorio di San Giorgio there is a fresco Crucifixion by the Italian artist Altichiero di Zevio (1330-1390) which according to an Italian art scientist Pietro Toesca (1877-1962) was considered to be “the main piece of art of the period of trecento. This building has almost no people in it. My husband and I have visited that place three times and every time we went there we were alone. Why?

It is really an ingenious piece of art. It is hard to tear your eyes off this fresco. On the way out you look back all the time. In the works of the artists of Renaissance you can feel a great amount of passion and love for what they were painting. And, of course, the great proficiency. Talented lovers of fine arts are able to feel it even at a subconscious level.

There have been very struggling time periods in your life, would like to share it with the audience? Do you think it has affected your paintings? If so, then in what ways?

That is absolutely right: there have been very complicated periods of life. I am ready to tell about some of them, but there are still some stories to be kept unsaid. When I was 9 years old, I lost my father, he was 49 years old and he had ill heart . Mother had to raise my oldest sister and me all by herself. We were very poor, I understood that after years, becoming an adult. Many people lived that way. That was the time when Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Russia. went on and I remember the time before the first art school examinations. My mother bought me real professional watercolors, a drawing album and painting brushes: that was a luxurious gift. My happiness was out of boundaries which I can quote as: " a bird willing to fly"

I professionally studied my craft for 18 years. When I chose my way, I had no idea how difficult it was going to be. Better possibilities were for communists and their friends. I had no one in my family to be related to soviet arts… so no acquaintances of that field in the soviet zone.

I didn’t know the situation in western Europe at that time. But in the Soviet occupation times it was necessary to have acquaintances within KP, KGB. I was rarely chosen to participate in exhibitions. My paintings were somehow never chosen for the exhibition during those days. Never knew why that was happening. I had a feeling of being a renegade person and this was mentally complicating my life. When, finally, Latvia regained its independence, everything changed. Private art galleries appeared and I could work and cooperate with them, but those were Russian art galleries so only Russian mass media wrote about me. From the side of the official Latvian art zone there was total silence. And only at the age of 60 my official anniversary exhibition was finally opened by the well-known, authoritative art scientist in the Baltic states and an associate professor of Latvia Academy of Art, head of the information centre Ingrid Burane. For the first time, in public she gave high and positive evaluation on my creative activity in front of the local Latvian audience. I was happy. Unfortunately, there are still two parallel kinds of audience in Latvia. Up to this day, when I have to answer the questions of the local spectators why they haven’t heard of me or read of me, I have nothing to answer. And this served as an impulse to be working, exhibited abroad, outside homeland. And what’s wonderful about this, is that I had success there from the international art specialists, gallerists and collectors. For me it is very important as they are high professionals and I don’t work in the field of mainstream. I am very grateful to them as they give me strength to continue to explore my own world.

My world is full of happiness as I have been doing a deed I love. I don’t know about tomorrow, but looking back to what I’ve already made, at the dawn of my 65th anniversary, I can honestly say: Tanya, you are a Good Girl. You are a good artist, not similar with anyone else!

But life's difficulties have had a great, positive impact on my life. I can cry a bit… and then happily go on.

We see constant representation of realistic birds, musical instruments, animals, still life and human figures in your paintings. What is the concept behind these representations? Do you mean to present personal emotions through these?

In my paintings you can observe things that I love, that I consider to be beautiful : nature, animals, vegetation; a human being itself as a part of nature; environment and objects made by a man. In one word, the world where all humans live in harmony being both the centre of the world and a small unit of all, a sand bit. But for the human being it is doomed to be conscious, feel and enjoy the beauty of the world. It is a unique quality, the gift of God. This is what I always try to say through my paintings that we are surrounded with a united world and a human being as a small unit of it, and I am a small mirror trying to represent and show this infinity.

You are recognized as one of the top female European artists, and the one to create her own style called “Modern Renaissance”. What is the story behind this whole new concept?

You are flattering me. As it is well said, all that is new is well-forgotten old. I paint as I wish, with absolute freedom. With the time I notice that my artistry style differs from the other artists, and at that period of my life (the age of 30) I was concerned and interested in this fact. I asked an art scientist of the modern times if there is anyone who has the same style. He answered that he does not know and isn’t informed about anyone who works the same like me. That made me upset. It is quite hard to be alone, it is easier to be within stream style, be a part of the mainstream. But that didn’t change my style, I just went on with evaluating and improving it, and I continued to paint the way I do. If we go back to the history of arts, we can observe periods of prosperity, eclipse and again the revival of arts. With this I mean the western Europe; from the ancient Greece art , the Roman empire, medieval Europe to nowadays. Even the ancient cave drawings are evaluated and admired by their unique realistic being.

My artistic style is realistic, and convincingly based on the traditions of Renaissance, and not just basing upon the exterior but what is the most important basing upon the position of my life: harmony of a man with the rest of the world; the world of nature and largely with the world of the space. It’s all that simple. The world is really beautiful and unique, all I need is just to perform it through my paintings.

How do you see the art market of today? Do you think there are some limitations for female artists to expand? Also do you see any changes in the scope for female artists to grow in this challenging environment?

For me the art market can be seen only with the small corner of my eyes. That is so big that I don’t understand it: to be precise, nothing is clear. Beginning with the pieces of art and ending with the prices. Mostly they are all questions with no responses, so nothing to be tensed about. And, do you know why I am able to afford such a position? Because my husband and producer Peter Rikans is involved into solving the problems related to art. He enables me to be involved only into the creative work, he protects my universe of art, as it is so easy to hurt the artist. He always informs me about the situation of the modern art. Being my art-agent he always says to me: “Tanya, the truth is that the world of art belongs to men, although there is so much of objective and subjective things in this”. He adds further about my problems with my promotion as an artist which I feel are true: "first you are from a small, poor and badly-known country. Second, You are a woman and third that you are alive."

And this makes us laugh because that is the truth. He is the owner of all my paintings. All began when he fell in love with my paintings and started to purchase them until one day he “purchased” me. One today's fairy novel. And very nice love story, hope with wonderful final.

What advice would you like to give to the young artists of today?

I am not certain if I’m allowed to give advice, but I can give it a try.

1.Go in for painting only if you truly love it.

2. Learn much and work hard.

3. Attend museums and let the eyes get accustomed to the best created by human civilization: fine art didn’t appear in the 20th century only.

4. Do not depend on the modern tendencies if they don’t respond to your comprehension and your conceptions of the world and art.

5. Do not be too serious about your success, but act lightly and with humour.

...But the main thing is: be yourself, take care of yourself and your kinsman, and be in good health and happy. One might wonder how Tatyana comes up with such deep thoughts of setting the beautiful background, elements and create this mood in the painting? Her tremendous talent makes the viewer walk into her painting, to feel the objects, the air of the weather, fragrance and positive aura inside. A lot to learn from! A true master of fine art from Latvia, from the land of Mark Rothko!

“We do justice to masterly artwork when it is placed in the right place, just like Monnalisa on the wall of the Louvre”.

Since a decade, Tatyana's paintings have made it's place at the auction houses. Her most recent sale at the auction was at Ravenel International Auction House's fall anniversary. The owner of Ravenel mentions that this day had a record-breaking outcome, both in record prices and overall performance. International art, including European art sold very well.

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