Art Kaleidoscope

Between art and craft

Russian artist Victor Koulbak

Painting by Russian artist Victor Koulbak

Portrait of a beautiful woman. Painting by Russian artist Victor Koulbak

Russian artist Victor Koulbak
“I do not know whether the beauty will save the world, but we can not survive without it”, says Victor Koulbak. His silver-point paintings resemble the spirit of the Renaissance masters. Born 12 March 1946 in Moscow, Koulbak was the second child in the family. His father was a military pilot and his mother looked after the children and the house. In fact, it was she who first noticed Victor’s talent and one day took him to school at the Academy of Fine Arts in Moscow. Koulbak studied in this school for four years and still remembers it with gratitude: “The teachers from the Academy of Fine Arts taught us craft, and methods of teaching were the most classic. They required from us only one – accuracy. I liked it, and was happy”.

Painting by Russian artist Victor Koulbak

Girl’s portrait. Painting by Russian artist Victor Koulbak

The artist recalls, “The best works regularly decorated a special window. When my first drawing got there, I was very proud, and even brought my mother and sister, and they were happy for my success. Can you imagine their horror when one day they saw that the window was broken and the only picture, mine, was stolen! I, on the contrary, was happy: it was my first professional success.”

After completing the study in art and secondary schools, Koulbak began to look for a mentor. He visited many workshops, and chose one of the famous artists at that time, who seemed to him the most interesting. The doctrine did not last long: on the first day Koulbak quarreled with the master and in anger left the studio. The reason was very simple: the master taught his style, his aesthetic principles, his vision, and not the mysteries of the craft, which he possessed in perfection.
After this incident Koulbak takes the most important decision in his life: to learn from old Masters, and study their technique to analyze the aesthetic principles. Like all young artists, he experienced various influences: Van Gogh, Cezanne, Bruegel … But all this eventually ended to the period of the Renaissance: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dürer, Van Eyck, and Memmling – the real teachers of Koulbak.

However, inherent in Koulbak temper and intransigence, which he repeatedly showed during his school years could not but lead to a conflict with the Soviet reality. The fact that Koulbak was important and valuable, did not fit into boring canons of official art. And he, like many of his contemporaries, who later became known as non-conformist artists, had to earn for living by designing books and magazines.

In fact, in order to join the Union of Artists, it was necessary to take part in two official exhibitions. The selection committee consisted of party officials and the faithful artists who strictly followed the aesthetic principles of socialist realism. Unfortunately, Koulbak didn’t fit these principles.

Finally, in 1975, Victor Koulbak left the Soviet Union. He lived in Vienna for half a year, tried to work there, but his main occupation was to visit museums. Vienna – a paradise for the artist. Museum of Art History, the Academy, the Albertina Museum of Modern Art – he spent the whole day there. One day he seems to be petrified in front of one of the paintings by Bruegel. Time stood still, the outside world has ceased to exist. Of unconsciousness state he was brought to life by a museum worker: time to close the museum. He was very surprised – when he entered the museum, it was only 11 a.m. He looked out of the window – the street lit by lights, it was night … As he learned later, he experienced a phenomenon known to modern medicine as “Stendhal syndrome”. The syndrome, named after the writer, since it was he who first described it in 1817 in his book “Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio”.

Before leaving the Soviet Union, Koulbak, with the help of friends, managed to smuggle his paintings to Sweden. And finally, from Stockholm he got an invitation from well-known galleries. He moved to Sweden and stayed there for about a year. During this time successfully passed four of his solo exhibitions in Scandinavia: Helsinforg, Stockholm, Malmö, and Oslo. In 1976, Koulbak moved to Paris. Since then, he had 25 solo exhibitions in France, Italy, Japan, Canada, Belgium, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Malta. Since 2000, Koulbak lives and works in Malta.

Victor Koulbak works in a variety of media: oil, gouache, watercolor, dry needle, pencil, ink, silver needle. He enjoys recipes of Renaissance masters, adapting them to his aesthetic concept. One time he even made the brush and paper himself.

For all the stylistic, thematic and technical variety of works from all periods Victor Koulbak combines hardware greed and wealth of the inner world of the objects. However, the way in which the artist manages to combine these seemingly opposite traits achieving harmony – his secret. A unique phenomenon, according to one collector “Koulbak does not belong to contemporary art: he knows how to draw.”

“Renaissance in our civilization, – says Victor Koulbak – occupies a unique place. Depicting a man, an artist of the time portrayed in it God, and to cope with this task could only a professional. Never – either before or after – artist did not rise craft to such heights. God, gradually replaced by a man, and the process ends with the artist himself… “.

“The self-proclaimed actor without talent and craft, art dealer without remorse and collector without taste – that’s what today dominates on the so-called artistic market. Factories which apprentices paste on canvas, and the artist just puts his name on these masterpieces, how we have come to such a life?”

“In order to make the child a true artist, one must first recognize beautiful from the ugly, learn to master the material, turning even his shortcomings into dignity, to teach the technique. This, of course, takes years of hard work. But if we do not do it today, the future of our world seems to me gloomy. Refusing to beauty, we abandon civilization. I do not know whether the beauty will save world, but we cannot survive without it.” Russian artist Victor Koulbak.

Russian artist Victor Koulbak