The Museum of Local History in the town of Ivankiv, Kyiv region, was burned down during Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The museum featured over four hundred exhibits, including Ukrainian folk clothes, household items and even the remains of a mammoth skeleton. However, it was particularly proud of paintings of world-famous Ukrainian artist Maria Prymachenko.
Maria Prymachenko's creative legacy is very significant both for me personally and for our new publication Travel to Art, a special project of the main Ukrainian aviation magazine Boryspil Magazine. Therefore, we’ve decided that our first issue will give our readers a glimpse of the work of the distinctive Ukrainian artist who was a laureate of the Taras Shevchenko National Prize of Ukraine and whose exhibition of paintings inaugurated a unique cultural project, titled ‘Gallery of National Pride,’ which was launched in 2015 at Boryspil International Airport, the air gateway of Ukraine.
Maria Oksentiyivna Prymachenko was born and lived almost all her life in the small Ukrainian village of Bolotnya in Kyiv region. But her paintings tirelessly traveled and continue to travel, conquering the world at exhibitions in Canada, Japan, China, Poland, Czechia, Bulgaria, Finland, the United States... She was admired by Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall, and some art critics compared her artworks with those by Salvador Dalí.
She grew up in a creative family: her father was an excellent carpenter, her mother was the best embroiderer in the village, and her grandmother created amazing ornaments on Easter eggs. The youngest artist’s creative path began by accident. All started... with blue clay. Maria Oksentiyivna said in her memoirs: ’Once I was watching geese grazing in a meadow by the river. I was doodling all sorts of flowers in the sand. And then I noticed bluish clay. I took some in the hem and used it to paint our house...’The fellow villagers liked the bizarre drawings so much that, at their request, Maria gladly painted a couple more neighboring houses. It is not known for certain, but there is an assumption that the artist received her first ‘fee’in the form of a piglet.
Kyiv-based craftswoman Tetiana Floru helped to discover the young artist’s rare talent – she encouraged Prymachenko to experiment with clay products and paints.
The Phenomenon of Ukrainian Naïve Art
During her almost 90-year life, Maria
Prymachenko created about 800 paintings in the style of naïve art, or primitivism. The plots of her works are often inspired by folklore, and sometimes they even resemble children's drawings and seem simple and uncomplicated. But simple does not mean poor!
Her Fantastic Beasts series is a unique phenomenon that has no analogues either in domestic or in world art. These fantastic beasts are the product of the artist's own imagination – such animals do not exist in nature: an elephant wears a cap, a frog plays a trumpet, a lion sleeps on a bed...
Using the same technique of naïve imagery, the artist skillfully reveals such themes in her works as political repression, the Holodomor… A whole series of her paintings is dedicated to the Chornobyl nuclear disaster.
Another distinguishing feature of
Maria Prymachenko's works, her highlight are captions that are extremely deep in meaning and sparkling in form – the names and signatures the artist used to present her paintings. She wrote and rhymed them herself or adapted folk sayings to fit the plots of her works. ’If Noah Could Draw’(’May That Nuclear War Be Cursed!’), ’Rat on a Journey’, ’A Cow Like That Gives 5,000 Liters a Day’, ’Don't Feast Your Eyes on Other People's Bread.’
Ukrainian Art Does Not Burn!
Some of the paintings by Maria Prymachenko from the Ivankiv Museum of Local History were reportedly saved thanks to the security guard and his family, according to members of the Ukrainian Witness project. Those artworks are being stored in a safe place https://www.facebook.com/ukrainianwitness
Three Facts from Naïve Art Superstar’s Life
1As a child, Maria Prymachenko suffered from polio. Her legs were affected, so she walked with crutches. Later, she underwent surgery several times and started using a prosthesis.
2She was right-handed, but she painted all her paintings with her left hand.
3The artist had no special education and created her masterpieces on ordinary Whatman drawing paper, using ordinary gouache and watercolors