Stepan ryabchenko virtual mythology

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Virtual Mythology FOREWORD

“In my works, I express what is inside me, what I strive for and what is interesting and valuable for me. Every piece is a new journey – I never know what is coming up next.� Stepan Ryabchenko


Stepan Ryabchenko is a painter, sculptor and architect. Being one of the most successful young Ukrainian artists, he is ambitious and optimistic; and his artworks, whatever the medium, are creative and impressive. Ryabchenko is a third generation artist: his grandfather was a graphic artist, and his father is a well-known Ukrainian painter and photographer. Having received a degree in architecture, Stepan opts to use the computer as his main artistic tool. And although he works with digital technologies, he does not break with the classical artistic tradition but, on the contrary, actively interacts with it. His wide format digital prints feature some basic characteristics of classical paintings, such as epic subject matter, complex multi-figure compositions and expressive colours. Ryabchenko's projects often embrace mythology and its central themes: feats and heroic deeds, great challenges and opportunities, survival and metamorphoses. Having come to art through architecture, the artist did not quit his initial field of expertise but found a new application for his talents focusing on forward-looking large-scale and unconventional architectural projects.

He himself describes his work as designing environments in non-architectural image formats ranging from traditional to modern ones. His architectural projects are sublime and monumental, utopian and openly emotional. Their rich artistic imagery makes them true works of art which illustrate the artist's keen interest in the synthesis of arts. Balancing between classical art and state-of-the-art media, he creates artworks which demonstrate that the line between classical paintings and digital images hardly exists anymore, just like in modern world the boundaries between real and virtual are now blurred. Ryabchenko's message remains consistent: whether it be a painting, sculpture, installation or piece of architecture, their creator can always be identified by his unique style and conceptual vision. He has created a whole parallel world inhabited by remarkable images and fantastic ideas. Igor Abramovych

Sculpture project / 2013 BIRUCHIY CONTEMPORARY ART PROJECT / Biruchiy island, Ukraine / 2013


Architect of the Digital World INTRODUCTION

“Architecture, ne art, sculpture… There are no boundaries, everything ows from one form to another giving me new ideas – this is a natural interaction.” Stepan Ryabchenko

Stepan Ryabchenko is a Ukrainian artist from Odessa who has been consistently using cutting-edge computer technology to create works of art. He sees digital imaging both as a tool to create a virtual world and as a means of reflection on the “virtualization” of reality. What he wants to say is that we all live in a digital world and that our digital look-alikes keep dragging us deep into the intangible virtual reality. Ironically, the artist's message itself is made up of elements that constitute this digital reality. Pixels instead of alphabetic characters. Computer trojans of the New Troy. Stepan Ryabchenko is the architect of a new mythological world built according to his own design. Whether

it be a neon light installation, sculpture or another medium, Ryabchenko continues to create a universe inhabited by recognizable mythological characters and images of his own. Elements of his paintings are sometimes incorporated in bold architectural projects (The House of Culture (2007) and A Design for a Museum of Contemporary Art (2009) are good examples here). Furthermore, symbols from his paintings are often translated into sculptures. As a result, we see a cross-media epic story that combines various techniques and tells about timeless values and a battle between good and evil fought by modern heroes inspired by classical mythology. When the artist reinterprets, through the lens of virtual reality, such classic stories as The Death of Actaeon (2009) or The Temptation of St. Anthony (2010), they become fullfledged elements of the his world. The architect just adds the elements he needs. And makes a collage of different epochs and styles. Stepan Ryabchenko's works are always on the fine line between the abstract and the figurative, between the real world and the digital one, between mythology and the humdrum of life. The artist lays specials emphasis on large-scale stories with complex multifigured compositions. For this reason, the size of an artwork is particularly important. This holds true not only for paintings and pictures, but also for neon light installations. For instance, The New Era (2011-2012), exhibited at the Arsenal Biennale in Kyiv, tells about continuous struggle and a rebirth from the ashes. Whereas paintings and sculptures allow the artist to capture only one moment in time, neon light installations with their programmed operating modes seem to be dynamic living matter. They are magma of the mythological reality.

