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Yurii Bodnar: “I often find myself thinking that someone from on high is moving my hand. And, I cannot explain it myself.”



Yurii Bodnar: “I often find myself thinking that someone from on high is moving my hand. And, I cannot explain it myself.”

The Transcarpathian artist Yurii Bodnar, undoubtedly, developed his own style which made him recognizable among the numerous masters — his works are called radiant, as though they are permeated with light, sun, and heat from the inside.

Moreover, nobody can imitate him, because the author's style of Bodnar is unique and extremely original.

The studio of Yurii Bodnar is located next to his house in Uzhhorod. In the spacious room, among dozens of his own paintings, the artist, surrounded by his talented and creative family, is inspired by himself and inspires others. First of all, he proudly talks about his wife – Mrs. Lesia, who is a well-known art critic; the artist's older daughter is a musician, an opera singer and art projects curator; the younger daughter masters the speciality of the artist, she experiments a lot and now she continues her study abroad. All together they are a unique idyll, without which the creative development and rich spirituality of Mr. Yurii is inconceivable. It is very interesting to see the artist’s place; he sincerely tells about everything that journalists are interested in.

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– Mr. Yurii, how did you decide to become an artist?

– To tell the truth I was keen on painting since my childhood. I remember when I was a child, my friends offered me to go outside, to play football, but I took paper, paints and drew sketches in nature. I liked it very much, and I still like.

– Did your parents support you?

– Not really. They said that I could paint, but I had to acquire a profession to earn a living. They said it was just a hobby.

– So, you did not get art education, did you?

– I got it, I graduated from the Republican School of Decorators and Commercial Art in Ternopil. There, I learned the basics of artistry. Thus, I got a job in the Art Fund, passed the selection, demonstrated the works—it was my first peak. I met a lot of artists there, learned a lot about art, and cared much for it. I liked working, even on the weekends.

– How long were you living in Ternopil? And, how did you get back to Transcarpathia?

– Almost my entire adult life, this is as much as 30 years. At the same time, my family and I often went to Transcarpathia to visit our parents. I constantly felt this call: this atmosphere, nature, mentality – everything is so colourful! And, over time the question arose: to live in Ternopil or to move to Transcarpathia? My wife always said that we could get a plenty of fresh air in our region – it is so environmentally sound. Therefore, we decided: to stay in Transcarpathia.

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– Tell us about your work, how did you start, what inspires you to create?

– I started my creative career with my wife, she is also an artist. She studied in Lviv, worked in the Art Fund. And, I work mostly like this: I take part in the plein airs, but just for colouring. Upon immersing myself in the plein air atmosphere I get the inspiration to create profound works. You know, I am inspired by communication among the artists. In general, I note that the style of plein airs arranging is very high in Transcarpathia, that's why it enthralled me, I started visiting international plein airs, because travelling abroad affects the extension of the world view. Now I intent to hold a personal exhibition as a result of my trips and discoveries in this beautiful world. I am glad that we have such cultural exchange, because, for example, artists from other regions of Ukraine, so to speak, live in the enclosed space and kindly envy our opportunities.

– A lot of artists of our region are inspired by the coryphaei of the Transcarpathian school of painting. Did their art influence the development of your mastery? Or perhaps you have idols among other artists?

– My first idol was Kashshai. When a child, I had a black and white booklet with his works, which I looked through repeatedly, scrupulously studied and wondered what a masterful art of depicting nature it was. In addition, I was impressed by the works of the Ternopil artist Taras Danylych.

Surely, I have idols among other artists, of world-class, whose creativity I admire: this is El Greco, Salvador Dali, Gustav Klimt, Modigliani, impressionists, the list can go on. I had the opportunity to see a lot of works for myself, for example, in Padua I visited the chapel, painted by Giotto... So, in general, I have numerous idols, but I shall note another thing: today we have such a trend that the more we open the world, the more questions appear, so we’ve always got something to learn...

By the way, I note that my works of the early period were more muffled, but then, when I returned to Transcarpathia, the colour of the pictures became more intense and expressive, which, of course, is the result of the Transcarpathian school's influence, including Transcarpathia region as a whole.

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– It is perhaps a trivial question, but I wonder: what inspires you?

– First of all – my family. The feelings of family are the most important to me!

– We can see women in your numerous pictures, it seems that this is one of the leading images in your creativity …

– (Laughing. — Author) It is impossible without women, because beauty will save the world! I believe that woman - the most perfect creature in the world. One of the people who inspires me is my wife. She is a prototype in numerous works. In general, I am grateful that we kept our feelings and live in love, respect and harmony.

– Does your wife support you?

– In everything! Moreover, she refused painting to support me, but, fortunately, she found herself in another activity. She graduated from the Lublin Catholic University, specializing in the theory of sacred art. As the master of theology she studied a number of questions on the theory of art, her degree work was titled “The Image of Jesus Christ in Sacred Art”. The work was so interesting and thorough that later for this research, published in the “Carpathians” publishing house, she received the award — the Regional Prize named after A. Erdeli and Y. Bokshai.

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– There is a lot of sacred subject in your works. Where did these topics come from? Is it the evidence of high religiosity, education, traditions?

– This is primarily our religious traditions. Since my childhood, it remained bright, pure reminiscences of sacred procession, images of saints, lighted by candles in my memory. Our rural church was painted by old masters and these paintings fascinated me. In addition, my family was very religious, they prayed to God before eating or going to bed. It was natural for us as to breathe. Since childhood, it was laid a grain of spirituality, which we grow and cherish in our own families with like-minded people. I always want to add an element of spirituality to my works — an angel or, as my wife calls it, divine light — light of spirituality. There is such a scientific term — “photodosia”, that is light transmission. You can see this radiation in my works.

– Did you know such "radiant" works of any other masters?

– Someone tries to perform works in a similar style and technique, but this is my author's technique and copying is felt.

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– Can you paint to order?

– For me, my pictures are like children. I do not really like to give originals, but I can make a new variation on the subject. I hope that once my works will find their place in a museum.

– How much time do you spend on painting?

– Even when you do not paint, you still work on a picture, accumulating your ideas. The process of creation "from scratch" is complex and interesting. I work on a picture for a long time, sometimes, it can be a year. It is possible to create small works in the same period, but the work on a serious picture takes a lot of time and energy.

– You obviously spend a lot of time in the studio?

– I'm not an early bird, mostly I work at night, I can start painting even at 1 a.m., if inspiration comes. And, I often find myself thinking that someone from on high is moving my hand. And, I cannot explain it myself.

– Do you have your favourite work?

– No, it's hard for me to single out the one. They are all dear to me as children.

Text: Nataliia Petervari
Photo: Robert Dovganych