Ukraine’s most democratic art contest ‘A4, Ballpoint’ celebrates its 10th anniversary. It has been held annually since 2006 by the Karas Gallery and partners. Participants of the contest, including recognized artists, amateurs and beginners, are all on equal footing. The only requirement is to use office paper and a ballpoint pen. The “A4 Ballpoint ” collection consists of about 3,000 artworks. Every year the contest includes composers, writers, and architects who contribute their notes and sketches to the project collection. “A4, Ballpoint” is a unique project where ordinary office supplies, like office paper and a pen, in the hands of an artist become artistic tools. Trivial objects are transformed into extraordinary pieces and stationery becomes the tool of art.
We have discussed the project, its 10-year history, participants and their artworks with the author and coordinator of “A4, Ballpoint,” Yevhen Karas.
How and when did this idea emerge?
The idea of the contest in its present format emerged from a number of conversations and discussions with artists. In 2006, when the project was founded, I believed that in Ukraine’s art scene, the graphics in general and the drawing in particular were supplanted by painting, photography and new media. I am talking about drawing as the most intimate genre of art, as a technology of reflection and search, and as a genre with a unique “backstage.” Initially, Nicholas Kryvenko held a group exhibition of artworks on paper, then I suggested narrowing the project format down to A3 and then to A4. Eventually, with the help of Winnie Reunov, we decided to take the ballpoint pen as a canon. In other words, we ended up with the idea of unifying and simplifying everything as much as possible: collaboration of artists, exhibiting system, transportation and storage, perception psychology of the viewer. This way, we found a perfect match for an artwork – a vehicle of image and a technology of image, which pushed for rapid self-development of the project that absorbed new ideas and meanings.
Which of the artists is the biggest supporter of the contest and participates in it regularly?
For many artists this contest has become a part of their creative rhythm, in which drawing is an annual activity especially for our project. A famous artist, Anatoliy Kryvolap, jokingly thanked us for helping him overcome his aversion to the ballpoint pen and making him draw sketches, which he had not done in a long time and which he enjoyed so much. A couple of times I grabbed sketches from Roytdurdt that he was occasionally drawing during our meetings. I am extremely grateful to artists such as Oleksandr Babak, Oleksiy Apollonov and Stas Volyazlovskyi, who in certain years would give us up to thirty drawings annually. But this is not to say that one single drawing by an artist who participated in our project only once in ten years is of any less value to us. I would also like to recognize the truly bright representatives of the “PopTrans” group of artists (Saller, Harabaruk, Shevchenko, Stehura and Onysko) as well as Vlada Ralko, Anatoliy Kryvolap, Olena Polyashchenko, Ilya Isupov. This list of permanent participants could go on and on.
What topics have been dominating through these 10 years? And which ones have been dominant in the past two years?
We considered launching theme-based subprojects – illustrations to famous writings (such as the Bible, The Little Prince) or popular graphical objects (for example, an interpretation of money or playing cards… But the topics are always different with every artist. At this point, we deliberately do not narrow down the range of topics. Every year, at our exhibitions one can witness a unique coexistence of pop art, photorealism, conceptualism, social art, landscape, still life, mail art, abstractionism, minimalism. We always present all genres, themes and styles of art that are perceived in harmony due to the unifying format and ensure intelligent density of the display. Yet it is natural that artists are influenced by social and political events. This is particularly seen in a series of artworks dedicated to the Maidan events, the annexation of Crimea and the war in Eastern Ukraine. It is also clear that artists may not directly respond to these events in line with the respective topic, and artists’ impressions with all their drama may be reflected in a variety of genres including still life, landscape or abstract art. Artists may not immediately and directly translate their impressions into objects or images.
Has the contest undergone any changes over these years?
We can see the increase in the number of participants and drawings, the growth of popularity of the project, greater interest among partners and stakeholders in developing the project together. What contributes to this progress is the fact that we produce about two thousand copies of artworks annually, which are cataloged and shipped around the world. An important role in the development of the project is played by digital communications – the contest has its own website and Facebook page. It may also be due to our initiative to invite artists from others areas – architects, writers, poets, composers.
Photo Oleksandr Zakleckyi
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