WHAT'S ON, No 3. 3/2003 31 January - 6 February

'Brand' New Approach
Kyiv Artist Focuses on Classically Capitalist Images

McDonald's next to Taras Shevchenko and Coca-Cola astride the Sacred Virgin? Just two snapshots of contrast in today's Ukraine, that are far too often taken for granted. In this era of the internet and globalization, art seems the only medium left which still cares about the sacred or at the very least recognises these nonsensical absurdities.

However, when one considers it, it's contrasts like these that art itself can feed on. Remember Andy Warhol and the Campbell's Soup can? Anyway, Kyiv artist Serhiy Kolyada is not above taking a bite out of the absurd from time to time. The frenzied lumping together of the sacred and the commercial amuses him, and influences his work, yet he has trouble getting others enthusiastic about what he does. "These are not landscapes or still-life", hints Serhiy about non-conventional framework that he works within. For instance it is no big shock that a sample of his work featuring sexy nudes on toilet bowls reading the newspaper, wont grace the halls of the presidential palace real soon, however he is surprised about how
little interest he has received from Kyiv's established artistic elite. While going about his work virtually ignored by the local art scene, he continues to sell his work to foreigners, who are just as puzzled as he is with his cold reception in his adopted city. "I love this artform, but I need to sell my works as well", says Serhiy who appears to be caught in that endless catch 22 scenario of art and money. Serhiy Kolyada, a 30-year old Odessa-born artist been swimming just below the surface of the legitimate art scene in Kyiv and without any huge commercial success.
No surprise when you consider his pieces range in price from $100 to $500. A little expensive for a provincial newcomer. In fact it's quite a sum for anybody, but Serhiy still believes his talent is worth three times what he gets paid for it. Partly, this is due to his meticulous drawing technique. His trademark ball-point-pen drawings take an average of two weeks to a month to complete. Serhiy doesn't hold a degree in the visual arts, instead, he majored in philosophy and literature. In Serhiy's view, this background, has well equipped him to comment on the modern scene through his art. He believes it has given him a unique 'perception of the world'. Contemporary Ukrainian literature had a crucial effect and, as Serhiy puts it, he does in art what local postmodernists do in literature. He lodges neither protest, nor moralizes with his work. He drinks Coca-Cola and likes money. He is a down-to-earth, juggler with 'sacred' symbols, devoid of national piety, Serhiy Kolyada is a modern 'postmodern' specimen. In Soviet times he would have been dubbed a 'socially conscious' citizen, and his art - socially biting satire against 'distortions of capitalism'. Ironically, Serhiy is not opposed to 'capitalist' culture, in fact he wants to get closer to it. Fleeing abroad by any or all means possible is an idea that has haunted him for long time. Back in the early 90s, when he was first abroad in Switzerland he asked for political asylum. His plea was not unfounded since he does have a history of working at some clandestine opposition newspapers during perestroyka. Later on, he turned to opposition leaders for help in organizing exhibitions, however both Yuschenko and Moroz gave little help. The latter figuratively proposed to let art wait until better times, in other words until a regime change. Without any desire to wait forever, Serhiy tried even turning to his favourite symbol of modern times, Coca-Cola, for help organizing an exhibition. "They (had a choice) to either grasp this ironic portrayal of reality and their omnipotent brand, or plainly discard it", remembered Serhiy. Unfortunatelly, Coca-Cola management opted for the latter. However, Serhiy has gained popularity with many foreigners, like the International Women's Club and some embassies in town. Interestingly enough, no locals have expressed interest in Serhiy's harshly explicit vision of reality. He wonders, why?

Arina Satovska


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© Сергій Коляда Serhiy Kolyada