View of Lviv blown glass art at the turn of the 21st century: Experimental search of artistic individuals


Zoia Chehusova, PhD
Honored Artist of Ukraine

In the second half of the 20th — the beginning of the 21st century the lion’s share of achievements in the field of art glass in Ukraine belonged to artists-glaziers of the original Lviv school of arts and crafts that during the 20th century formed on the rich traditions of folk art of this region, absorbing the heritage of national culture and achievements of European professional artists. Thanks to Lviv glassblowing artists, Ukrainian glassmaking received a powerful impetus to development.

Andriy Bokotey, Ukraine
Andriy Bokotey, Ukraine

In the second half of the 20th — the beginning of the 21st century the lion’s share of achievements in the field of art glass in Ukraine belonged to artists-glaziers of the original Lviv school of arts and crafts that during the 20th century formed on the rich traditions of folk art of this region, absorbing the heritage of national culture and achievements of European professional artists. Thanks to Lviv glassblowing artists, Ukrainian glassmaking received a powerful impetus to development.
At the turn of the 21st century, the art of «fire and light» is embodied in the new extraordinary forms. Talented Ukrainian artists create numerous rare works in blown glass and matte crystal. The boundaries between a product, sculpture and applied arts are gradually erased in these works. Being developed in the context of the author’s studio glass, Ukrainian blown glass receives international recognition. For Lviv art glass by heredity of its traditions and diversity of its image-making and exquisite plastic decoration is «an exceptional phenomenon that covers the creativity of a number of outstanding folk craftsmen and professional artists».
Professional artists mastered the ancient methods and techniques of the «oldschool» glassworks and were aware of the tradition of free blowing of glass and dealing with it. Already during the 1970’s −1980’s there is a radical change in the principles of shaping and decoration. Exhibition works of this period are increasingly becoming of metaphorical, allegorical nature. And in subsequent years, this trend prevails, although the symbol and allegory do not appear a goal in itself, but only contribute to fuller disclosure of feelings in the world of the artist.
Thus gradually outlined the view of the «new» Lviv glass blowing, consisting of experimental search and findings of creative individuals. The artists tried to implement new figurative and formal artistic designs in the exhibition of three-dimensional works that are more inclined to sculptural plastic. A new direction starts to develop on the basis of traditional blown glass — glass plastics. With its high performance culture, it most fully revealed originality of plastic figurative thinking of Lviv creators.
Bold experiments of Lviv artists (for example, works by S. Masliak of sulfide and transparent glass, works by A. Bokotey, F. Cherniak, V. Hinzburg — in color and transparent) opened broad horizons to the Ukrainian glaziers.

Utensils volumes turned into the so-called floral, biomorphic ones, in which sharply anxious feeling of nature was combined with associative, more indirect links between natural motifs and their embodiment in the material. It is vividly shown in the poetic works of Zinoviia Masliak (1925-1984), who since the mid 1970’s has been experimenting in the motifs of the new form creation, has been trying to go beyond the borders of the traditionally set image of utility-decorative glass (decorative sculpture «Chestnut» from the composition «Chestnut in Bloom», 1982, Lviv experimental ceramics-sculptural plant, National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art; the vase from decorative composition «Marigold», 1982, National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art). Z. Masliak’s compositions are designed for associative perception, «are characterized by vivid boldly grasped shape, free, vigorous modeling, by originality of detecting contrasts of light and shadow in the mass of glass».
The Lviv group of glassmakers in the early 1980’s became outstanding figures. Among them are: Franz Cherniak and Andriy Bokotey. Both of them are the permanent members of numerous Ukrainian and international exhibitions, exhibitors at all international symposiums of glass, which took place in Lviv (1989-2016), who «moved together in a given direction towards innovation» and carried out large-scale technological experiments in their relentless search for new techniques of decorating glassware. Their artistic achievements even today allow us not only to talk about the latest solutions in image-plastic tasks in the glass through subordination of technological principles to philosophical filling of works, but also about their general impact on the artistic progress of Lviv glass at the turn of the 21st century.