WALKING CLOUD / Sculpture project / 2012

A story of life and death that has been programmed to repeat itself over and over again. One remarkable thing about Stepan Ryabcheko's art is that he often reinterprets his previous projects. On the one hand, innovative printing techniques enable him to work with new sizes and produce artworks of better quality. On the other hand, it is always an experiment that eventually leads to a new reading of this or that concept. For instance, a short while ago the artist presented his series of paintings called The Kaleidoscope (2007) in a 3D mosaic form incorporating neon elements. Another important thing is that the artist often works on some of his series for several years. To cite one example, he has been working on his Computer Viruses series since 2008 and has not finished it yet. Every series of works shows the artist's growth. By developing his old ideas, the artist transforms them according to his vision and makes them more powerful. Rethinking as creativity. The Odyssey as a recurrent return. An ideal art exhibition, in Stepan Ryabchenko's view, would immerse the visitor into ultimate artistic reality. You would enter an architectural structure where flat paintings would be seen as 3D, and static objects would

alternate with animated images that create a “breathing” effect. The artist keeps pushing the boundaries of everyday life and invents his world over and over again. Visualizing the non-existent digital reality. Melting the humdrum of life into a myth. Casting a digital death mask of the old reality. Oleksandr Mykhed, writer and curator

HEAVENLY LADDER / Sculpture project / 2011 4|5

LEMON CHICKENS WILL ESCAPE... 290 x 681 cm, digital print on aluminum / 2009 6|7

THE TEMPTATION OF ST. ANTHONY 290 x 387 cm, digital print on aluminum / 2010

“The Temptation of St. Anthony by Stepan Ryabchenko is part of bigger project Heroes that was short-listed for PinchukArtPrize and chosen for the Myth. Ukrainian Baroque project in the National Art Museum of Ukraine alongside the well-known New Wave artists. Searching for the new forms of artistic expression, Ryabchenko continues the tradition of Bosch and Dali. The story, that in anytime seemed like a phantasmagoric kaleidoscope of mythological characters, Biblical heroes, hints and metaphors, nowadays is revised through the new visual research methods, using the computer graphics. One of Ryabchenko's formal goals is to unify abstract and figurative, that creates a possibility to implement one of principal drives of (post)postmodern — to bring back the lost reality and to construct the new worlds. This work is the point of borderline collision with past and visual appealing to the future that defines present. It brings up to date the problem of testing with temptation that is an embodiment of profound search of one's Self.” Irina Iatsyk, art critic


“Ryabchenko uses computer graphics for a body of work balancing between the digital format and physical forms. He deals with contemporary heroism and classical mythology. He creates large-size digital prints representing a self-constructed universe featuring monumental heroes in brightly coloured compositions that combine figurative and abstract futuristic language. In another work group, he researches digital anti-heroism by developing a physical representation for the purely digital form of a virus – the face of a virus.” Bjorn Geldhof, curator, artistic director of the PinchukArtCentre 10 | 11


“The basic idea of creating a series of Computer Viruses - is the idea of infection with art.” Stepan Ryabchenko

Stepan Ryabchenko's Computer Viruses series visualizes the most famous computer viruses that caused a lot of damage throughout the world. This series mirrors, so to speak, the history of Computer Virology starting with one of the first viruses known as Brain (1987) and ending with quite recent worms such as ILOVEYOU (2000), Mydoom (2004) and some others. The Latin proverb Nomen est omen means Your name is your fate. This ancient wisdom underpins the artistic logic that was used for creating the images of viruses. What the body of a virus looks like is determined by its name and by its specific impact on computer systems. The dreadful Chernobyl with its tangled outlines reminds of the gaping jaws of a monster. The iridescent Chameleon, shimmering with different colors, appears to have been captured at one particular moment of its endless metamorphoses and transformations. The light and airy Buttery shows how easily a deadly virus can take over a virtual device. Under the empty eyes and mouth of Smiley you can see infinite damage and disasters hidden behind a smile. The twisted shapes of the viruses seem to presage destruction. Stepan Ryabchenko has created a gallery of entropy agents which call into question the stability of the world order in its everyday dimensions. However, these images have a therapeutic effect: by vizualizing invisible fears the artist makes them harmless and nonhazardous. In the Computer Viruses series, non-existent things and virtual organisms take shape and become conventionally three-dimensional. Sometimes the artist makes them look like living creatures. The shapes of viruses give the impression of a pulsation similar to that

