Personal exhibition in the gallery “Kunstkaufhaus”. Catalogue. Leipzig. 1998
The nature of the sculpture is mysterious and ambiguous. Even a small statuette preserves both the image of a pagan idol and the memory of God's hand touch, which creates the first man from a lump of clay. Its spirituality is able to be embodied in heavy earthly material. This duality is best combined with what can be called the Ukrainian mentality. The consciousness of the nation, which declared Christianity as its religion more than a thousand years ago, but still preserves pagan rituals and archaic traditions in the memory of generations, expresses itself most clearly in the language of sculpture. Perhaps this is what determined the place occupied by the Ukrainian sculptor Arkhipenko in the world art of the century. The modern sculpture of Ukraine is also nourished by the same roots. The works of Vasyl Byk perfectly illustrate this tendency. They are the flesh from the flesh of this complex alloy of primitive, pagan and Christian cultures, in which matter is spiritualized, and the spirit is clothed in a defiantly material form. Thus, in the “Trinity” the plastic expression of the Christian symbol of faith finds its embodiment in the ancient archetypal form of the pyramid, the incorporeal becomes thorough, and the elusive becomes monumental. “Easter Christ” is an equally stable, tangible image; on the other hand, it literally has a “second meaning” – this sculpture, if desired, can turn into a bell, which originally calls people to repent of the Lord. Such ambivalence is characteristic not only of the sculptor's religious works. Here is an example from a completely different sphere – the marble “Female Torso”. When viewed from the front, it embodies a truly pagan feast of the flesh, which brings to mind baroque images. But start walking around the sculpture – and now it is already gracefully thinning, taking on a kind of mysterious, out-of-place look. A few more steps – and again a wild game of earthly beauty. And these transformations can be endless. “The Keeper of home and wealth” is an interpretation of the ancient Trypilian image, which still gives off the spirit of the patriarchal system. And here in the statuette “Elegance” another Trypilian canon of the image evokes completely different associations – here, in addition to the original Venuses, the works of Archipenko are mentioned, an exquisite mannequin is seen in some Paris fashion atelier at the beginning of the century. In “Woman on the Beach” a model in the style of Rubens, and Soviet beauties of the early 1920s, and today's Ukrainian bazaar trader come to life. And such a kaleidoscope of images evokes the imagination of almost every work of the sculptor. It is obvious that behind this lies not only the rich imagination of the author, but also the centuries-old traditions on which his art is based. These various sources, which continue to exist in parallel in the modern culture of Ukraine and feed it with their juices, create this peculiar, whimsical and living fusion of images and forms.
Kateryna Stukalova, Art critic
The state of being in love has a power that conquers, charms against all arguments and taste preferences. Similar to the unknown nature of electricity, this impulse creates a strong field around itself. Vasyl Byk's creations carry the energy of the master's love. Vasyl frankly admits: “Many artists are now not interested in nature, its plasticity, but I just enjoy it.” It is hard not to believe the author, looking at his “Torses”, “Eva”, “Flora”. His bronze “Proud Roman Woman” carries her hips like a cup filled to the brim, “Pharaoh's Mistress” is like a cup of fertility, the magnificent “Woman on the Beach” is a confused original Venus. “A woman is nature,” notes Vasyl Byk. And he studies this nature with trepidation, aloofness, passion, embodying it in the image of a proud girl (Prima), a virgin in love (“Kateryna”), a royally sensual woman (“Blonde Braid”). But not only living nature dominates the love of the artist. We catch the scent of his admiration for the plastic sculptures of H. Moore, I. Meshtrovych, H. Arp, K. Tange, and A. Arkhipenko. Slippery trail, eye adjustment. Vasyl Byk returns the honed plastic code of different masters to nature, immerses it in its natural pulsation, fastidiousness, individuality. The artist appreciates matter by itself, without its drifting into other, supra-material states, into the incorporeal. Bronze and stone give Vasyl the opportunity to create a new body that repeats and changes visible forms. The texture of the material, its color, tectonics, and structure can be perceived in the works of Vasyl Byk as self-sufficient phenomena. However, at the same time, the sculpture is powerfully driven by the internal need for mimesis, the creation of sensually real images. Even in spiritual themes, the artist offers us a materially significant embodiment of the “Trinity”, “Christ”, “Holy Family”. In the composition “Virgin Mary with her son”, the young Christ stands in front of the shining sun with Mary's bosom. “Easter Christ” turns into a bell, its heavy hollow body can be filled with a powerful sound. The Trinity forms a three-sided mountain-church, on which rests the earthly sphere, crowned with a cross. The Trinity as architecture, superstructure, beginning, support, ultimate content. The three hypostases of the one God are embodied in a bronze tint of the color of the earth. Vitalism, magnetism of matter appears in everything that the sculptor's hand touches. Vasyl Byk was born in a Ukrainian village, in the bosom of lush nature, in the world of a mystical fairy tale. Then there was a long way of studying in Kyiv, in an art studio, at the Ukrainian Academy of Arts. Familiarization with different ways of creative understanding of the world, plastic systems, artistic currents. Movement directly in the form of a choice, through the other – to oneself. In the soul of the artist, the myth about the Little Mermaid, who lives everywhere – in the water, in the field, in the forest, can catch up and capture her anywhere. Giving his strength to stone and metal, Vasyl Byk again and again falls into the love nets of Nature.
