Remember life: a retrospective exhibition of Olena Ovchinnikova is being shown in the capital


For the first time in the last thirty years, the famous diaspora artist presented her works of art created in Ukraine and in emigration to the USA in her homeland.

Recently, a new art project “Memento Vitae” began at the Museum of the Ukrainian Diaspora.

The exhibition includes more than 50 works belonging to various periods of her work from the late 1950s to the present day. These are paintings, watercolors, prints and book graphics.

Hanna Starostenko, deputy head of the KMDA, was present at the opening of the exhibition. She noted that the opening of Olena Ovchinnikova’s exhibition is a landmark event in the artistic life of Ukraine.

Hanna Starostenko and Oksana Pidsukha at the opening of the exposition. Photo: Oleksiy Samsonov

We are opening an art exhibition of Olena Ovchinnikova, a Kyivan who was born and worked here for many years. And even now, living abroad for a long time, she gives us her beautiful works of art. The subject matter of her works is very relevant and resonates in the heart of every Ukrainian.”– she emphasized Anna Starostenko.

Oksana Pidsukha, director of the Museum of the Ukrainian Diaspora and curator of the exhibition, noted that the work of this incredibly bright and talented artist continues to enrich modern Ukrainian culture. Therefore, the current art project is a kind of dedication to the 87-year-old artist, who has been living in the United States for more than 20 years.

A series of illustrations for the Decameron. Photo: Oleksiy Samsonov

“Pthe project aims to rediscover a unique Ukrainian artist, underestimated and still almost unknown in her homeland, to write her name and creative heritage in the annals of the national revival of Ukrainian art, which went down in history as the “sixties” movement– remarked the curator of the exhibition, an art critic Oksana Pidsukha.

More than 50 works of the artist are presented in the exhibition. Photo: Oleksiy Samsonov

The retrospective exhibition covers various creative periods of the artist. The earliest of the presented works of the artist is a series of linocuts “People from Verkhovyna” (1959-1960).

According to the artist’s recollections, she created these works while studying at the Kyiv Art Institute. During the summer holidays, she discovered for herself in the Carpathian mountains the hitherto unexplored world of ancient Ukrainian traditions, experiencing the depth of the Ukrainian soul, the beauty of folk life, which later found its masterful embodiment in her work.

The exhibition also displays a number of works inspired by the ancient village of Halepya, near Tripillia, and its inhabitants. Local residents became the heroes of her works “Boar”, “Morning Bazaar” series “Small Pebbles”, 1987), “Holiday Shirts for Ten Sons”, “Farewell to Halep” and others.

For the first time, visitors can see two sketches by Olena Ovchinnikova for the mural of the Kyiv Intourist hotel, created in the 1990s. According to the artist’s recollections, Polish architects were working on the project, so she decided to create two equal-sized dancing extravaganzas in color — the Ukrainian hopak and the Polish Krakowiak. So, on a blue background, Ukrainian boys and girls were circling in a whirlwind, and on the opposite side, Polish noblemen were dancing on a golden background.

Unfortunately, the mural was soon lost, and only a few photographs and watercolor sketches remain of it.

The culmination of the exhibition is the “Decameron” series, created by Olena Ovchinnikova already in exile. Work on the graphic series, which consists of 13 illustrations, lasted from 2008-2020. Recently, these works were added to the collection of the Museum of the Ukrainian Diaspora in Kyiv.

The exposition presents works from the Museum’s collection and private collections. Photo: Oleksiy Samsonov

The author chose for the series the color of the red-gold sun, the color of life and death, blood and royal robes. Fragile sharp lines of drawings and hyperbolized facial expressions and gestures of the characters are quite modern and, at the same time, appeal to the genre of medieval engraving.

As a child, the artist fell in love with the works of Pieter Bruegel and Diego Velázquez, drew her own ideas and inspiration from the engravings of Lucas Cranach and Albrecht Dürer.

According to the author, by illustrating 13 novels by Giovanni Boccaccio, she realized her lifelong dream.

“”“Remember life” is the main creative motto of Boccaccio and Olena Ovchinnikova, says Oksana Pidsukha. “This slogan is eternal and modern. During a plague or war, people must find the strength to live on. And quoting Boccaccio: “…who would have met them on the road would have said that death will not take them, but if, perhaps, it will cut them down, then cheerfully“.

The filling will last until June 11. Photo: Oleksiy Samsonov

Certificate. Olena Ovchinnikova was born in 1935 in Kyiv in a creative family. Her father, the artist Vasyl Ovchynnikov, headed the Kyiv Museum of Western and Eastern Art (now the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenki National Museum of Art) for 42 years. In 1960, she graduated from the Kyiv Art Institute as a graphic artist. She taught at KDHI in 1969-1982.

The author of numerous graphic series and individual works on the Ukrainian theme, distinguished by an individual “fresco-monumental” style. She illustrated about 25 books, including Harald Bergstedt’s Feast of St. Jorgen (1967), Hryhori Tyutyunnyk’s Whirlwind (1972), Yuri Yanovsky’s Horsemen (1987). Since 2001, he lives and works in the USA (Homestead, Pennsylvania).

Retrospective exhibition of Olena Ovchinnikova “Memento Vitae”

When: until June 11, every day from 11:00 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., weekends — Monday and Tuesday;

Where: Knyazum Ostrozkih Street, 40b.

Ticket price: UAH 50

Telephone for inquiries: 044 280 6418.

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