Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Nativity Through William Kurelek's Art

Stupid as a calf staring at a new gate - a Ukrainian saying.  I start laughing!  What a typically Ukrainian farm saying! This is the title of one of the paintings I found in a book called Fields - Paintings by William Kurelek.  With soft snowflakes covering the trees, I actually took a moment to look at the books that don't seem to sit correctly in the bookcase.  Now, however I gotta chase this Kurelek idea. Somehow I don't think the English critics quite catch the subtlety of his humor.

William Kurelek was a sensitive soul, his short lifetime was prolific with brilliant artistry.  A Ukrainian speaking son of the Ukrainian Canadian family farm, his artistic genius was at odds with his family's struggle for sustenance and success in farming.  He was contemplative and hypersensitive, and nurturing his talent was inconceivably frivolous for the social circumstances of his community and family. Inherently a good person, he had a sharp self-awareness, and was traumatized at the distance between his dreams and his father's dreams for him.  This sense of aloneness, and homage, is palpable in his paintings.  He passionately loved the land, his family, and the unique cultural, religious, and historical circumstances of his heritage.  His artistry is deeply personal and subtle.  His themes are invariably uncomfortable for their simple truthfulness.  Images of prairies, farms and social events contain subtle humor, soft humanity, and a gentle, naive spiritual imagery.

I find another painting called Old Age is Not Joy - and I laugh again. Certainly something is lost in translation - but if you can, translate this phrase in your head - and laugh!  I adore this part of Kurelek's work!

It makes me think of all the baba's and dido's on the prairies whose simple faith, plain language, naive spiritual purity and unsophisticated social life built our Ukrainian Canadian community.  And I realize that Kurelek was ahead of his time, an artist enamoured of the land, his heritage and family -  good man.

Nativity images by William Kurelek - Canadian settings - accompanied by Chris De Burgh's composition "When Winter Comes"

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