F. Cherniak is the artist, who worked at the Lviv experimental ceramics-sculptural plant with glass almost without the help of glass blowers, fantasized with colored glass at the furnace on his own. Thanks to deep knowledge and wonderful sense of material, he created unique associative-figurative works in diverse range from themes of nature («Spring», «Poplar», «Peas» — 1970), biblical motifs («Cross», «Moses» — 1980) to space fantasies («Tungus Meteorite», «Crater», «Space», «Objects in Space», «Orbit», «Birth of the Matter», «Planets» — 1980’s).
Andriy Bokotey, who «is the follower of the Lviv blown glass school, was formed as an artist by the culture of blown glass workshop of Lviv experimental ceramics-sculptural plant, and by the cultural traditions of the modernism and trans-avant-garde», was one of the first of those who retreated from the utility function of glass, and turned glassware into the work of art. In his works, he solved a new task: to create an image through unfettered form.
Bokotey followed the new, unresearched, unknown paths, experimenting with glass, which had not been subject to artistic tasks before. Trying out various technologies, he got engrossed into the internal space of his post-modernism forms such as the sphere, the drop («Improvisation», 1980; «Hutsul Madonnas», 1981; «Dedicated to Henry Moore», 1983), filled with the peculiar life of glass forms, and inherent with ambiguous figurative and semantic connections: glass — element, glass — material, Space — element and material. An amazing, almost magical medley gave the result of an extraordinary palette of decorative glass that revealed in the topics, which excited the author: the birth of matter, space of the Universe, the vastness of nature («Universe-I, II», 1979-1981; «The Birth of Matter-I, II», 1981-1984).
Works by Bokotey cause the flow of associations that are never ambiguous. He easily handles glass and is able to control its ability of deformation. Because of this he manages to create expressive compositions with very abstracted images of people and animals that seem to be converted into a system carrying secret sacred meaning of symbols known only to the artist, standing on the threshold of the third millennium.
This is what amazes in the moving series of A. Bokotey of the late 1980’s — early 1990’s «Toys for Adults». The motive of wheel, constantly repeated in the works of this series, is perceived as the symbol of comprehensive expanse that includes several semantic layers. It includes solar symbol (the concept of the sun as a wheel was one of the most common in the ancient times), and the symbol of time flow. Bokotey’s wheel also reminds of the attribute of a mythical Fortune — changeable and uncertain.
In the 1990’s-2000’s at the international exhibitions and symposiums the wide resonance was made by figurative plastic of A. Bokotey made of flat stained glass in the author’s technique. Every composition of this series is a «theatre», which unfolds its own little drama. Images of sad and monotonous «sedentary» (series «Sedentary», 1991; compositions «The Last Supper», 1991; «Rest», 1992; «The Two», 1993; «Conversation», 2002), or his favorite «Riders» (composition «Rider», 1992; «The Dream», 1998) are perceived through the philosophical symbols of loneliness and perhaps embody the deepest spiritual movements and thoughts of the author.
Since 1981 Bokotey experiments a lot with flat decorative layers (the so-called glass watercolors), which in interior space are perceived as a virtuoso abstract pictorial compositions. The conditional glass landscapes of Bokotey, executed in author’s technique, always feature a lot of sky, the image of which is full of majesty. The moon, the sun, the mountains — these are the favorite motifs of the artist: the moonlight, which makes its way through the torn clouds in the mist of the Carpathian mountains; Carpathian mountains, which raise their peaks to the bright sun (layers «Evening», 1986; «Landscape-88», 1988, the series «Landscapes», 1991; «Landscapes of Holohora», 2001; «Handzhov sketches», 2002; «Venice thread», 2011) and others.
In 1988 A. Bokotey and F. Cherniak participated in the International Symposium of Glass in Novi Bor in the then Czechoslovakia. In fact, they were among the first professional Ukrainian artists, who joined the «second wave» of the global movement of studio glass («Studio Glass Movement»), which emerged in the mid-twentieth century both in Europe and in the USA. Members of the movement found new manifestations of color-plastic glass expression, revealed its technological capabilities. As a result of the glass plastics genre development appeared the concept of author’s glass. At that time glass went beyond art industry and craft. And in the second half of the 20th century art glass became an equal link in the system of plastic arts.
