Black-and-White Talking


A true story about an artist from Scotland, who is devoted to Ukraine

Michael Murphenko, a Scot by birth, lives and creates uncommon canvases in Ukraine.  And what is more important, he finds it… promising here …

Simplicity - from the point of view of the modern “transient digital world” and the realm of contemporary art – is literally a rarity.  The complexity of the conceptual abstruse twists leaves no chance for it. But the simple (not primitive) things in fine arts are often more interesting than the chaos of the contemporary, which mostly conceals emptiness of both ideology and taste.

The understanding of saturated minimalism, the ability to stylize an idea or image into a comprehensible information sign – that is indeed a talent. Especially to reduce polychromy to the black-and-white coloration, to satiate it with shades, and with healthy, cheerful, “rational” nonsense and to make the image totally “bio-philic” in the age of total art-necrophilia – you’ve got to be able to do that! At least, such a “bio-philic” emotional atmosphere reigns at Michael Murphenko’s exhibition, philosophically titled “Talking in Black”, which opened at The Museum of Cultural Heritage.

The exhibition consists of three groups (Country, Person, Soul) and displays an example of “super modern”.  As a matter of fact, it is a cycle of grisaille canvases, which can be characterized as minimalistic non-figurative painting.  The works are disputable, but, in spite of the black-and-whiteness and some graphic sketchiness, are not perceived as abstruse primitivism.  Due to the efficient management of the canvas, through mentally concrete objects, not artistic categories, – all the works seem to be sketches of a ‘story board’ of one unified plane, in which can be reconstructed both as the “motion” of computer graphics, and as the concrete, material, three-dimensional object.  In other words, the artist’s background in design is evident.  At least, from the Philistines’ point of view, the works are pleasant and interesting, and what is most important – not repugnant to look at, which is not such a common occurrence at contemporary art exhibitions.

Besides, the personality of the artist himself provokes interest and some wonder: the Scot, who lives and creates in Ukraine (who even changed his surname to a Ukrainian one) and finally claims, that life here is interesting and promising! A radical statement, especially for the ethnic Ukrainian inhabitants of these lands, who are convinced that “no prophet is welcome in his own land”, and that living in this country is impossible under any conditions.

PiK Magazine, Kyiv, #37, 2002