Kyiv. Ya Gallery
"From the Roots"
15.03.2023 – 21.05.2023
How important can the material of an artwork be? When we talk about plaster, stone, patented bronze, or different approaches to ceramics, each of the mentioned materials has its own aesthetic value and formal and conceptual significance. But these materials are not alive. They do not grow, and the body of the work is either formed by the artist's hands or carved out of the cold depths. Wood, on the other hand, is a special material that has been used in sculpture since the beginning of history. From ancient Egypt to medieval carved altarpieces and church sculpture to contemporary art, wood has always had a life before and after being sculpted from it. The wood twisted, it cracked, insects gnawed at it, it absorbed or released moisture, causing the paint to peel, and it burned in fires in a matter of minutes. But all these risks did not stop sculptors from creating wooden sculptures. And even the understanding that all wood eventually rots did not scare the masters before eternity.
To this day, few pieces of intact wood have survived in sculptural works, but there are countless pieces of damaged wood that create a special charm that time and conditions have added. When you examine an ancient wooden sculpture, it is precisely this mark that is a significant part of the emotions of contemplating the work.
Contemporary art has reinterpreted the meaning of the material, and since the times of avant-garde artistic experiments, wood has become rougher and more powerful. Abstract, almost ritualistic wooden sculptures by Romanian-French artist Constantin Brancusi; monumental panels by American artist Louise Nevelson, born in Kyiv; works by American minimalist Carl Andre; Italian artist and representative of Poor Art Giuseppe Penone, who chose wood as the main theme of his work; and the rough texture and polychromy of German artist Georg Baselitz continued the life of wood in art. And even the emergence of contemporary technology and materials has not displaced it from sculpture and objects. In Ukraine, a new approach to the material was demonstrated by Mykola Malyshko, who realized his iconic cycles and series of sculptures of the last three decades precisely in wood.
Can wood dictate to an artist what and how to do? The exhibition From the Roots by Volodymyr Semkiv demonstrates this to some extent. The artist follows the tree and its shape and peculiarities to express them and incorporate them into the theme of his work. The rough, seemingly unfinished preparatory gesture becomes a feature of technical execution, and the chainsaw is perhaps the only tool of the artist. Different scales of predominantly anthropomorphic sculpture and clear action and gesture are laid in the form and name of each work. The sculptor has recently discovered wood as a material. But at last year's exhibition New Lviv Sculpture at the Lviv Art Center Ya Gallery, he showed part of his fresh works, united precisely by the material, and continues to work in this direction for his first solo exhibition in Kyiv.
Preparing for the exposition, we went with Volodymyr to his workshop, 50 km from Lviv in his native village of Prybuzhany in the Kamianka-Buzka district. It was there that he first showed his work on the sculpture Roots, which was suspended on chains in a large room where the artist worked.
Semkiv knows when to stop. His wood is fresh, rough, and at the same time tender. He works with lime, which darkens over time. He creates his recognizable approach to sculpture, clearly feeling the material body of the work.
Simultaneously, Volodymyr is a representative of the Lviv Sculpture School, but he goes against its past and forms contemporary approaches to demonstrate openness and changes the standards in the contemporary understanding of Ukrainian sculpture.