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Warsaw. The last exhibition presented in the Pavilion on the Vistula. Paintings by Maria Prymaczenko

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– The Museum of Modern Art, despite the image of a concrete bunker and sterile architecture, is a place that is able to accommodate art with a ludic aspect – says curator Szymon Maliborski and invites you to the exhibition of paintings by Maria Prymaczenko.

– Apart from the fact that Marija Prymachenko is a famous painter, she is a great symbol of the failed attempt by the Russians to erase the Ukrainian identity – emphasized Vitaly Bily, counselor of the Ukrainian embassy in Poland, at a press conference.

Marija Prymachenko (1909-1997) is considered one of the most important Ukrainian artists of the 20th century. Her achievements go beyond narrowly understood folk art and folklore. This is a valuable national heritage of Ukraine.

The painter was born in Błonie, Polesie, into a peasant family. At a young age, she contracted polio, which prevented her from participating in rural work, but at the same time gave her the opportunity to devote herself to art. Although she never received formal artistic education, she spent her life painting and embroidery. She also ran a folk art school in her home village. Although her works were presented at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937, she was not interested in an international career. In 1966 she received the National Award. Taras Shevchenko Award for special cultural achievements.

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“Her life and art were marked by wars”

Prymachenko witnessed great historical events. Her life and art were marked by wars, the Great Famine and the Chernobyl disaster. – This woman is a symbol of resilience. She was born in the Russian Empire, experienced World War I, turmoil during, changes during the establishment of the Ukrainian People's Republic, then the Bolsheviks' takeover of power, famine, then World War II, during which she lost her husband. Her life was strongly influenced by the disease and the fact that the village where she lived was located near Chernobyl, explained Myroslava Keryk, president of the board of the Ukrainian House foundation, at a press conference.

The exhibition “Tiger in the Garden. The Art of Maria Prymaczenko” will present 89 paintings by the artist, divided thematically. Part of it is devoted to creatures that accompany humans, often functioning as allegories. Some of them are the Chernobyl bestiary and adjacent works, i.e. compositions that are an attempt to depict a metaphorical beast. There are also paintings that celebrate human involvement in community work and admiration for everyday life. As well as works called dedications by the curators – these are compositions created by the artist for specific social groups, heroes and heroines of everyday life, e.g. soldiers or milkmaids.

– It is a historiosophical poem about human life, his struggle with the world, the desire to discover certain rules of reality in which growth, symbiosis with the world, coming to terms with loss, personification of the vital forces of nature, give this world rhythm – said the curator of the exhibition Szymon Maliborski . – Sometimes various unexpected moments enter this world, such as the Chernobyl disaster, and at the same time this world is hidden under a very attractive visual form. We would like to try to tell this form also in the context of social life and the conditions for creating this art, he noted.

“He treats folk art as a base”

Prymaczenko's painting may only seem to be pleasantly colorful and optimistic folk art. The artist drew inspiration from folk tradition, using it to process and present the surrounding reality in a unique way.

– What distinguishes it is that it treats folk art as a base from which it creates its own universe – explained curator Szymon Maliborski. – Prymaczenko communicates with the viewer through convention, which he tries to break down and build philosophical meanings, he expands this folklore in depth, adding new layers to it, confronting it with real conditions of possibility. At the same time, what distinguishes it is its style, a kind of plasticity and imagination that draws from archaism. This folk convention is told in order to stage a fairy tale, which sometimes has dark shades and therefore escapes the simplified celebrations typical of folk culture, he added.

The organizers emphasize the importance of the exhibition because it fits into the institution's mission and the conflict taking place beyond our eastern border.

– This is a moment of reevaluating categories, wondering how we should include these individual biographies in the mainstream of art history, how the ethnographic category becomes a full-fledged artistic category – said the curator. – This is an important process of decolonization of Ukrainian culture, which was introduced into the niche of folk, rural culture, and through this prism of the art of happy peasants, attempts were made to objectify it – he explained.

– Thinking about how to decolonize various contexts of power within art in this part of Europe is part of the mission of our museum. We think of this exhibition as a gesture of solidarity. We would like to show that MSN, despite the image of a concrete bunker and sterile architecture, is a place that is able to accommodate art with a ludic aspect. Art that can be perceived quickly, which on a certain level can be felt and understood at first sight – he added. – This exhibition is incredibly symbolic in the context of the ongoing war – he noted.

The exhibits come from the private collection of the Ukrainian art historian, co-curator and originator of the exhibition, Edward Dymszyc, which was shown at the National Museum. Andrzej Szeptycki in Lviv.

– We end the history of the Museum of Modern Art here with an exhibition of an individual artist, an outsider who escaped the rigid framework of folklore and folk art – emphasized Anna Cygankiewicz from the communications team during the press conference.

– Tiger in the garden. “The Art of Maria Prymaczenko” is the last exhibition of the Museum of Modern Art presented in the Pavilion on the Vistula River. It can be viewed from April 5 to June 30.

Main photo source: PAP/Leszek Szymański

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