SPARKLING. From the Computer Viruses series / 2013

of an explosive device ready to go off. Getting acquainted with the Computer Viruses is similar to examining microbes under a microscope. But here the artist shows the viewer microorganisms from a totally different reality: they are creatures from the virtual space. So the Computer Viruses can be considered a new chapter of modern mythology which is being written and interpreted by Stepan Ryabchenko. One could talk for hours about the internal integrity of the young artist's creative quest, which takes the form of a coherent and consistent narrative, or cyber-narrative, to be precise. It is a big and ambitious story about the 12 | 13

“The project is working with relevant issues for the 21st century, the ratio of the real and the virtual, exploring the specificity of their perception by the human mind. In today's world a computer virus is virtually a social unit, each of them has its own history and peculiar interaction with the system. Based on these facts, the author of the project renders the virtual nature of the virus, giving it a shape and an image. Thus, the limit between the figurative and the abstract is overcome, the viewer's attention is transferred to the external image, the focus shifts from the sense of threat in the direction of aesthetic perception.� Natalia Matsenko, art critic

world of virtual reality with its ideas, characters and myths. A work of art is perceived as the ultimate embodiment of the non-existent. The artist changes the reality by substantiating and shaping that which does not exist, e.g. his own ideas, mythological plots or ideal proportions of the human body. Or else the artist 'invents' his reality by looking at everyday life around him through the lenses of his artistic vision. In this case, evanescent and illusory things become tangible thanks to the artist's optics. And thanks to his special visual language.

Step by step, the artist melts reality into a myth. And the other way round, he takes the drab routine of our daily lives to the level of contemporary epic in which there are no ordinary people or straight lines, no commonplace undramatic stories or 'quiet' colours. His imagination peoples this zone of overlapping realities with strange and striking creatures, characters, tricksters and daestroyers. No matter how long we peer into the shadows, we cannot really tell which of the two realities is before our eyes. We actually do not know whether we ever succeed in catching the imperceptible. Oleksandr Mykhed, writer and curator

SECRET FORM lightbox, digital print / 2014 14 | 15

WHITE NOISE Sculpture project / 2015

“All of Ryabchenko's works are born in a virtual world and exist within that world like a strain – the pure culture of a virus. Taking on material form, they not only change their appearance, acquiring texture, mass and volume, they also “infect” space, as if computer viruses suddenly found themselves to be the cause of a real epidemic.” Daria Borisenko, art critic

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digital print / 2011

digital print / 2011



digital print / 2008

digital print / 2009


“Octants is a project based on the concept of a self-developing and constantly growing city. The graphic series representing the space we live in is actually a followup on this subject.” Stepan Ryabchenko

Classical aesthetics conceive of the artistic work as being something completed. The experiments of the 20th century in the fragmented and the mass-produced, in technical repeatability and the mutability of art broaden the framework of this definition, but do not go beyond its boundaries. The volume of a series can be varied, the number of copies can reach hundreds of thousands, but the work, the object component of which is shunted into the background, giving way to the pure idea and authorial intention, remains finite. In the same way, an unstable performance remains a thing in itself, and a fragment is built out into a whole in the viewer's imagination, and in this sense doesn't transgress the accepted borders of art. The method employed in