Among creative supporters of A. Bokotey, from the times of his studies at the LSIADA (Lviv State Institute of Applied and Decorative Arts) in the 1960’s, Roman Petruk, a famous Lviv artist, is invariably present. He brings in his «barbaric» (by the artist’s definition) series of glass vessels-bottles the ingenuousness and freshness of the folk primitive senses. R. Petruk in some way tries to touch the origins − the technique of manufacturing an old glass. Coming from deliberately gross utilitarian shapes, the artist turns the excessive simplicity, laconic means of expressiveness into a high artistry, filling his works up with the special warmth, sincerity, which are inherent in the folk primitive (compositions from the series «The Barbarism»: «The Vessels», 1996-1998; «From the life of the vessels», 1998; «The Portrait», 1999, etc.). The serious internal bias with regard to the philosophical comprehension of the topic with the absence of external extravagance and visual effects distinguishes the artwork of R. Petruk in the modern stream of the fiberglass.
We can distinguish the works, by their original stylistics features, which were made by the Professor Oles Zvir, the longtime head of the Chair of Glass Art of the LNAA. His work represents the experimental course of Lviv glass school with a typical principal anti-traditionalism, the latest form making, the abandonment of classical utilitarian-applied norms. The orientation to the formal novelty and techniques of the primitive, as the course of the avant-garde of the XX century, made it possible for O. Zvir to develop the author’s own romantic mythology. [1] In the laconic conditionally-figurative compositions, saturated with red-black, or yellow-golden colors, or the palette of black and white, O. Zvir synthesizes his own imagination with pre-Christian artistic experience and mysticism of the Gothic vertical («The Day and Night» compositions, 1999, the NFDAM (National Folk Decorative Art Museum); «Red and black», «Yellow», «Two», «Lekh», «Somewhat» − 1999, «Chaos», 2000; «Meeting», 2009; «Something», 2014). A certain mystical power gives them the image of the human «cyclopic» eye − a view from the immensity of space to our present life.
The peculiar figurative compositions, the plastic of small forms by Bohdan Vasyltsiv, combines the author’s technique of glassblowing forming and decorating, which attract everyone by their laconic expressions of the artistic idea, purity of the vertical silhouette lines, elastic dynamics of the glass figures (series «The songs about love», 2000).
For the last decades, among the middle generation masters of glassblowing, we can observe some productive efforts of the artistic couple — Romana Hudyma-Bilous and Vasyl Bilous. The poetic talent of R. Hudyma-Bilous was revealed completely in such decorative and sculptural compositions as: «The color of the Ferns» (1988), «The snowdrops» (1991), «The lace of strange fairy tales» (1997), «The birch grove’s song» (1998), «The tree of the knowledge» (2014). We are convinced of the artistic talent of the experienced glassblower — V. Bilous, because of his sculptural nudes, in particular the series «Awakening» (2010).
In the creative search of non-standard use of art glass is Lesia Mandryka, a member of the NAUU, graduate from the LNAA (1987). Her plane compositions are far from the stereotyped glassblowing products, which the artist makes of glass tubes, twigs, fragments of colored sheet glass, where «along with the motifs, which are heading to the laconic precise plastic steps of the times of Suprematism and geometric abstractionism, we observe an unexpected interpretation of folk motifs in the glass «embroidery», «belt-edges», «towels», «necklaces» and also in the wonderful series of the «crosses» [2] («Winter in the Carpathians», 2001; «The Hutsul’s crown», 2008; «The landscape», «The rug» − 2009; «The cross in the wreath», 2010).
