UKRAINE'S OLEG DERGATCHOV:
LIKE A BIRD ON THE WING
by John A. Lent, writer and editor, Professor of the Temple University, Philadelphia
One of the expecteds of cartoon exhibitions in Central and Eastern Europe (and encreasingly in Western Europe) is that work by Ukrainian artist Oleg Dergachov will be there - and in all likelihood, will have won a top prize.
He has had more than dozen one-man shows, been part of 150 exhibitions, and won 40 important international prizes, including the Grand Prix at Satyrykon in Poland and Anglet in France.
Born July 18,1961, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, of a Russian father and Ukrainian mother, Dergachov moved to the Ukraine 1979 to study technical printmaking and book design at the Ukrainian Print Academy. His five years of study overlapped with work as a book illustrator for publishers in former Soviet Union, Moldova and Ukraine. In 1989, weary of dealing with publishers, he set up DO Press in his L'viv home, from which, he has done more than 35 limited edition artists' books, some combining his etchings and drawings with poetry he composes.
Claiming he has used drawing since early childhood as a way to gain freedom and as his"state of bliss", Dergachov likes to think of himself as a "drawer who is similtaneously a master of line, a magician and a poet," but also "a thinker, a philosopher, and a creator." He has said, "My line is my way of traveling. It is created on a paper and extended during my wanderings and journeys through the image... the magic of drawing is embraced in the everlasting fascinations with the mysterious and the unknown."
Dergachovs' cartoons are at times clever take-offs of societal foibles, cerebral in meaning are masterly in artistic execution. Some almost seem out of place and wasted on the printed page, belonging instead on museum or showroom walls as works of fine art.
I interwiewed Dergachov during judging for the 1996 Archikatura cartoon festival in Bratislava, Slovakia, and again in my home in March 1997.
What is cartooning to you - a hobby, occupation, or passion.
At first I have to say, I'm not a cartoonist only. I just love humor; it is the only way to survive in our cruel, sad world full of politics. I like the label "artist" but the cartoon has been my first love since childhood. Book making, painting, and graphic art came into my life later. My first feelings for line and color, I got thanks to my grandfather, an architect, who died with a pencil in his hand.
Your "first love" has brought you success at many international competitions. What characteristics make your drawings well appreciated in so many different countries?
I've never made my drawings for competitions particulary. I did them for myself alone and I'm sure it is a unique way to be understandable, and find one's way into viewers' hearts.
Sometimes your cartoons are not for laughs; sometimes they are more sad than funny, What are your motivations for doing such cartoons?
In fact, I don't try to make people laugh; I just try to show my own thoughts and situations from everyday life. Nothing more.
What is the most important element of cartoons for you?
The idea, the thought, of course.
How do you get your ideas?
Mostly in my vojages. A half of my life is spent in trains, buses, aircrafts. It is more and more difficult to show my work at home and so I've had to travel the past seven years. I have a lot of invitations from abroad to give lectures, make exhibitons, or participate in juries.
You have a lot of hens and cocks in your drawings. Do you like birds?
I like to observe their lives and I do believe the cock is wiser than any politican; the hen is almost holy, ready to give us everything - feathers, meat, eggs, allowing us to steal her unborn kids. The hen has no idea about buying weapons, renaming a streets, etc.; she will never kill anybody.
What is the typical situation reflected in Ukrainian cartoons?
Ukrainian people like black humor of our absurd life, It looks like a theater of the absurd; our parlament is usually the source of the themes and subjects which I use in my cartoons So, I'm very gratefull to our government for the cartoon awards I've won woldwide. Thanks.
How do you and your colleagues survive in Ukraine?
Hardly. As a bird in winter time, but we are still giving eggs - even painting them.