Olga Lagutenko, Art critic
The catalog “Woman on the feather bed” was created for the personal art exhibition “Horizontalia”. ABC Art Gallery. Kyiv. 2013
Woman on the Feather-Bed
For ages the woman created the place of love and passion in her house, she decorated it and filled with the symbols of her existence, power and charm, also it included protective embroideries. Even powerful Zeus couldn't help the temptation of covering Dione with the golden rain inside of the copper closet, on the luxurious feather-bed and pillows she had embroidered herself, being imprisoned. Watching the plastic of the Trypillie people you can come to the conclusion that there were Trypillie Madonnas who embodied the well of the hospitability and wealth into the oven and transferred the great effort of Protecting Mother to the descendants. The woman till now represents three corners making the base of the house.
A woman embroidered on feather-bed
With crosses a guelder rose.
Having put on around embroidery belt
She hoped for the luck of course.
Except the crucifix the thing I liked best in the houses of my native land of Polissia was a bed. Beds are really unique in every house. They are always tidy, well done, lacy, with protective embroideries on the bed-decks and pillows, which are put on a feather-bed in the form of a pyramid. Sometimes this Babylon Tower made of geese feathers was as high as the ceiling and it was ruined daily according to the willing of the heart in honor of the Great Love. Four corners of the feather bed revealed the full strength of the powerful breath of love, power of the feelings of both those beloved and parental affection. Feather-beds are artificially plastic, decorated, homemade protection of love, they are evaluated as well as all the gold treasure of the Ukrainian female soul. They are the very thing that decode the mystery of the male fourth corner in the harmonic combination with three female ones which are at the base of the house.
I was deeply impressed by the wisdom of our charming women, I was imprisoned by the plastic forms of feather-beds. It has broadened my outlook and that's why I created the range of sculptural works to glorify that extra attractive esthetically phenomena in the erotic and spiritual culture of our people.
Some guelder roses
Appeared on the feather-bed
Embroidered with crosses
As Mother could get.
Vasyl Byk, Sculptor
EMBRACING THE FORM. Vasyl Byk
Sculptures by Vasyl Byk are created to be able to go around them and see, and also, which is important, touch them to feel. They seem to be encouraging you to communicate with them in this particular way. His “Ladies” are possibly on the top of the tactile rating. You touch them with your sight and feel like touching them by hand. You pat the sculpture and feel with your hand palm how differently every image responds to you.
In mid 1880s with some arrogance Kyiv citizens criticized the manners and outfits of Mykail Vrubel. The artist went out in the costume of a «young Venetian boy» from Tintoretto’s canvas wearing a blank long velvet coat, French knickers, and an ancient Venetian lady’s stocking tied around his neck. They believed it was the consequence of exaltation and lack of decent clothes. However, Vrubel never tried to be a trouble-maker. He only longed for bringing beauty to lives of those citizens, surmounting all featureless and boring, and lighting up everything all visible and hand-made with the imagination and fantasy.
Vasyl Byk also tries to surmount all featureless and boring, washing away the borders between sensual and visual, fantastic and realistic world of nature and human soul. This interlacement creates flowing images, which seem to be avoiding trivial explanations.
Artist’s unrestrained desire to “embrace as much as possible” multiplied by the moderate expressiveness of his tools makes possible for viewers to read accustomed signs and symbols differently, and as a result “feel” differently.
His carved from the wood and painted “Girl with Cherries” is mysteriously beautiful and unreachable. There is an impression that as soon as you approach her one step forward, she will flow away like a stream or spread like a mist with some sparkling red stars of berries, regardless the deliberate brutality of forms.