In some way, we can say that innovative is the experimental-search art of the graduates of the Art Glass Chair of the Lviv National Academy of Arts in 1980’s and 1990’s. Functioning of the only experimental glass furnace in Ukraine (since 1973), which gives students an opportunity to perform their own works directly in the material, effects on their achievements in the field of their author’s glass works. Such talented students of A. Bokotey and O. Zvir as R. Dmytryk, O. Prynada, A. Petrovskyi, A. Kurylo, O. Shevchenko, I. Matsiievskyi, A. Hohol, V. Tryntsolyn — all are interesting creative personalities, which were especially revealed at the international symposiums of glassblowing, which took place in Lviv in the 1990-2000’s.
Roman Dmytryk, who had been working as a glassblower at the LECSF (Lviv Experimental Ceramic and Sculpture Factory) for about ten years, has, the same way as his colleagues mentioned, his own way of artistic search. «Throughout the creative period, the artist’s style has been constantly evolving, transforming, gaining value and perfection». The non-trivial works of R. Dmytryk are always characterized by a certain rationalism of their construction, precisely verified means of expressiveness, which are organically combined with the author’s poetic attitude.
Andrii Petrovskyi successfully uses his experience of the master-glassblower, acquired in the production workshop of the Art Glass Chair of the LNAA (1989-1997). His original works, formed by a hot-glass method of free glass blowing, impress with their improvisations, lightness and informality of silhouettes. Built on the combination of architectonic designs and vessel shapes, the mysterious works by A. Petrovskyi, as if coming from the forgotten worlds of humanity, acquire the features of spatial objects (decorative compositions «The Tower of Life», 1997; «The Pathway», 1998; «Skifos», 2000). The artist modernizes the plastic language of glass and, at the same time, uses the classic proportions and silhouette lines of the ancient vessels, such as amphora, crater, kylix, rhyton (decorative vessels «The Crater», 1996; «The Odyssey’s Cup», 1998; «The Myths, 2000), established in the world practice.
Andrii Kurylo freely moves in the space of his own creative ideas. His artwork is distinguished by the experiments in blowing and stained glass, search for colored-plastic expression, figurative and artistic possibilities. Using only the handmade glass, in the 2000’s A. Kurylo tries to present the stained glass in his works as an autonomous art form, independent of the architecture of buildings. The shimmering surfaces of his stained-glass sheets, with contrasting or soft colors and precisely discovered proportions, are unusual in shapes and mysterious in content of images (sheets from the series «The mysterious spheres», 2000-2004; «The births of spheres», 2000-2009; «The Viennese chair», «The Mars», «Fish Hunting», «The fish mask» − 1999; «The glass fear», 2006; «The fish», 2014). Invincible arty-crafty compositions by A. Kurylo were created by the motifs of imaginary cosmic worlds, on the basis of abstract forms of bio- and zooplastic.
Basing on the works of Ukrainian glassblowers in the direction of lyrical and geometric abstraction, the eternal theme − the beauty of naked female body becomes even more acute, emotionally treated by Ihor Matsiievskyi, in his lyrical works in the genre of nude in the hot-glass technique with the use of galvanoplastics (decorative sculptures «Leli», 1996; «The athirst body», 1998; «The Temptation», 1999). Among them, the extremely generalized archaic Foremother torso impresses with its chastity in which the life-giving force is concentrated (decorative plastic «The Mother», 1999). Dynamic sculptural composition «The Dance» (2005, LECSF, NFDAM) can be considered the true artistic triumph of the master.
Orest Prynada is trying to broaden the usual borders of the art of stained glass. Working creatively in the field of architectural and decorative glass, he is trying to find some new technologies that would enable to maximally reveal the optical qualities of glass and its diverse textures. The aim of O. Prynada’s searches is to create spatial compositions in redefined classical technique of stained glass, which will also be appropriate in the exhibition space (stained glass «The tree of being», 2006), and in the «alive» interior (decorative compositions in the interior from the series «The Space 1-, 2-, 3-, 4», 2000-2004). The artistic and image-bearing inspirations of O. Prynada in his chamber ornamental vases is the ornamentation of the art of Trypillya, as well as the traditional Japanese ceramic vessels. A separate place among the works of O. Prynada occupies the blown fiberglass, where the motifs «associated with subconsciousness and children’s memories that play an important role in the formation of images are changing, because these symbolic images, in many ways, are the evidence of archetypal elements of human consciousness.
