Poetry and Prose of Beingness

«The great heroic deed of the art consists in taking the beautiful of life, that is often gloomy and ugly, contributing it with hard work and creating genuine, understandable for everyone beauty...»

“Razor Blade” by Ivan Yefremov

For a creative personality, development of talent is not a goal in and of itself, but a kind of ministry. The paintings of this artist were to give joy to people. Nevertheless, the fate decided otherwise...

Vladimir Patalakha was born on 25 July 1918 in Feodosia. His father, Ivan Leonidovich Patalakha, was a tailor, native of Poltava region. His mother, Anna Fedorovna Kameneva, was a housewife, arrived in Crimea from Donbass. Vladimir was the first child in the family. Later sister Tamara and younger brother Leonid were born. Despite the fact that the family lived very poorly and had no own housing, all the children grew up respectworthy people. Vladimir showed his ability to art in his early childhood. He inherited it from his father.

His father had artistic ability, and father’s relative, I.P. Kavaleridze, is well known in Ukraine as a talented sculptor and filmmaker. In the age of five, the boy used to go to the railway station and tried to draw an arriving train. Parents did not encouraged their son in his passion to drawing, considering it an unworthy activity, like many did. In his school years, Vladimir practiced in drawing portraits of his friends and relatives. He did not give up drawing. After graduating from secondary school, he spent several years working in construction and mastered the profession of a bricklayer. He could not decide what profession to choose for a long time. Parents wanted him to receive the profession of engineer that was respected much at that time.

In 1939, Vladimir together with his sister goes in Sverdlovsk (Yekaterinburg), where they enter Ural Forestry Engineering Institute, majoring in “Forestry.” The learning ended virtually having not begun. Without warm clothing and footwear, the freshmen students felt cold and were forced to return in Crimea. In 1940, they leave again, this time to Moscow. His sister entered Moscow Institute of Railroad Engineers, and Vladimir attempted to enter Moscow Textile Institute, majoring in “Textiles Designer.” He was not matriculated. The medical board rejected him considering that he shouldn’t had become a designer due to monocular vision (caused by a serious illness he had in childhood that resulted in loss of ability to see by one eye). He had to return in Crimea alone.

In 1941, the war broke out, and it destroyed the hopes and dreams of millions of people. The family failed to leave on time and survived famine, cold, and forced labour on the occupied territory. It was a miracle that all members of the family stayed alive. After the liberation of the Crimea in 1944, Vladimir was called up for military service; he participated in reconstruction of Novorossiysk. He was awarded the Medal “For the Victory over Germany.” After demobilisation, the question of the choice of profession raised up again. Since Vladimir had a good voice, in 1948, he entered Simferopol Musical College to the Vocal Department. Everything went well: learning, work in the Crimean Philharmonic, he even performed on local radio. However, the fate tested out again. In winter, he got cold and lost voice.

He was offered to go to the Conductor Department, but he refused. In 1949, he entered N.S. Samokish Simferopol College of Fine Arts to the Painting Department. This college taught disciplines that were necessary for professional artist. So, the future artist seriously approached mastering of the laws of painting and drawing. He was the best in drawing. Persistently and consistently, teachers taught their students the skills of realistic drawing and painting, showed how to distinguish between genuine art and transient fashion. Five years later, in 1954, Vladimir Patalakha successfully graduated from the college. He was 35 years old already, had his own family. His wife Valeriya, the sister of his classmate Yuriy Fastenko lived alone with her little son after the death of her parents and husband.

In 1952, their family was formed. In 1953, their daughter was born. There were no prospects to find employment in the art studios of Simferopol. A group of artists, who decided that they did not need new people for it was unprofitable due to the lack of work, settled well in those studios. Who was he, in the end? He was non-party, had no clouts. Besides, he did not want to adapt, curry favour with the ‘art board’ to instate himself in favour. At that time, three artists (leaders of the Crimean Regional Branch of Ukrainian Artists Union) destroyed his hope to get a chance to work in creative field. We will not list their names for they are in another world by now and have already been tried by other judges. It happened so that at that time there was no one who supported him. Everybody tried not to spoil relations with senior colleagues. Self comes first, as they say.

