Vera Chaykovskaya. “Holidays that always remain with us”

Based on the article published in the “Collection” [Sobranie] Magazine, Moscow, 2006

 There exist not too many holidays. One looks forward to them; yet, inwardly, they are seldom experienced as joyful events. A true holiday has always to do with the return to the childhood, in which one believed naively that each celebration, even an official one, had been made up especially for him or her, so that one could have an extra ice-cream and get a balloon as a present.

It is this naïve, childish festivity of  even a shabby occasion that Yakhilevich’s works painted in the 1970-80s, prior to his emigration from Russia to Israel (such as “After Work”, 1979; “A Beerhouse”, 1989; “Pioneers’ Holiday”, 1979), convey brilliantly.

The laughter enables one to liken even the boring Soviet routine to a festive occasion. This is essential and unusual as compared to the “sots art”, which focused on social clichés and changed the signs to the opposite ones. Yakhilevich’s perception is broader and more versatile. What he can see is not social clichés, but rather the real life, which has always been always richer and more interesting than any ideological schemata. Humor helps him do this: it makes the everyday life warm and, in a way, even celebratory.

In his early works, Yakhilevich seems to childishly dive into this comical uncomplicated life. At the same time, perceiving it humorously, he is aware of the festivity of its everyday existence. This everyday festivity manifests itself in the twirled, “patchwork” space; in the brightness of colors; in the simple and playful rhythms of his paintings. Yahilevich’s early works remind of the paintings by Martiros Saryan and Sergei Luchishkin, in which similar sunny childishness is evident.

So how can one embrace the festivity of life in Yakhilevich’s early works and its despair in the late ones? This seems to be impossible. These two worlds are separated by an abyss. There is nothing in common. Yet the artist has managed to throw a bridge.

In Yakhilevich’s late works, the holiday returns to pull one out of the technocratic hell. But this time the holiday is a religious fest. It is depicted as a folkloric “street festivity”, as a carnival with the costumes and the change of the way of life (“Sukkot”, 1992; “Purim”, 206), as a prayer ritual fraught with a personal ecstasy (“Shabbat”, 1992); and as an opportunity to become united even in the middle of the asphalt jungle (“On the Eve of the Yom Kippur”, 2006).

Saturated colors, fancifully twirled, “patchwork” compositions, which have nothing to do with dry geometricity, come back in these works. The nature which emerges here is not a “lifeless” space intended for technocratic experiments, but rather “an area of the soul”.

As one can notice, in these paintings, Yakhilevich re-gained the features of childishness and became fond of life in which a holiday can always take place.

This retrospective view presents “another” Yakhilevich, who is much more versatile and capable of experiencing the whole range of feelings – from childish jolliness to prayer ecstasy.