Heorhiy Yakutovych

When Ya Gallery Art Center started major research of Parajanov's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, the figure of film's art director Heorhiy Yakutovych grabbed our attention: the lack of knowledge about his artworks contradicts their cultural significance.

Exhibition Kyiv Ya Gallery Art Center

“Heorhiy Yakutovych and the Carpathians are inseparable. He loved these mountains, he loved the people of these mountains. He felt like he was his true self among them. To be a painter, hence also to be a human being, for him required to be amongst the life, in a space of his existence, in the Carpathians…"

Serhiy Yakutovych, son of Heorhiy Yakutovych

When Ya Gallery Art Center started major research of Parajanov's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, the figure of film's art director Heorhiy Yakutovych grabbed our attention: the lack of knowledge about his artworks contradicts their cultural significance. Yakutovych's works played a significant role in an exposition of the museum project Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. Exhibition demonstrated twice – this Spring in Kyiv at Mystetskyi Arsenal and in the Summer at Lviv Art Palace. A separate complex inspection of artist's works is the next step both in developing the modern view on Heorhiy Yakutovych's heritage and more general studies of Ukrainian graphics from the 60s to 80s.

An in-depth study of such a prolific artist would, of course, cover a great many issues. That is why the project doesn't end on the already existing exposition, in a way an introduction to understanding Heorhiy Yakutovych. The key to it is Hutsul culture itself, images of which spring up throughout the whole artistic life of the illustrator from Kyiv. He started to work in the Carpathian village of Dzembronia seasonally in 1952, and the first known works which explore Hutsulshchyna, a highland region in Western Ukraine, are the prints from 1959 and 19601. That's how Heorhiy Yakutovych's permeation into the artistic essence of the Carpathians has begun.

“After we practice first in an art school, then on our own, we often lose the feeling of immediate perception and become helpless en plein air. By working in cinematography I hoped to cleanse myself of the gained skills and rediscover the ability to interpret nature in art so truthfully, that a line, a spot, and a form, without any hesitation, will become one to reveal the music of the world," wrote Heorhiy Yakutovych about the filming of Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors in his essay Graphics and Film2. And this cleansing of his worked like a charm: after the shooting process, the painter starts to work on illustrating Kotsiubynsky's book by the same title as the film, fresh and full of vigour. The style and methods of Yakutovych change.

New works regarding Hutsul theme followed, the artist usually referred to fairy tales and stories. After 15–20 years Yakutovych again feels the need to renew his style and break down layers of technicalities that solidified over time. But this way round Heorhiy doesn't try to use cinematography as a mediator but immerses himself directly in Carpathian culture. It means, the People of Dzembronia Village series is the result of working with live, dynamic culture, as opposed to handling already existing, self-sustaining material given to you – the book. Once again, we witness the gasps of a completely new style being born.

These two examples (Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors and People of Dzembronia Village), as it might be expected, only slightly open the doors to the vast number of directions pursued by Heorhiy Yakutovych throughout his life. However, certain trends of his art universe become apparent even now – with turbulence and heterogeneity of Hutsulshchyna's culture and nature in their centre. His linocuts can be visually separated into different carving layers, though, still creating a coherent image – same as different personalities and natural images eventually appear before us in a form of sound culture.

Polina Limina

Translator Andrii Drahan

1. Colour linocut print “Listen, all good people, to what I have to say. . .", 1959; linocut print “Hutsul Woman", 1959; illustration for M. Bilyi and V. Hrabovetskyi's book “How Dovbush has been Punishing the Lords", 1960; linocut print “Arkan" (Ukrainian dance), 1960.

2. Yakutovych H. Graphics and Film / Heorhiy Yakutovych // From Art Experience of Soviet Painters. – Moscow : Soviet Painter, 1972. – p. 145–151.

3. Illustrations to Dmytro Pavlychko's tale “Gold-horned Deer", 1970; to Ivan Franko's story “Zakhar Berkut", 1972.


Years of life: 1930 – 2000.

Heorhiy Yakutovych is best known as a graphic designer and book illustrator. He returned epicness to Ukrainian engraving by addressing folk motifs. His participation in Shadows of
Forgotten Ancestors is not accidental: Yakutovych traveled to the Carpathians twice in 1952 and 1958. His PhD work was illustrated novel by Kotsiubynsky Fata Morgana. In 1963, he started working on the design of Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors novel. But after finishing merely three prints, he was invited to the film crew as art director. Yakutovych immediately agreed to the offer. Subsequently Parajanov remarked on Yakutovych's contribution: “He is not just an artist, but a thinking. Probably I could find someone more talented than him, but definitely not as thoughtful as him. He led us to the Carpathians as a guide. He saved us from falsehood." Yakutovych continued illustrating Kotsiubynsky's novel that he abandoned while working on the film. In 1967, the new edition of illustrated Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors was published. He often travelled back to the Carpathians and stop in the village Dzembronya, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, as could be traced by the Hutsul folk art in his works. In 1971, he worked with Ivan Mykolaichuk on Zakhar Berkut. This was the second job for Yakutovych in film production. He enriched his artistic arsenal with new plots ranging from the ancient Rus to the Ukrainian Cossacks and Gogolesque themes.

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