Some works are only for interiors, others can be easily imagined as big as a monument. However, both have the measure of the amiability so characteristic of Vasyl, which allow both for the author and the viewer to keep aside and not to get involved into the problems of conflict between modern and post-modern, as sculptures do not necessarily have to be aggressively original or to subjugate the space of co-existence. Vasyl’s works are really friendly in the sense, which implies life with another person under the same roof.
Trembling protective gesture of the Holy Virgin is amazingly pure, unimpaired and balanced sign intrinsic for the whole artistic life of the sculptor, who is motivated to work with the intolerance to boredom of a common life, love and passion.
Petro Bevza, Painter
Catalog for the personal exhibition of the sculpture “Spiritual Harbors” in the Metropolitan Chambers of the National Reserve “Sofia of Kyiv”. Kyiv. 2009
Spiritual and Natural beauty in the Arts of Sculptor Vasyl Byk
Vasyl Byk’s creativity could be correctly called a creativity of a philosopher. He tries to understand himself through his works as though he is creating himself! In his works the philosophy of the artist’s life and his soul are being revealed. Alike Grygoriy Skovoroda he tries to find the sense and purpose of life of a Human in the universe. According to the artist they imply being the source of light and warmth, consciousness and diligence of this world.
A Human takes an exceptional place among the sculptor’s works. He praises human’s spiritual origin as the image of God, puts it above material and physical elements and desires. His works depict the many layers of Human’s life; they trace the artist’s understanding of the balance between spiritual and physical aspects very accurately. At the same time an appreciable preference is granted to the spiritual.
Vasyl Byk is an artist from God and a Human with the rich inner content. The spirituality comes from outside his works and is breathed out and embodied in various images. All he does goes from outside his soul. That is why his works contain a piece of his soul! For instance, “The Keeper of a Wonder Flower” (sandstone, wood, 2008) is dedicated to an outstanding Ukrainian poetess Lina Kostenko. It is not accidental that the image of this adorable woman, which the artist was begetting for years, can be compared with the lily flower, as “the white lotus bloom is not ashamed of the dirt it grows from”. Alike the poetess he tries to extract purity, immaculacy, and peace and raise that unrealistic layer, which the woman has to raise during her life. In the physical images Vasyl Byk immortalizes the most positive human manifestations, which are the maternity “Woman’s Torso-Conception”, 2000), girl’s gracefulness (“Prima”, 1995) and youth (“A Girl with Butterfly”, 2001), the power of love (“Catherine”, 1997), woman’s maturity (“A Woman with Cherries”, 2001; “She, Who is Gathering Flax”, 2008), male’s fortitude (“A Boy with Chamomile”, 1994), etc. However, the outer shells of these images are only a form and event, whereas the actual sense and essence are much deeper. In them the artist tries to share the inner world of a human and the picture of human’s own “me”, as only the heart and the inner substance serves the source of the human’s spiritual life and essence! Vasyl Byk’s works contain simple and clear laws of harmony and beauty. They also embrace a lot of symbols, as the arts and sculptures, in particular, are impossible without symbolism. The artist’s favourite symbol is a triangle, which is a symbol of life! It has pursued the artist: he was born on the Trinity day and his works carry the triune essence, which is plasticity, symbolism, and spirit, which it generates. In particular, the artist’s very successful work “Trinity” is full of symbols: the cross that symbolizes the eternity, the sphere that is both the symbol and the model of the universe, which Father God, Son of God, and Holy Spirit hold and interweave into the whole. Other works can also be mentioned as an example: “Paschal Jesus” (bronze, 1994), “Holy Family” (bronze, 1993), “Crowned by the Almighty” (marble, 1999).
The God’s Mother takes a separate and special place in Vasyl Byk’s work. The sculptor has turned to this image many times, for instance “The Virgin Mary with Son” (bronze, stone, 1992), “The Virgin Mary with Son” (wood, 2006) and “The Virgin” (wood, 2009). In the Virgin’s streamline outline the artist depicts the main idea of the Christian world, which is self-sacrifice. It can be easily recognized both in the images of Merciful Virgin Mary and Christ the Child.
As we can see, sculptures of Vasyl Byk are the desires of his heart, which reveal the power of the beauty of eternity, the idea of the spirituality, and the way to the revival in plastic arts. Using his inspiring creativity as an example he carries the payer to the Human into the world. He tries to embrace the beauty of the outer and the inner worlds with his consciousness and heart and embody them in plastic images.
Olga Denisyuk, Candidate of Arts, Associate Professor, Chair of Study of Art and Expertise, the State Academy of Management of Culture and Arts (Kyiv)