Under the influence of the charm of Art-deco, which absorbed various trends in the second quarter of the twentieth century —capricious arabesques and streamlined sculptural forms of modern art, sharp fracture of cubism, frivolous multi-color —the works by Oleksandr Shevchenko appear, who perform stained-glass windows in classical Tiffany technique (decorative compositions «The portrait», «The kiss», «The horse» — 1999; the decorative lamp, 2000).
Diametrically opposed to them are easel-decorative stained-glass windows of Oleh Yankovskyi, who is an original «composer» of abstract motifs (stained glass plastics from the series «The Crystal hearts», 2000; stained-glass windows «The Illusion»; «The mill — 1998; «Yellow and blue», 2005).
At the end of the twentieth century Lviv artists began to revive the art of stained glass. In 1999, the first Ukrainian professional association of artists-stained-glass makers «The Window» was created in Lviv, which included graduates of the Art Glass Chair of LNAA O. Yankovskyi (the head of the Association), A. Vyntu, I. Gah (the art critic), A. Kurylo, O Lychko, Yu. Pavelchuk, V. Ryzhankov, I. Tarnavskyi, O. Shevchenko. It is known, this is the only artistic group in Ukraine that has set the goal to continue the rich traditions of the Ukrainian stained glass, originating in Western Ukraine from the fourteenth century together with the development of Gothic architecture.
Interesting experiments with the texture, when the stained glass loses the transparency and acquires special majeure and smartness, are typical of abstract-ornamental compositions by I. Tarnavskyi. Essentially with a female charm fascinate the miniature stained glass by I. Hakh. Consequently, the works of Lviv decorators prove that the stained glass — perfect decoration for architectural space, is an art of light and colors full of high aesthetics.
The wide amplitude of creative manifestations of Ukrainian glass artists proves the rapid rise of the Ukrainian professional decorative art in the late twentieth century. Unfortunately, due to economic hardships in the early 2000s, the creative potential of glass artists was significantly undermined. For a normal creative implementation, artists need primarily a creative and productive base, as well as regular large-scale exhibitions, contests, symposiums, work with museum collections. Unfortunately, but we must state that in the first decade of the XXI century almost all the factories of art glass stopped in Ukraine, including the LECSF, where the unique glass furnaces operated, on which a huge range of artistic products had been made for many years. The artists have lost the opportunity to work.
Nevertheless, with the efforts of the rector of the LNAA, academician A. Bokotey, together with the Chair of Glass Art of the LNAA and personally its employee M. Bokotey, international symposiums of art glass continue to take place in Lviv (only for the period of 1989-2016 there were ten of them). Being recognized at the global level, these events have created a good name for a remarkable Eastern European center of the latest experimental glassblowing, which at the turn of the ХХ—ХХІ centuries transformed into the high art, which is capable to honorably represent our country at the highest artistic level. That was the background for creating in Lviv the only Museum of Modern Art Glass in our country. This museum was opened in 2006 (devoted to the 750th anniversary of the Lviv city) inside the building of the Historical Museum in Lviv, in the basement of the ancient Palace of Bandinelli at Rynok Square. Currently the museum is successfully headed by Mykhailo Bokotei.
The great hopes are connected with the youngest generation of Lviv artists who are actively gaining positions in the contemporary art of glass. These are Andriy Bokotey’s «students of the students»: M. Bokotey, M. Vakhniak, N. Haidash, V. Hrabko, M. Didyk, A. Zhuk, N. Zvir, L. Lytvyn, V. Orlov, N. Oshur, M. Sternichuk, M. Khomyk, R. Hudoba. They try to use even more unconventional approaches to work with glass. And their creative innovations are impressive. It was demonstrated by the All-Ukrainian exhibition the «Modern „art of fire“ of Ukraine» at the Central House of Artists in Kyiv in 2015 (curator-coordinator Z. Chehusova).