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About Sergey Luniov

The creative work of Kharkiv watercolorist, Sergiy Omelyanovych Lunyov, (1909-1978) is a high spot in the history of Ukrainian fine arts. Luniov started developing as an artist in his adolescence with many factors influencing his creative growth. This began at the studio of the famous Ukrainian artist, poet and teacher N.H.Onatsky during the 1920’s where Luniov gained the basic professional skills impacting the formation of his artistic imagination.

The natural, picturesque scenery of Kekino village and the Sumy region, where the artist was born and studied, deeply influenced his imaginary skills as a future artist. S. Luniov completed his formal education in painting at Kharkiv Arts College (1928-32), where he was taught by the accomplished artists and instructors O.Kokel, V.Ryftin and M.Shcheglov, and further developed his drawing and painting skills. During this period he further developed his understanding of color, interpretation and interaction with space and ornamental drawing skills. This formal preparation has been reflected throughout the painter’s creative career.

After graduation, Luniov joined the army as his only choice during the difficult political and economic situation in Ukraine. However three years later it became mandatory forcing him to stay in the army as a border guard for another twenty two years (1933-1956). Separated from an active and supportive artistic enviroment he continued his independent study in watercolor and drawing, continuing to further develop his own style of expression. By the end of the 1930’s he participated for the first time in the regional art exhibition of Kharkiv. Only after his retirement from the army in 1957, was he able to devote himself completely to the development of his creative potential. From that time on he concentrated on the complex painting techniques, creating works which were spiritual and full bodied in their world perspective.

He was admitted to the USSR Commonwealth of Artists in 1958, where he remained an active participant in regional, national and foreign exhibitions receiving critical acclaim for his vivid world vision and high professional standards.

The confirmation of life in all its aspects became the noted leading motif of the Luniov’s work during the 1950’s-1960s where he travelled extensively. He produced a series of watercolors representing the original nature of the many regions throughout Ukraine and many other parts of the USSR. The watercolor series devoted to industrial Donbas, Kryvorozhye, the beauty of the Dnieper and Yenisey, the Middle Volga region, and the Carpathian and the Crimean mountains were produced during this period. Luniov could not avoid the dramatic social and cultural changes taken place throughout all of Europe, especially the Western art world which experienced a major re-evaluation of authentic and moral values. Under his brush as a tool of poetic embodiment of life the agile technique of the watercolor painting flowed easily and naturally.

For Luniov, it was also a period of strenuous work, the search of new expressive imaginative tools, and a time of acquisition of modern applied art language of the 20th century. His works of this period where characterized by three expressive brush-works with spirited colors. The dynamic images reflecting the stylized images influenced from West European painting and graphics sources, namely, Matisse, Picasso, Ukrainian and Russian Advant-Guard are easily detected. They appeared in Lunyov’s works in the converted state and became the basis of the new expressive evaluation from his previous efforts.

Attracted by the decorative essence of the watercolor art, he painted broadly and sweepingly, mixing the colors freely. All the colors are subordinated to one goal – to make the subject to represent its inward spiritual nature. All of his artistic works are the evidence of the variability and agility of his soul. The objective and physical world seen by the artist’s inner view is embodied in secret, spiritual things.

The artist’s imagination helped him create new techniques of painting. He never stopped improvising throughout his life. Looking for new possibilities of his creative expression of his love for graphic and applied arts, he developed watercolor mixture that resembled oil paintings. Luniov improvised by using watercolors along with wax or soap laying, scraping, “washing off” technique. The enhanced role of the silhouette and the full color patch can be noticed in his watercolors of this period. The watercolor painting technique that the author used helped him in many respects to avoid the constraints that were imposed by ideologists of the social realism dogmas in the art. The artist’s works during this time were prone to generalization; as the artist discarded details or subdued them to the main theme, Luniov’s work during this period became a kind of generalization. The internal broadness and freedom of thought allowed him to create paintings that converted the observed objects of the visual world through creations of complex philosophic associative images through the use of general color node and design.

Still-life paintings became significant genres in the creative work of Luniov by the beginning of the 1960’s. The artist used the same compositional formula in many of them – a flower or vase in the center, but at every sheet it was converted in numerous variations that seemed inexhaustible in their imaginative and plastic solution. When you view the entire body of work, it discloses the theme in various tempos and tonality, giving the new sense to the broad imaginative spectrum: from lyrics to philosophic reflections.

Landscape painting continued as an expression throughout his creative life. The picturesque surroundings from his native Ukrainian countryside are the bearer of moods and emotions in Luniov’s works. It was recognized by him as spirituality and composed of whimsical line rhythm, lightfull and vibrating coloring ingenuity. The theme of Kharkiv life holds a prominent role Luniov’s works. He was one of the first local artists who praised the city’s individuality (“In the Evening”, 1963; “Night at Sumskaya Street”, 1964; “The Theater Square. Kharkiv”,1971). In these watercolors, the artist reproduced inimitable significance of every moment of the human life in a big city. The artist also experimented with portraits and abstract works.

By the mid 70’s he developed a special series of watercolors grouped under the name “Metamorphoses”. These works produced by the artist’s creative fantasy were a response to the events of contemporary social problems. Different imaginative-plastic and imaginative-conceptual layers collide and interact in these works. They create a polyphonic image of the artist’s identity in the world, they are full of philosophic and psychological depth. Evidence of Luniov’s creative maturity dominated the seventies. Themes with emotional dominance were concurrent with works of analytical nature. The specific and generalization were originally combined in both types of works. Luniov’s works demonstrate the vivid revelation of the general regularities of watercolor painting contemporary to him and individual features of his creativity. He has left a great heritage, including many graphic paintings which resulted in an outstanding collection that shows Luniov’s continuous growth as a painter and his constant effort to express the world around him. His works are the great example of artistic thinking, hard work along with the ability to see the infinite world “in the moment of eternity”.