Visuality and Music

Yakutovych Academy’s personal stories: the text of the French composer Bérangère Maximin-Yakutovych about her husband, the Ukrainian painter Anton Yakutovych

Anton Yakutovych’s video screenshot taken from 'Boudmo' video music 2009 (DV). Berangere Maximin's solo tour in the USA, 2009

It was a sunny morning in the South of France, I was sitting on a café's terrace, people around me moving slowly like they were all unreal, blurred silhouettes. Was I dreaming all this? A few weeks had passed having me waiting, desperating, yearning so much that I was together exhausted, a bit nervous and incredibly happy that long wait was finally going to end. It had taken Anton some time to be able to get a new visa from Ukraine and come back to France. I checked the time on my cell phone, he would arrive soon. Then I saw him appear. Finally he was here, a contre- jour shadow across the road slowly taking shape as he was walking to me, in his lovely white suit. There I recalled Dali's words, Perpignan's train station was truly the centre of the world at that very moment.

Anton Yakutovych’s video screenshot taken from 'Boudmo' video music 2009 (DV).
Berangere Maximin's solo tour in the USA, 2009

He had flown from Kyiv to Toulouse then taken the fast train to French Catalonia at dawn. The sun saw our two bodies glued with each other, magnetised, talking and talking with impatience as if we would be separated again shortly, like not much time was left, an almost palpable cloud of words flying around us like excited flies. We went to my apartment near the conservatoire, left the luggages and loads of rolled paintings and drawings he had brought with him, and we headed down to Saint-John Square, our favourite place in town. It was still early and the fresh air on our relieved bodies got us on a very special high. We were reunited at last, in the very place he would ask me in marriage two months later.

We had met in March 2001 during an artist residence founded and run by a common friend, Sergei Wolkonsky who had invited young artists and composers to collaborate with himself and the other students of the town's art school and exhibit the results in a group show on a historical sight near the Spanish border. We immediately liked each other, our first conversation being about Mount Hoverla. I remember Anton's ravished surprised face when I told him that I had watched a documentary film about it a few days back and wanted to go there, that I'd love to go and record sounds on these mysterious landscapes, he was stunned that I knew this place.

Something we never did, we never went there but this first chat which got us hooked up with each other, stood as a symbol of our mutual affection. To him coming here was like changing universe, which I only understood fully when I stepped out of the plane in Kyiv the following winter. We first kissed watching Peter Greenaway's The Pillow Book, in the town's movie theatre during a cinema festival which was running at the same time as our residency. It was intense for two artists like we were, highly symbolic in our young age, a strong omen that it was all meant to be.

Couples have their love song, we had our love movie. We would watch it several times, wrapped up in the Scottish plaid Mama Olha offered us, in our Little Boheme home as we used to call it, our cosy cocoon in Paris, five minutes away from Montmartre and our friend Sergei Chepik's studio we would visit a great number of times. Our cocoon where he worked the first few months we arrived and which became my studio full time when he got settled in his working space in Ménilmontant. We had moved to Paris after some time spent in Kyiv working on an audiovisual installation in Mum and Dad's studio and sponsored by the French Institute which was just down the building. Finally, Anamorphosis would be our only true collaborative art project in thirteen years marriage. Our complicity never ceased to develop though, in the everyday life, and became both a partnership and brotherhood deeply tight.

Anton Yakutovych’s video screenshot taken from 'Boudmo' video music 2009 (DV). Berangere Maximin's solo tour in the USA, 2009

Anton Yakutovych’s video screenshot taken from 'Boudmo' video music 2009 (DV).
Berangere Maximin's solo tour in the USA, 2009

We were inspirational to each other and our naivety when just arrived in the big city of Paris made this time of our life beautiful, precious, suspended and we would often refer to it as "the source", that time we grew up beside each other, became adults together, that time when I would read him translations in English of French author Philippe Sollers' writings on Cézanne and Matisse, laying in bed smoking, drinking wine, him observing me like a permanent model to his drawings, studying me on every angle, me listening to him talk about history of art with huge passion.

