Valentyna Protsak in the Spotlight
I met our first 'Spotlight' artist at her studio near the Rote Fabrik in Wollishofen. Surrounded by her latest works, which seemed to be almost eavesdropping on our conversation, Valentyna Protsak sat calmly across from me and proceeded, with little animation save a friendly grin, to share her story.
She said that she was born in Kiev and began painting when she was four years old, attending a variety of specialised painting-training schools and when she was seven she began studying at a school for artists. At twelve years old Valentyna entered the art Gymnasium (secondary school) in Kiev.
“We were studying and painting nature, people, models. . . during this time we also focused on plastic anatomy, which is painting people's muscles; where they are and how they make people move. It is through studying these that one learns to paint the human form more realistically,” Valentyna shared.
“It was at a special Gymnasium in Kiev at which I studied – the central art school for the whole of the Ukraine. Every day we had five hours of painting and then a regular class, mathematics or whatever. Always five hours of painting followed by a different regular class each day. It was paint, paint, paint, paint. The other focuses of the school were sculpture, architecture and decoration, it was quite full of talented people, but I knew that I was a painter, so I was aware of where I fit in at that school without question.”
When Valentyna was sixteen years old her parents moved to Switzerland and by her second year began studies at the Berufsschule für Gestaltung in Zurich.
“My very first exhibition was in a group exhibition at the Galerie Art Seefeld in Tiefenbrunnen. I exhibited some of the old paintings that I did in school and I sold quite a lot of them, and yet I still have some of my old school work.”
Valentyna, at this point in the interview, produced some of her work from as far back as when she was six years old. As we examine the history of her growth in style and aptitude I notice that in many of her early paintings both trees and birds feature quite prominently.
“I think when one is a child one can paint more naturally,” she said, “because one doesn't think about style or any preconceived ideas. . . children just paint what they see.”
“When I was a child I saw a guy who always painted tigers, so I tried one, but then realised that I don't like that subject. I did have an affinity for painting birds and trees when I was younger however, and many of my paintings from those early days are filled with birds and trees and images of autumn, although, oddly enough, I'm not much of a fan of that season, I am a real lover of summer.”
“Today I paint people in a fashionable style and in urban settings,” she continued. “I used to paint more realism but I developed the style you see today about four or five years ago after analysing what I truly wanted to do. I knew it must definitely have a focus on fashion. I didn't want a normal style and definitely not something 'perfect'. The desire to create fashion imagery was almost a burning passion, so I produced many paintings in the direction I wanted to go – over the years this has developed into what you see today. Now my style is very recognisable.”
Very recognisable and very much in demand, Valentyna's artwork has a unique flair that extremely thought provoking, with many of her paintings subliminally communicating a sense of recognition to the viewer. Not that one has seen that very image before, nor even the style, but a subconscious perception of a memory lying deep within seems to awaken. And if this were not surreal enough, Valentyna's technique continues to metamorphose – not something as simple as just improving over time, but it is as if she is possessed by a new spirit with each phase of her art.
Few artists can capture today's young image with such a panoply of colours, and yet somehow manage to lead the viewer directly to the heart of the image without the distraction of the very prominent reds, yellows and blues. It is evident that there is something unique within this young artist.
“When I was training, I wasn't like most 'normal' classical artists – I loved lots of colours. When I have an empty canvas I see forms and colours. I can feel the space and then I just fill it with colours.”
“Now I want to take a short break away from painting – if I paint too much I begin to feel like a slave to my art.”
'In The Spotlight' is a section with coverage spanning three issues. It is designed to feature and follow very
special artists. The first issue in which they appear will provide an introduction of the artist, the second issue
will delve more into her or his specialities and the third and final instalment will discuss that artist's
aspirations and visions for their future creations.
Zürich, September 2014