A Ukrainian in Manila

Isyulites, Tuesday, 29 September 1998 pp. 4-5

by Vicky S. Mendoza

Speaking in Russian, Ukrainian Artist Natalia Zozulya shares her thoughts with Isyu through her host, good friend and interpreter Izabella Shafir.

Her exhibit in Manila, titled “Expressions”, opened on September 8 at the Plaza Gallery of the Westin Philippine Plaza, and runs until September 30.

“Expressions” begins with a series of portraits done in the classical sense. The word “intense” best describes them. Natalia, in rendering her portraits, goes beyond what is visible or obvious in her subject, and seeks to capture what is inside – the well of the human soul. Hence, her portraits pulsate, vibrate with life, and are accurate depictions of her subjects’ characters.

Natalia would like to portray humankind in its various conditions – aggressive, calm, cold, expressive, etc. Her works are not flashy or momentous, but more stable and lasting, a view of what is real in man. If one were to sit for Natalia and try to project a different image of himself, Natalia will still sense, beyond this mask, the true character of the sitter. Her portraits are remarkable, but Natalia does not limit herself to that. She likes to travel a lot, and draws inspiration from what she sees. She has been to Libya and some African countries, she painted a series on her impressions on the trip to Libya, reflecting the warmth and vibrance of the country. Some of her works from that series are in rich shades of indigo blue and red orange.

On this trip to Manila, she noticed the great differences between her country and ours. The squatters caught her eye, because there are no squatters in Ukraine. The poor people there will simply not survive the winter squatting on idle land. What caught her eye was the fact that these squatter areas sit side by side with the areas of affluence, as shown in one of her paintings in the exhibit. Other street scenes, like the San Andres market, are also depicted. But Natalia is drawn to the places rich in history, like Fort Santiago, and the many ancestral homes that dot the city. Kiev, in the Ukraine, is a very ancient, historical town, and she also loves to go to the architectural memorials there. This inspires her to create.

Creative since the age of five, Natalia found herself drawing people and animals, cutting them out and putting them together in a short marriage. In painting her starting point is ???????. She has recently ventured into Post-Impressionism, counting among her favorites the eccentric Gauguin, and the Austrian Gustav Klimt.

Her current exhibit includes some Post-Impressionistic pieces. These works have a certain connection to Russian icon art, which emphasizes tempo, grace, and rhythm. The focus is not on exact detail, but on the overall effect. Many of her Post-Impressionistic works depict women in natural settings. Her women are always proud, yet graceful, pointing to their elevated status in life. They are set amidst nature, weaving a fine relationship in their shared roles of bearing and nurturing life. The women are potrayed as romantic and spiritual, with some erotic and earthy elements. Instead of paintbrush, Natalia uses a palette knife, very much like a small and sleek shovel. She mixes the colors and then dabs them onto the canvas. Again, the important thing is not the fine details, but color, rhythm and grace in the life that is created.

This taste for grace and beauty is also being developed in her daughter, Vasilina, or Lika for short, who is studying music, language and other subjects in some of the best schools in Ukraine. Natalia, the mother, want to ensure only the best education and future for her Lika.

Natalia plans to stay in Manila a while longer, explore and do more of her work. With such a promising start, this Ukrainian in Manila will not just be passing through.

[Natalia Zozulya (extreme left), and in a self-portrait (main photo). top to bottom, Girl With a Flute (Adagio), oil on canvas;Women in the Sunset, oil on canvas; Angels, oil on canvas.