OCTANTS Urban Project / 2010

Stepan Ryabchenko's works, however, reveals a simple – and thereby striking – way out of this trap. The graphic cycle “Octants” cannot be called a series specifically because it cannot be numerated. Following a principle that is observed in nature, the artist develops a model, a certain kind of stem onto the geometry of which is layered color and texture, forming newer and newer compositions. The link between the versions is not horizontal, it is genetic. The core of the composition is a foundation of stereometry or solid geometry: three coordinates of a plane that break space down into eight spheres, which are called octants. At the same time, the evolutionary principle employed in the development of the works, the opposite of euclidean

mathematics, is constructed on simplified abstract models and reminds us of the alternative picture of the world that is offered to us by fractal geometry. A fern leaf is constructed in this way: the totality is made up of numerous parts, each of which is like the totality itself – the stalk branches out, each shoot forming yet more smaller branches, and so on. Similarly, with each new version of the “Octants”, the whole becomes yet more fragmented, whilst preserving its autonomy, but never being completed.

The same principle lies at the foundation of the townplanning project of the same name. “Octants” is a sovereign settlement, but it has no borders. The architecture of this city is another “fern”, where anyone who wants to can add on their apartment in any free place and move in on one of the branches. At the same time, each citizen accepts the fact that the evolution doesn't stop, and that the building will carry on growing over his head. Thus, Darwinian Theory meets the Christian precept of humility. Daria Borisenko, art critic

OCTANTS general view/ 2011-2014

OCTANT I/-3/1, OCTANT I/1/1, OCTANT I/1/-2, OCTANT I/1/2 Octants / Triumph Gallery, Moscow, Russia / 2014 26 | 27


“I found it interesting to visualize light to show the immortality of a human soul. A Gleam is a dialogue between the viewer and the art. It is an artifact that keeps memory of the material and spiritual.” Stepan Ryabchenko

In his creative endeavours, Stepan Ryabchenko uses neon light to symbolically express his key concept of inner light or spiritual radiance. Searching for inner light is crucial to restoring our faith in the hierarchy of eternal values. The artist's large-scale neon works look like large paintings with clean lines and transparent brush strokes, in which nothing is redundant or out of place. Ryabchenko's neon works feature vivid images and tell fascinating stories at different scales and at different levels of perception. They offer the viewer everything from individual life stories to the epic battle of The Heroes in the mythological world conceived by the artist.

A Gleam tells about hidden light ripping through the veil of conventionality. Darkness cannot overcome this light. The New Era is a story of continuous struggle for revival. A mythological lightning dispels the darkness. A Blessing Hand features a huge gentle hand descending from heaven like the Good News and giving Light to the earth. Stepan Ryabchenko's neon artworks transform the space around us and change our human perceptions. They make each individual's world more real and give us hope that all darkness will retreat and that our revival will be everlasting. Oleksandr Mykhed, writer and curator



Installation, 203 х 151 cm, digital print on aluminum, neon / 2011 - 2013

Premonition: Ukrainian Art Now / Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom / 2014

Premonition: Ukrainian Art Now / Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom / 2014

NEW ERA Installation, 610 x 860 cm, neon / 2011 - 2012 ARSENALE. First Kyiv International Biennale of Contemporary Art / Mystetskyi Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine / 2012

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THE BLESSING HAND Installation, 500 x 500 cm, neon / 2012 - 2013 32 | 33

Premonition: Ukrainian Art Now / Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom / 2014


STEPAN RYABCHENKO 1987 – Born in Odessa, Ukraine 2011 – Graduated from Odessa State Academy of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Architecture - Art Institute 2010 – Member of the National Union of Artists of Ukraine 2010 – The winner of the First All-Ukrainian Triennial of abstract art «ART-ACT» 2011 – Nominated for the PinchukArtCentre Prize 2012 – Laureate of the international competition of contemporary sculpture «Kyiv Sculpture Project» Lives and works in Odessa, Ukraine Selected exhibitions:

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3rd Danube Biennale / Danubiana-Meulensteen Art Museum, Bratislava, Slovakia The Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale / Mdina, Malta Enfant Terrible. Conceptual Art of Odessa / National Art Museum of Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine Make Art Not War / Tochni Village, Larnaca, Cyprus Walking Cloud / Art Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine


