Anatoliy Kryvolap: ‘I Am an Egoist in Art’. Interview with the most expensive artist in Ukraine
His work is often criticized. To some it seems he creates them hastily. Paint, paint – nothing is clear. His main success is advertising. And why pay that kind of money? Nevertheless, over the last few years Anatoliy Kryvolap has been the most successful Ukrainian artist. Three years ago at a Phillips auction of contemporary art in London, one of Kryvolap’s paintings “Horse. Evening” sold for $186,000, a record for Ukrainian artists. Accordingly, his name is usually referred to with the prefix “most expensive Ukrainian artist.” Our reporter had the opportunity to ask the artist about his long road to success.
- Mr. Anatoliy, as a child you used to paint horses on walls. Your mother didn’t scold you for that?
- I don’t remember. I learned about that later. I said to her: “Mom, everyone asks me when I started to paint. And I don’t how to respond.” Two years before she died she told me: “You could barely walk, and you painted horses on all the walls of the house.” I lived in a town where there were no roads. Mud… I liked to paint from books. I was captivated by it. By the way, horses influenced my work. One of my works sold well at an auction.
- As part of an experiment, you lived 15 years alone. Why did you chose such a life?
- First of all, I began experimenting with colors. I thought which color complements another. Which should be the main one, and which an emphasis. And most important – shades. I did this every day, writing notes in my diary. I created a formula of color. For example, red can be happy, tragic, present, can look to the future and for a thousand years. This can all be expressed using one color.
- You denied yourself of something to achieve purity in an experiment?
- I lived as minimalist. I had one pair of shoes which I wore in the summer and winter. I wore jeans. I was advised that a ratine coat lasts long. I wore it 20 years. But I added a liner. A few years ago my Labradors tore it. It lasted from 1976 to 1990. I refused to make a living on my paintings until I became a professional artist. In 1991 Ukrainian Gradobank bought 15 of my works. I got 100,000 Soviet rubles. I went to the market (it was at a stadium) and bought a jacket from sheep skin. It was a bit small, but warm. I sighed with relief … I still have it.
- Your favorite color is red. You are even wearing red jeans. Many people can’t stand the color…
- The question is not whether you like it or not, but whether you feel it or not. I know a dozen shades of green. But they do nothing for me. I do not feel anything. I am told: “You’re excited, that’s why you are working with red.” It’s the other way around, the brighter the red, the more it comforts me. This is purely personal. This may not be for everyone. Color is a powerful psychological tool. Just no one understands it clearly. For example, you paint a large room black. You spend a whole day there. And undoubtedly you will feel depressed. What color do you like? (I pondered, and said “lilac.” – Author). In such room you will feel comfortable. Sound also plays a role, but someone hears it and leaves, and the color remains. When you buy clothes, you look not only at the style but also at the color. This is subconsciously. I do not know of something more powerful than color. It is a tool of influence.
- What do you think of being called one of the most expensive artists of Ukraine?
- I became famous in 1990. I never went to a Soviet-wide exhibition. The cost of my paintings continued to grow. My paintings were always more expensive than those of my peers. But in 1992 I sold my work in Germany for 12,000 marks and became rich.
- Money didn’t spoil you?
- I never noticed it. My paintings were bought only by foreigners. In Ukraine, I didn’t sell anything for 15 years. Until 2005, I didn’t have a single Ukrainian client. I returned from Germany on a red Volvo. Once a lot of people started to buy my work, I immediately raised my price. I talked about this to my colleagues. They also “moved up.”
- How can one “read” your paintings? Some see only bright colors …
- Yes. This is one of the biggest problems. Perception. Since the colors are so strong, nothing beyond them is visible. But there is a moment of adaptation. One’s eye gets accustomed. At first customers notice the paintings with subdued colors, but still buy radical pieces. Why is it so? I do not know. During a period of my search, intensity was my goal. Then I switched to mood. Everyone says I am too bright. Just paint and paint…
- You said that communication with people can be dangerous for art. What kind of danger?
- The danger of illustration. The artist does not control himself. He is controlled by the gift which he was given.
- Do you regret that you burned your first sketches?
- No. But some of them still remain. It was my experiments that I didn’t finish. They were for me purely formal search.
- You work with enamel, and this paint is dangerous for your health…
- Every profession has its pros and cons. My work has so many pros that I don’t worry about the cons.
- You said that never met a woman who feels the world stronger than you. And you are a man with a female soul ...
- A woman feels life, relationships between people. I “disabled” all of this for myself. Women who have an artistic sensibility become poets. Like Lina Kostenko, for example. And male artists always have female souls…
Anatoliy Kryvolap’s works have set several sales records. The first was in May 2011 when his painting “The Steppe” sold at the Phillips de Pury & Company auction in New York for $98,500. The second time was in October of that year, at the Phillips de Pury & Company auction in London, his work “Horse. Night” sold for $124,400.
In 2013 he broke his own record, when his work “Horse. Evening” was sold for $186,000.
“Kryvolap fell in love with the Ukrainian Carpathians. He has a workshop in the mountains. At home he is an ascetic. “He really doesn’t need much. He is very strict with himself. He understands the less effort he spends on his domestic life, the more he can spend on painting. In one month he can paint up to 30 paintings. And sometimes on one painting he can spend from one month to five years. He can also make one in an hour and it will be a very remarkable piece. But it took him many years to get to this point…”