The family decided to move to Feodosia. They managed to change their housing suitably. In 1956, the life in native town began. For some time, Vladimir worked as an artist in the Officer’s House in the port of Feodosia. It was a temporary, hire-and-fire job. Nevertheless, it gave the future artist an opportunity to create independently. He works a lot in the Crimean Mountains trying to find his own style. He strives to achieve lightness, spirituality of his works, but he fails. Lots of cardboard was spoiled. Once upon a time, on a summer day of 1957, he went to the mountains as usual, fixed the sketchbook, prepared for work, and looked into the distance to map out the boundaries of the future landscape. Suddenly, his consciousness was illuminated with a bright flash! As if the shroud fell from his eyes. The insight lasted a few moments. But he immediately knew the right way to work! He began to draw, and two hours later, the landscape was ready. The artist was completely satisfied with the result. Unfortunately, this landscape was not preserved (it was given as present or sold). The master told about this awesome event only in the decline of his years.

Why? There is no answer. He only reminisced what amazing force he felt in himself at that moment. Then, it seemed to him that he was able to move heaven and earth. The mystical insight experienced by the artist helped him find his handwriting in painting, his vision of nature. However, the material status of the family was difficult. In the spring of 1959, there were three children in the family already: son Viktor was born. In 1957-1959, Vladimir Patalakha worked in Crimea creating plain-air landscapes. He tried to put on exhibitions some of them. This caused a usual hostility of the leaders of the Crimean art workshops. They blamed his landscapes in lacking ideas and desertedness. It is true that landscapes created at that time were far from the bustle of the city. We see the landswell of the coast of Sudak, misty morning in the Blue Bay, and blooming lavender in the mountains by Alushta. These works exhibit the skill, fine development of colour relations and complex technique, in which a translucent layers of paint are applied repeatedly to the dried layer of painting to enrich the coloration. The artist worked close to nature showing great physical and mental exertion. But the result was worth it, the master enjoyed his work. The nature in his landscapes is saturated with joyful colours, filled with light and air. His palette is vivid and full-coloured. His chamber landscapes never suppress the viewers, never causes the sensation of their insignificance before the forces of nature.

The artist spent summer of 1959 and spring of 1960 on the Volga River, where he visited the places where Isaac Levitan created his masterpieces. Such masters of brush as I.I. Levitan, V.A. Serov, V.D. Polenov, I.I. Shishkin, S.I. Vasilkovskiy, and, of course, the famous native of Feodosia K.I. Ayvazovsky were his favourite artists. From a trip to the Volga River, he brought a series of landscapes, which show him as a mature master of the plain-air painting. Spring flooding of the Sura River, barges and steamers in the backwater, new boat prepared for its first journey, attractive water of the forest river, sad old birch on the edge of the forest... Poetic soul of the artist appear in everything. ‘Russian forest’, ‘Countryside Landscape’, ‘Village Church near Plyos’, ‘Barges on the Volga River’, ‘The Volga. Workaday Life’, ‘The Volgian Bank’ are wonderful paintings, too. They are almost deserted. What a quiet sadness emanates from them! The artist saw the difficult, sometimes miserable lives on this earth first-hand. He rendered his feelings in the landscapes, and his mood is transferred to us, the viewers. Real art is impossible without humanity. The artist did not write with a pure colour. He added the whitewash to the paints to paint in watercolour-specific light brushstrokes. His landscape paintings are complete in the part of idea, composition, and execution. The harmonious combination of the form of a painting and its contents is a distinctive feature of the artist’s work. Continuing to develop his oeuvre the best traditions of realistic painting school and focusing on creating lyrical plain-air landscapes, Vladimir Patalakha remained original master, had his own painting style. It was the nature that always remained a source of inspiration for Vladimir Ivanovich.

