“Great Gate of Kiev”, oil on canvas, 24” x 30” (61cm x 76 cm)

The Great of Kiev“Great Gate of Kiev”, oil on canvas, 24” x 30” (61cm x 76 cm)

 

Together with “Baba Yaga” this painting is an illustration for a movement of the famous “Pictures at an Exhibition” (composed by Modest Musorgsky after seeing his friend Victor Hartmann’s art exhibition). My painting was inspired primarily by the work of the painter rather than the musician, although the music had played its part too. From Hartmann I took the idea of creating an architectural object isolated on an almost empty square. Golden colored beehive shaped cupolas resembling traditional helmets worn by the medieval warriors were also taken from the Hartman’s work.

At that point I made a radical turn toward my own vision of the building that was actually an axis to which I started adding other details. As working on the picture I kept thinking about the city itself: it’s old glory and the calamities of more recent times. The flashes of old history were engulfing my imagination; old gold plated icons painted on the wood, the names of the rulers such as Vladimir the Great and Jaroslav the Wise (represented by their coats of arms), the Slavs, the Vikings and the Byzantines, balalaikas, the arches of the helmets superimposed to the smaller ones resembling the order of the famous babushki toys, archangel Michael as the patron and protector of the city, olive (?) branches on the towers, the bells …

The painting took the form of an icon painted on wooden panel, scratched on the sides. I also decided to use the same colors as used in “Baba Yaga” – another challenge for me (and, possibly the viewer) – the primal triad of the purple, yellow and blue with the further addition the red, orange, green, brown and white (gray). The only color used in the first mentioned picture and not being used in the “Gate” was the pink color of the reflection of the banana-moon in the pond (There is an anecdotal non essential explanation for the exception).

The fact that Hartmann’s idea of the gate was never realized gave me the freedom to build my own building that never existed anywhere except on my canvas. To achieve that effect I decided to avoid the use of any existing architectural elements (beehive looking cupolas, the arches that never became gothic, umbrella- liked roofs (associated with that of Baba Yaga’s), etc combined with the magic of children’s picture books mixed with the realistic details spread all around. The purple color of the towers suggests that they are not from the real world.

Many of the details have rather complex meanings and symbolizing variety of things …

Finally, I wanted to make a statement about the recent events in the city and the area (suggested with the turbulent sky as the background –which patterns can also associate with the famous decorations of the Easter eggs from that part of the world). Despite of the use of many patriotic Ukarainian – Russian elements I was resolute not to have any political allusions, and rather than that I put all my hopes to the dancing couple who look like members of intellectual middle class symbolizing wisdom and humanism; their clothes’ colors match those of the city’s defender the archangel Michael and the towers’ bells and they dance on the chessboard looking empty square …