Environment — the concept that provides measure for things


Communicating with each other, we use a set of banalities. Success of the communication is reached through availability of these banalities to the ambience where the communication happens. Therefore, following are common postulates of perception of environment: Environment as a source of concern and danger; Environment which is polluted or destroyed (in global sense); Environment as a source of material welfare; Environment as a source of life.

Through all the time of development of arts men invented methods of creation of the image of environment using words and pictures. Now environment itself becomes a place and a method of creation of images.

Let us discuss the environment as the place for artist’s self-fulfilment.


I. Context

The trend in art was called differently in different time: land art, art in environment, art of environment, forms in nature, each time stressing applied specific.

There are several key (in my opinion) vectors of development of land art, but all they have in common usage of environment and civilization benefits for realization of artist’s ideas. For instance, we can see active transformation of nature with the use of modern technical devices for creation of meditative objects in works of Robert Smithson and Michael Haizer. Anna Mendietta’s gender land art is an attempt to express the idea of modern society in terms of ancient society. The ecological problems were of most concern to Dennis Oppenheim when he carried out his happenings in environment. Each artist has his own aim, methods and message. Nevertheless, all they put the question of a man living in a space of co-existence, not by himself. Regarding modern Ukrainian environmental art, I think it is sensible to speak about interweaving into existing environmental context and desire to understand one’s place in it.

Human dimension of space spheres is reduced in Mykola Zhuravel’s works. The idea becomes clear from the titles: Trans-sphere (1998), Sphere-conservation (2001)…Andriy Bludov, Olexiy Malykh, Viktoria Denbnovetska, Vitaliy Serdukov turn to the probable images of elements in their cycle of works «Spring Wind» (1998-2001). They create timid linen labyrinths for the elusive. Valeriy Shkarupa’s «Hidden Object» (2001) appeared and vanished in a grass-blossoming gully, unveiling a sinusoidal chalk sign of development – upward and downward.

Olexiy Lytvynenko’s hand-made web («Ukrainian Zen» (1998)) in the foul environment of the gutter of Sakhravshina Lake near Kyiv is the symbol of the world where a human creates traps for himself. My action in environment «Sraightening» (2002) in the Holosiivsky Park in Kiev had to mark the place of a 300-year-old oak downfall. It bent down younger trees with its own weight, thus creating a kind of an arced passage. The bent trees were painted in white and then their tops were rescued from press. Now all the trees except for the broken oak have straightened.

To lay the path, there is no need in huge funds or facilities. Not putting the aim of «total recall», Ukrainian artists attempt to hint at the existence of «another» around us, hoping this «another» is not «alien». Methods used by the artists may differ, but the task is to underline, to sharpen and to visualize things that already exist. After global realization of Robert Smithson’s «Spiral Jetty», 60-s works of Michael Haizer, Valter de Maria and others, in the late 80-s a cycle of exhibitions of Andy Goldsworthy, that showed the process of carrying out actions in environment, caused a revival in interest to this art. I hope it is high time the next step has been made.

II Mogrytsa

In my opinion, actions and objects in environment, created by Ukrainian artists during International Land Art symposium «Cretaceous» from the cycle «The Space between», may be characterized with the writing on the stone from French classicist Nicola Pusen’s work «Arcadian shepherds»: ET IN ARCADIA EGO. The mythical idyll and contemporary idyll (in particular, idyll of Mogritsa as Ukrainian Arcadia) have common roots. The works of land art seem to highlight the variability of all forms and states, as the work created among the environment dissolves in it. The only remains are thoughts and excitement of those, who, following Arcadian shepherds is searching and finds proof of existence of the ideal: AND I ONCE HAVE BEEN TO ARCADIA. They find proof of that mythical idyll existing here and now. The place where they live is the happy Arcadia.

What is penetration and folding up in Mykola Zhuravel’s works? His aim is to protect (?), to isolate (?), to demarcate (?) special and time environments, old and new senses. The artist conserved the fog floating the river vale before sunrise to seize and bring a part of immense irrational, a part of expected possible to the exhibition in Kiev.

Andriy Bludov and Valeriy Shkarupa are the romantics who laid signs of a circle on a flank of a hill covered with blossoming motley grass inhabited by lots of insects. The circle is for those who are looking for the centre. In addition, there is an arrow signed «THERE» for those restless who are tired of living in the existential space of their own Self. «THERE» is the third element between the earth and the sky. It shows the way to the sky for those who are on the earth and the motion on the earth for birds and hang-gliders. Disassembling the object, the artists twisted some earth into a roll, similar to the angel that twists the sky on a fresco in Kirillivskaya Church.

Setting up her «Traps for the Wind», Anna Gidora materializes transparency and slenderness of relationships between everything: people, natural elements of her works and the environment.

Yury Firsik and Igor Shvachunov created an image of virtual organ – a symbol of magnificent sound of the earth’s music, made of short cylindrical wooden blocks, in the place of functional action of an excavator in an open cast chalk mine.

The beauty of narrative «strained» form, man-made among the beauty of «relaxed» nature — Natalka and Oleh Kokhan’s «Harbour» is of this kind.

Volodymyr Zhuravel’s three constructions, a flower, a house and a butterfly, made of rod and reed were rafted down the river Psel from the «Harbour» carrying the author’s messages. This is a sincere act of the teenager whose consciousness is not thumbed with knowledge of contemporary concepts and actual paradigms.

The object in environment «Cretaceous Time» by Petro Bevza and Oleksiy Lytvynenko is an attempt to display the Time in the Space. The idea of the time flow is known since the cradle of humankind. However, in each particular case the materials that were used brought in new nuances and senses. A human invents the symbols. We may speak about the symbolical meaning of unstable equilibrium of a triangle, the colour of red clay, flowing of white into red, etc., whereas the sign made by the artists who came and were gone exists in the landscape, at least for a period. By hollowing out a gully, the nature created a hint of an image, under the sign of which people see particular sense. Accenting and displaying the image, the artists mark the place of phenomena reflection with an act of will. Only a certain number of people know the essence of this action, but everybody can read it – the represented symbol is available to everyone. That image of Time in Space is temporary, because it is absorbed by both Time and Space. Nevertheless... Et in Arcadia ego.


Petro Bevza