Long Path to Freedom / Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, Chicago, USA Probability Theory / Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv, Ukraine Octants / Triumph Gallery, Moscow, Russia Premonition: Ukrainian Art Now / Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom Cosmoscow / Manege, Moscow, Russia Homeland / Art Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine The Ukrainian Landscape / Art Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine New Ukrainian Dream / Art Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine Art Vilnius' 2014 / Lithuanian Exhibition Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania Freedom Square / YermilovCentre, Kharkov, Ukraine Ukraine. Archetype of Freedom / Novomatic Forum, Vienna, Austria Blinded by Beauty / Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv, Ukraine


Sculpture about Sculpture / YermilovCentre, Kharkov, Ukraine Art Kyiv Contemporary / Art Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine The Power of IT and Life of Genius / Spiritual Treasures of Ukraine Museum, Kyiv, Ukraine Myths and Legends of Eastern Europe / LWW Gallery, Amsterdam, Holland Industrial Eden / Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv, Ukraine Contemporary Ukrainian Artists / Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom The Chaos of Cyberspace. Abstract Surrealism / LWW Gallery, Amsterdam, Holland Biruchiy Contemporary Art Project / Biruchiy Island, Ukraine Great and Grand / Art Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine The Odessa School. Tradition and Currency / Art Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine Terrain Orientation / National Art Museum of Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine


Scenarios of the Future - 2 / Museum of Contemporary Art, Odessa, Ukraine Social Euphoria / Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv, Ukraine Arsenale 2012 / First Kyiv International Biennale of Contemporary Art / Art Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine The Myth. Ukrainian baroque / National Art Museum of Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine Kyiv Sculpture Project / M.M. Gryshko National Botanical Garden, Kyiv, Ukraine


Art Kyiv Contemporary / Art Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine PinchukArtCentre Prize / PinchukArtCentre, Kyiv, Ukraine Independent / Art Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine Space Odyssey / Art Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine Moments of Silence / Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv, Ukraine


Art Kyiv Contemporary / Art Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine TOP-10 Contemporary Artists of Odessa / HudPromo Gallery, Odessa, Ukraine Those, who came at the start of 2000 / M17 Contemporary Art Center, Kyiv, Ukraine Fast Dreams / J.Greter's Art center, Kyiv, Ukraine ART - ACT / First All-Ukrainian Triennial of Abstract Art / Chernovtsy, Ukraine Star Wars / Contemporary Art Centre, Odessa, Ukraine Abstract Vision Test / Ya Gallery, Kyiv, Ukraine Restart / Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv, Ukraine Abstract Art of Odessa / Museum of Modern Art, Odessa, Ukraine


Restart / Marine Art – Terminal, Odessa, Ukraine Wanted Design Week / Art Arsenal, Kyiv, Ukraine Art Kyiv Contemporary / Ukrainian House, Kyiv, Ukraine Outside of the System / Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv, Ukraine Kunstart / Festival of Contemporary Art, Bolzano, Italy


Seventy Years of National Union of Artists of Ukraine / National Union of Artists of Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine Contemporary Art of Odessa / Museum of Modern Art, Odessa, Ukraine The Picturesque Ukraine / National Union of Artists of Ukraine, Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine


Limited Edition catalogue

STEPAN RYABCHENKO| Virtual Mythology

Published by Igor Abramovych Design Stepan Ryabchenko Editors Igor Abramovych Oleksandr Mykhed Texts Igor Abramovych Daria Borisenko Bjorn Geldhof Irina Iatsyk Natalia Matsenko Oleksandr Mykhed Stepan Ryabchenko Photos Dan Kitwood Stepan Ryabchenko Vasiliy Ryabchenko Oleksandra Zubchenko Translation Marina Burdun Oksana Shestaka Cover Stepan Ryabchenko Blessing Hand / 500 x 500 cm, neon / 2012 - 2013 Published in 2015 Š Stepan Ryabchenko | All Rights Reserved

This book is copy number 1 In an edition of one hundred copies

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