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Ivan Masniuk: “I have an idea and I keep thinking it over within the ten years. But, it is only necessary to gain an insight one day...”



Ivan Masniuk: “I have an idea and I keep thinking it over within the ten years. But, it is only necessary to gain an insight one day...”

In the very heart of Uzhhorod among the administrative buildings and numerous shops, there is a small house with a cosy tiny garden. 

Despite the size, on a small piece of land there are dozens of species of bushes, trees, a variety of flowers, tomatoes, cucumbers, pepper, and between the tall bamboo shoots there is a spiral staircase leading to the attic, where the studio of the famous Transcarpathian sculptor, artist, pedagogue Ivan Masniuk is located. He cordially greets the guests and talks about his life, creativity, pupils, granddaughter and how an artist can survive in today's world.

– Mr. Ivan, tell us about your studio, how was it built?

– In different ways. It was difficult to build it. I have not finished it yet. But, I'm still happy that there is a place where I can feel comfortable. I think that in a year it will be possible to complete the studio and finally I will be able to sort all my works out. Then it will look better.

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– How much time do you spend in the studio?

– Very little. The main work, especially in sculpture, starts during my rest: when I am swimming, skiing or doing something. Or when some urgent political events are taken place. For example, when Petro Poroshenko recited Liermontov, I got an outburst at once. And then, I went to the mayor to order stone to depict this action in bronze and stone. Ideas are born in the most unexpected places and situations.

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– Do you spend much time developing ideas?

– Ideas are hatched strictly, interestingly and for a long period of time. The greatest mystery starts when I should mentally work through these things to the minute details. When the idea is developed, then you start sculpting. The portrait of the artist Pavlo Bedzir was created for so long. I was thinking about what it should be for ten years. There was no idea. To do it for the money was not interesting. One day on the seashore the idea appeared. When it was ready, matured, I returned the tickets in Crimea and flew home with great pleasure. Bedzir posed for me a little, but the main thing had already been done – in my mind. When the work was done, I was shaking - it was so interesting what the master would say. Bedzir looked and said: “You know, let’s go to have breakfast, everything is okay with the work...” I remember that breakfast went to lunch, and then to dinner. We talked about world, art problems, but the main thing at that time was that the portrait was done.

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– Who is allowed to criticize your works?

– Everybody. And, I listen to them, because it is very useful – to hear a person's opinion. This is an interesting dialogue, because sometimes people do not understand a lot of things. But, if there is a conversation, then both sides are happy.

– You are a diverse creative nature. How is it possible to combine both painting and sculpture? How does the creative process go in general?

– It's all the question of time. In painting, it is easier for me, as complicated philosophical problems could not be solved. It's simple: you convey the impressions and enjoy it. Or you can feel sad because you failed. As time goes, you finish. Sometimes using oil, sometimes watercolour. In general, I did not think of what to use, because everything depends on the mood and situation.

– What can inspire you?

– First of all, the state of my soul. If someone tramples on my feelings, it’s painful. When I am in a good mood, I feel happy about this moment. Sometimes it is spontaneous, interesting, stressful, not smooth, because this is a process that requires complete concentration. You have to be treated with respect, then there will be pleasant moments, joy of what you did. I did it with the sculpture “Pain”. Once it was broken, and it was extremely offensive. Two years later my student Mykhailo Ilko told that he wanted to buy it for the “Ilko Gallery”. I told him that he was late. But, he offered to make it once again. I agreed, because I really needed money – my wife was sick. The presentation took place and I was glad that we saw this work at the gallery entrance. Somewhere I see some flaws, but the essence is laid and it pleases.

– Is it difficult to create a work again?

– It's not difficult. For example, I moulded the first sculpture “Pain” within one night, I was hurt so much then and the pain was huge, but the second sculpture was created longer. Not everyone notices that this is the second version. I am glad that it is possible to convey the idea to the viewer, especially in such an exquisite place where exhibitions and concerts are held, where people communicate with art. And, when I come there, I'm worried - because I am a part of this.

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– Is it your work - the bas-relief of Shevchenko on the facade of the Uzhhorod school?

– Yes, it is. The mayor of the city Emil Popovych visited me and asked to make a bas-relief. It was a great honour for me! Shevchenko is such a person! I wonder he was free for only 10 years, but he left behind such a great legacy that any people can be proud of. Thus, it’s not surprising that there are the largest number of his monuments around the world. It's nice that Uzhhorod had more Shevchenko monuments then and partially thanks to me.

– Mr. Ivan, artists sometimes try to finalize their paintings. But, how to change something in sculpture? This is impossible !?...

– Yes, it is impossible with a sculpture, if it is already in the material. Then you have to accept that fact. It is impossible to foresee everything. But, the reaction of people is always interesting, they perceive works emotionally. Or indifferently. Much depends on character, education, internal selection.

– You are an extravagant person: in behaviour, actions, sayings. Is it hard for you to get along with the community?

– I am tolerant, but sometimes I am very cruel. It is necessary to put some arrogant people in their place. I also like to pay back with kindness.

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– Where are your works? Do you sell them?

– Rarely. I often give it as a gift. If someone buys three works, the fourth, for example, I give as a present (Laughing. – Author). I am not starving. Thanks to second-hand shops I have clothes. In general, there is little happiness in 60 USD of pension, of course, it is not enough. But, fast footwork is the key to success in life. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes difficult.

– I know a lot of examples when artists are in great necessity…

– Now it's very difficult. Therefore, I am personally grateful to those people who have recently bought several works of mine, as a result I managed to settle some problems. But, such moments are not frequent. It is a shame to remember how Van Gogh or Erdeli died in poverty, if not to mention the poor woman of the latter – Magdalene. But, that’s what life is, there are different people around. Some rejoice at the mockery, others suffer.

– Can you, as an artist, say that you realized yourself?

– Probably, not. I still have interesting plans. May God grant thanks to those people who promised to help, I would be able to implement them. Two lunches cannot be eaten, but when you have something in your bag, you necessarily start developing the idea which is worth living, realizing.

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– As far as I understand, there is an idea, you’ve been thinking over for years, to realize?

– Yes, there is. This is the history of the Carpathian Ukraine. It’s pain. It was destroyed suddenly, brutally. I keep thinking over the idea within ten years… But, it is only necessary to gain an insight one day as well as a good master nearby who would weld the frame and some money to buy material … It would be a sin not to implement such an idea.

Text: Nataliia Petervari, Denys Fazekash
Photo: Robert Dovhanych