15:23 Oct. 20, 2016
Ukrainian-born British artist Oksana Kondratyeva presents her modern stained glass artworks in Kyiv
Church, church, and church… It is the first and foremost thing we inevitably tend to associate stained glass with. Though dating back to the ancient Egypt and Rome, this old art form reached its peak in Europe during the Middle Ages, when it was used to illustrate Biblical scenes in windows of large Gothic cathedrals.
When most people were illiterate, these luminous, magnificent and powerful paintings were the best tool to tell them stories, educate and inspire them as well as communicate messages of spiritual life. While illuminating cathedrals, they served to represent the mystery of God's immanence and transcendence. Above all, they remained the important works of art available and affordable to most people.
Today, stained glass is still popular, assuming renewed importance as a true art form. Vibrant and glistening like jewels, it is used to decorate the interior. Stained glass windows can help create a visual effect in any space of houses and apartments. Apart from aesthetics, they provide many functional benefits – they are perfect for bringing light and colour to a place while adding to owners' privacy.
Though widely considered as pure decoration now, for some artists stained glass is still a way to tell a story – and their personal story can become universal.
This is what one may feel when attending the exhibition Orpheus's Song prepared by Ukrainian-born British artist Oksana Kondratyeva. The exposition presents a combination of stained glass artworks and paintings brought together under one concept. All the elements seem to unveil the story of a person striving to feel the pulse of the Universe between the Past, Present, and Future.
For this purpose, the artist's works skilfully blend academic approach, Western traditions, Gothic motifs, scientific research and Ukrainian folk elements.
For example, Oksana uses a classic Christian image of Mary and baby Jesus, while giving it a modern shape and interpretation. The Mother here is both abstract and human, epitomising a glorious life force.
The painting of Orpheus, legendary musician and poet in Greek mythology, is placed between two Mothers of God. The artist depicts him as a Ukrainian Cossack sitting cross-legged and playing a kobza (a lute-like Ukrainian folk musical instrument).
The next grouping comprises five paintings and one stained glass item. They display stages of the spiritual path: transmutation, transformation, and transfiguration.
Light, clear lines, geometric patterns are vital elements of Oksana's artworks. She applies pure, radiant, and bold colours, with no subtle hues, that send their own messages to viewers. Still, blue prevails in her palette.
"To me, the blue colour represents the outer space and Universe", says Oksana Kondratyeva.
Fair enough! Almost all her artworks feature ‘celestial objects' – the sun, the moon, the sky, and planets.
Oksana also presents an impressive series depicting Zodiac signs.
There is another crucial element, which repeatedly appears in her works – a circle or an orb used as the basis for composition. It is associated with balance and harmony, eternity and unity.
No wonder, the quintessence is the big circle with a piece of stained glass, which sort of sums up the entire exposition and holds all the artworks together. The circle – a white sphere – looks like a form of life that has reached its peak, its ultimate perfection. The piece of blue stained glass pierces this sphere, destroying it and ruining its harmony, yet opening a door to another dimension and taking the sphere to a whole new level. Thus, the sphere enters a new cycle of life, with the Universe constantly moving and expanding.
Orpheus's Song is Oksana Kondratyeva's first solo exhibition in Ukraine, which takes place at the National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art, one of the largest art museums in the country. The Museum is part of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, a well-known monastery in Eastern Europe, one of the most sacred sites for Orthodox Christians. The Museum collection comprises over 80,000 art and craft items created since the 15th until early the 21st century.
The exhibition Orpheus's Song lasts until December 10, 2016.
Art experts say that Oksana continues classical stained glass tradition while introducing modern techniques.
"I use all possible stained glass techniques, which have been existing in the world from medieval times up to date – lead and light, painting, silver staining, acid etching, sand blasting, and silk screen printing", Oksana Kondratyeva adds.
Her stained glass items are not designed to be part of windows; they are rather portable – independent – art objects. With her works, the artist seeks to create ‘the architecture of light' that transforms the substance and space.
Mykhailo Selivachyov, Professor of Kyiv's National Culture and Arts University, PhD in History of Art: "Due to advanced technologies, Oksana's artworks demonstrate certain ‘emancipation'; they don't have to be attached to walls or window frames."
"I support Ukraine, that's why I have arranged the exhibition", Oksana says. "The most important thing is that Ukraine is open to the world now, facilitating a dialogue between Ukrainian and international artists. This makes us optimistic".
The exhibition title is not a mere chance. In Greek mythology, Orpheus, whose music could soften harsh stones and evil spirits, descends to the underworld to rescue his beloved wife.
In a way, stained glass fulfills the same mission. A symphony of colour, pattern, and geometry, it brings light to our life. And even more – it brings us hope for the future.
About the artist: Oksana Kondratyeva studied art in London and obtained a postgraduate degree in Glass and Architecture, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. Afterward, she founded her own studio.
She works with different art forms: painting and stained glass, iconography and sculpture. Her research papers on architecture as well as on synthesis of art and science were published in various magazines and presented at Cambridge University, University of Durham, British Society of Master Glass Painters, etc.
Her artworks were exhibited at the Mall Galleries, Sacred Space Gallery, London, UK; Red House Glass Cone Museum, Stourbridge, UK; International Glass Festival in Zwiesel, Germany, and many others.
Anna Azarova for Ukraine Today
Photo: Emil Durov