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23 Сентября 2018
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Famous Belarusian Artist Schemelev Turns 85 Year Old

Famous Belarusian Artist Leonid Schemelev Turns 85 Year Old
By Igor Korney
Radio Liberty
On 7 February, the National Arts Museum opened a retrospective exhibition of the Artist’s best pieces dedicated to his anniversary.
Unfortunately, Leonid Schemelev was not able to spend his birthday or attend the exhibition with his relatives and friends – a week ago he had to go to Hospital because of a micro-stroke.
The artist’s wife Svetlana Nikolayevna said that her husband was hospitalised on suspicion of a micro-stroke. Soon he will be undergoing a rehabilitation course in Aksakovschina – Leonid Dmitrievich’s condition has been normalised. Just a day before the artist had to go to Hospital he spoke to Radio Liberty journalists and they did not notice anything wrong with the physical condition of one of the most prominent Belarusian artists.
Every time you happen to walk into Leonid Dmitrievich’s workshop you think that he is working as if it is the last day of his life. His colleagues can be very jealous of his ‘fruitfulness’. It is one of few cases when quantity does not affect quality. The artist himself said that he has been trying to follow a certain routine that helps him to make a painting perfect: “Here is my routine: I come to the workshop at 11 o’clock in the morning. There is enough light at that time, the sun is not in the way and I find it easy to paint. So I keep working without any breaks until three o’clock. I don’t work any more – I stay at home and do some pencils sketches. I don’t go back to the workshop. Why? Because I go there next morning and look at that the painting anew. When you tire your eye out you loose sensitivity and start doing the same thing twice. Otherwise, you have a fresh outlook and you can pick up things that need to be changed much easier. Of course, I break the routine sometimes. It’s not set in stone. In this sense I am an absolutely free person. God gave an opportunity to do want I want. Nobody pushes me.”
Leonid Schemelev had an abundant and difficult life. He was born in Vitebsk and was saturated with Shagal and Pen. He went through the whole war and contrary to his colleagues his artistic life is not based on the war experiences. He didn’t want to see stars on soldiers’ helmets only: “There’s a saying: ‘You can see stars in puddles’. It depends on the way you look at it. Stars are always there and can be reflected anywhere. Of course, I wouldn’t want to be happy regardless the situation. There should be a certain attitude to the things around you. This is why we have our history and our interpretation of wars, political events, and all sorts of ideas about confrontation and disagreements. The artist should have it all. This is why I started off with the civil war in my work. It’s about quality associations. About 3-4 years ago I was painting ‘On the sandy beach’ and it was related to the past. There are many more paintings that go back into the past. Belarus is an untouched expanse of history – war, patriotism – anything you like.”
The artist travelled a lot across the former Soviet Union and many countries around the world but lately he has an developed interest in Belarusian deepwater. Life there is more natural than in the capital: “Despite all material difficulties, you want to see some enthusiasm and positive attitude to life, I mean in the public, state, and family. You want to find something better than things you are used to. I have seen so many bad things in my life! God keep you safe from it… Still, there are many interesting things around us today. I went to a small town the other day, and I noticed that towns are tidier now and nicer looking. People are more interesting. I went to the Vileiskoye water reservoir – there were many people there, some of them were tipsy but they were easy to talk to and associate with. Of course, if an artist can express it in his own ways, it is really fascinating.”
Leonid Schemelev does not deny the fact that political life leaves an imprint on any artist. Schemelev said that difficult circumstances can harden a real artist, but they will never break him. There are so many examples: “In general, if we are talking about some prominent artists I knew in the past, I can say that difficulties in life of course had some effect on their work. But the main thing in the life of an artist is inspiration. This is why we have ‘Madonna with a child’; El Greco who survived colossal difficulties in his home country and then suddenly he was recognised as a talent in Italy. So many other things! Rublev created ‘The Trinity’ under the Byzantium reign. We invented the white, yellow, and blue colours for icons although they were very dark before. He expressed such happiness about Divine ideas in real life. The Arts are very idealistic. We don’t reproduce the reality around us.”


 

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