Us in Paris, the loop being looped, or more like a spiral in fact, a lovely spiral movement, we were reviving what so many artists had lived before us in total bliss. Plastic art and painting was all new to me, like a door wide open to an infinite world of possibilities, getting more and more attractive with the many exhibitions we went to visit all around the world from Paris to London, Spain, Italy, from New York to Washington DC, Brussels, Lausanne, Nancy, Strasbourg, Rome, Florence, every city had its joy.

Anton wasn't familiar with concrete and acousmatic music or computer assisted composition's techniques, a practice that I had started at the conservatoire a few years back. When we got together, I just graduated from the conservatoire and was deep into experimenting with the sounds, finding my own approach. We quickly found common ground through methods and history, and made bridge between art of listening/observing, the complex connections between figurative and abstract. First taking Picasso and his contemporaries as vivid examples, we cemented our mutual exchange about classicism and modernism, academism and true innovation with theirs.

In a strange mix of broken English and gestures, we would speak about very keen details and nourish the discussions with our own sketches and ongoing works. That is when Anton started a series of paintings about the art of listening and its environment, when he started to paint his "scenes". With works like Handkerchief, The Shell, Eleonore or Tinkling he made concrete the ideas we were discussing during our mutual researches. Even though it never appeared clear at the time, first of all because no consequent critical text has yet been written on Anton's art, it becomes obvious with distance and time that his works are all about mapping the thoughts in his brain, blurring the borders between real and imaginary pictures through landscape/soundscape and capture an ephemeral moment with a very subjective viewpoint.

In his paintings, he depicts his thoughts through original combinations of portraits, still lifes and effects, which creates a personal imagery the way the thoughts take shape in your head even if you cannot explain them. We have this in common. On my end, sonic pieces like Boudmo which is made of sounds I recorded in Mum and Dad's studio in Kyiv or Cracks where I mixed outdoor microphonic takes taken in a dacha in Hryhorivshchyna with our dear friends (our favourite place for holidays ever) or the early Trix Sistra piece with recordings of parties in Kyiv and samples of traditional drinking songs, are very evocative to this approach.

As we were getting deeper into our processes, enriched by contemporary works from the likes of Hopper, Hockney, Hirst, Barney, Viola, Calle, Fabre, we had seen in New York and DC or in Europe, we integrated very visceral and earthly components together with self-biographical elements. Paris and Western Europe was a place where Anton could re-invent himself, start from scratch, the same as for me, there we felt free to be whoever we wanted to be.

Over his nine solo exhibitions in London from 2004 to 2012, at Irina Emtseva's Peace and Colour Gallery which remained the main one over the years, Anton exhibited his vision of the world around him through self-biographical scenes. He was a bit disillusioned with the Eastern art world and the works of his parents and his parents' friends, well he thought he was but in fact he only wanted to find his own path. Disengaging himself from what he had learnt, in a paradoxical way which I personally have always found utterly interesting, he though could not help but refer to it. That is what cristallizes his approach, this paradox. The moments when he doubted, the couple of years prior to his death being the peak, would have only been a short moment in time if the clock did not break so suddenly for him. Despite the tragic circumstances in which he left us, these moments don't outnumber the countless time spent in the studio working, focusing with great joy.

I would have been so curious to witness his evolution with time, see how he would have kept on dealing with his contradictions, play with them to finally move on. He simply did not have the time to. What if he would have pursued his practice of sculpture and ceramics? what if he would have kept working on still lifes in video the way he did the three twelve-minute videos he produced for my first live electronics solo tour in the USA? What if he would have changed frame from panoramic scenes to more zoomed or microscopic objects as he had the project to? He also wanted to go back to works like the "papier froissé" series he had made in Kyiv and during his stay in Spain before we met.

In London, Anton found a market where painters were still very well respected and their works examined with great care. He was delighted to be able to exchange with private collectors as well as agents working on the behalf of big British companies, who attended the private views to his solo exhibitions the same as the great art auction houses like Sotheby's or Christie's without any form of snobbism. There he found the best environment for his figurative art. I am so sure that his works would have reached more and more people with time. They were so promising and they let us envision the future in an optimistic way.