However, his creativity was still rejected and neglected in Crimea. The ‘collectivism’ system frowned upon remarkable and independent solo artists. The one who failed to adapt to the system on time was forced to fall out of the magazine of ‘builders of the glittering future.’ It was particularly noticeable in the province. In winter of 1962, the artist’s wife wanting to help her husband took part of his works and brought them to Moscow in the Academy of Fine Arts to conduct the examination. Then famous academicians Porfiriy Nikitich Krylov and Boris Nikolayevich Yakovlev after having seen the paintings wrote a letter of recommendation to the Union of Ukrainian Artists. It read as follows, “We familiarized with the paintings of Vladimir Ivanovich Patalakha and believe that many of them evidence of his undeniable talent and professional capacity. His small landscapes are imbued with deep feeling, serious, thoughtful attitude towards visualization of native nature. The artist feels the colour and has a developed taste.” The academicians found his paintings similar to those of V.D. Polenov. Then, State Procurement Commission of the Art Foundation of the USSR purchased several landscapes of the artist. There are no records on their further fate. Artist Nikolay Ivanovich Osenev, who was the Head of Moscow Union of Artists at that time, said that if Vladimir Ivanovich lived in the capital, he would have been one of the best landscape painters in the country. Cheered by the positive feedback, Valeriya Petrovna returned to Crimea hoping for changes in her husband’s life.

In vain. In a friendly, close-knit ‘family of fellows in craft’, the examination report and the letter of recommendation caused only bitterness. They no longer dare to attack artist openly, but decided to act underhandedly. He was sent to Kerch to work as a non-staff artist. He was given a job there, but that job was one nobody wanted to do. There was nothing in common with creativity. The artist could not stand that oppressive atmosphere, and after seven years of ordeals, left the native country. In 1962, he went to the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, where art studios recently opened. In spring of 1963, his wife with children joined him there. A year later, the artist created a series of Kyrgyz plain-air landscapes there. ‘Sainfoins Blossom’, ‘Tien-Shan Firs’, ‘On the Issyk-Kul Lake’, ‘Field of Sunflowers near Przhevalsk’, and many others are among them. They conquer with freshness and fullness of colours, virtuosity of ‘a la prima’ technique. Major colouring of these works transfers greatness and beauty of nature. Some landscapes were created in an impressionist manner. These are ‘Bazaar in Osh’, ‘By the Water’, ‘Autumn. At the Vineyard’. They reveal another facet of the master’s talent. Impressionism originated in the heart of the realistic school and many artists used it as an artistic device. Vladimir Patalakha, using this method, seriously approached the choice of colours for the landscapes. Colour diversity is characteristic for his painting. What about creative career of the master? A single line in a letter of the artist to his family could describe it, ‘... if someone else were me, he would have already hanged himself, but I chose to live...’ The stranger was not accepted. Here, the envious did not even shy away from slander and forgery in order to get rid of a talented competitor.

Therefore, when the artist realized the senselessness of his struggle for the right to engage in the favourite activity, when he understood that in that ‘system’ it was impossible without compromising own dignity, he gave up his creativity. For the sake of peace of mind, in order not to go crazy. He dismissed from the workshops and lives odd jobs. In order to earn the survival, he draws always-popular portraits of political leaders. He was an excellent portraitist as evidenced by the portraits that preserved in the collection. For some time, he worked in the theatre, and then he left from there, too. He did not put his paintings to exhibitions and did not show them to anybody for about forty years. He lived a secluded life. In 1990, Vladimir Ivanovich returned to his homeland in Crimea. He spent last years of his life in Kerch. To his 80-th anniversary, his relatives organised a personal exhibition of paintings in the Simferopol Art Museum. He could not come to the opening of the exhibition, but happy that his fellow compatriots could get acquainted with his creativity. Back to Crimea, he started to draw again in order to create a series of still-lives ‘Flowers of Crimea’.

The visitors of the exhibitions admire them. The artist never complained about his destiny. He regretted only for being born that late. ‘If I was born a hundred years earlier, I would have joined the wandering artists. I live in the wrong epoch,’ he used to say. The master treated life challenges with philosophical calmness. ‘My life is not that dramatic, if you compare my fate with the one of many thousands of people crushed by the totalitarian system, those hunted down and gone on the bottle because of hopelessness,’ - he said. His optimism and asceticism in daily routine helped him survive. He always was very modest and decent person. His artistic heritage is undoubtedly worth attention and study. The artist believed that the time would come when his work was appreciated. His earthly path ended on 14 October 2005. His paintings continue to live, awaking exalted and bright feelings in our hearts.

(Biography facts were taken from the family papers and mass media)

A group of art college sophomores and their teacher M.M.Shcheglov.
Vladimir Patalakha - wearing check shirt

V.I.Patalakha. Photo by Boris Balashov. 1976.

V.I.Patalakha. Photo by Boris Balashov. 1989.


Recommendation letter

The building of art college in Simferopol
Photo from the Internet