Just a shame that the process was not going fast enough to him, all was too slow for such a perfectionist and impatient soul. He would have needed to learn to be more indulgent with himself as well. His works were still at an early stage but would have grown. It is of no doubt to me, that these naive-at-first-sight paintings would have become steadier and more and more evocative with the years. The more he worked the more he was deeply touched by the artists of his generation coming from other parts of the world, the more he understood quickly though still very critical and tough with himself, qualities which fit a great career undoubtedly.

The smell of therebenthine, him biting the tip of his brushes while checking what he was doing with a few steps distance from the canvas, wearing his favourite kaki blouse, a dirty with paint stains overall he was always wearing in the atelier, his glasses down on the nose, there he was standing 24 hours 7 days a week. He used to say he was a workaholic and he passed that on to me, thanks to him. I learnt discipline in a rigorous daily practice from him, and this continues.

Anton Yakutovych’s video screenshot taken from 'Boudmo' video music 2009 (DV). Berangere Maximin's solo tour in the USA, 2009

Anton Yakutovych’s video screenshot taken from 'Boudmo' video music 2009 (DV).
Berangere Maximin's solo tour in the USA, 2009

He liked the direct contact with the canvas, only very rarely drawing sketches prior to it. He was laying his ideas on paper only when it was a commission which shew some kind of a lack of confidence or some forced task he had to accomplish. Anyhow, he was always a hundred percent into the work and was rarely satisfied. But I saw him experience real moments of grace when, after applying the last layer of "glaçis" he would then understand something, like an obscure secret was suddenly revealed to him. A joyous man of a few words who enjoyed life and conversation but who spoke very few about his inner struggles.

His favourite painters being De La Tour and especially Rembrandt, he was into researches in the studio and worked to make the outdoor world come to him rather than the other way around. He enjoyed drawing copies to the masters' works as an entertainment, with sixties and seventies rock bands as a soundtrack. My husband was very keen of music. We used to often attend concerts and theatre plays in Paris. This is mostly how he learnt how to speak French and English, all by ear. We spent fantastic years together. He was a very easy going and open person in private life, and knew how to talk to his business partners and what he exactly wanted from them in his professional life. He would speak to them with his usual soft voice but firmly, something he got from his family's reputation, he always had that confidence.

Anton Yakutovych spent his life observing the world with tenderness and the attitude of a child for whom life was like an enormous puzzle in which every piece could fit any other. He saw the world as modular and felt happy to be a part of it. He left behind him a remarkle and exigent corpus. What a feast for the observer whose soul and mind are wide awake.

Bérangère Maximin was born on the remote French colonial island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean and followed her parents to Southern France at the age of fifteen. First performing as a singer in local bands, she later studied under the acousmatic and instrumental composer Denis Dufour (a then member of the Ina-GRM and a former pupil of Pierre Schaeffer) at the Perpignan Conservatoire and received the Golden Medal in electroacoustic composition by the jury's unanimity in 2000. Her first professional experiences occurred in Paris, and in 2002 she moved there permanently. From 2002 to 2007, whilst running the organisations Motus (concerts production and label, Paris) and Futura (International festival of Acousmatic Art, Crest, France) as the assistant of the director, she started to work as an independent composer. Her career really sparked off with John Zorn and his Tzadik label (USA) who gave her acousmatic work a warm welcome and released her debut album Tant Que Les Heures Passent (As Long As The Hours Go By) in the Composer Series in 2008. Working out of her private studio, Bérangère Maximin has developed her own approach to electroacoustic music, composing dense, immersive pieces with immediate impact. On four albums which have aroused international interest, she has revealed a taste for mixing disparate sounds together with a sense of detail, effusive, lyrical playings with the digital material and tight nuanced writing. Bérangère Maximin has performed in various venues and festivals around the world and has got released on Tzadik's Composer Series (USA), Sub Rosa's Framework (BE) and Crammed Discs' Made To Measure (BE). Lately she responded to the producer Craig Leon's invitation to take part in the re-activation of his Atlas Realisations label (UK) with a fifth electroacoustic series named Frozen Refrains which came out on vinyl last Summer 2017.

Anton Yakutovych was born in Kyiv in 1975. He was into painting and graphic art since childhood, and attended the Art School. In the 1990s, he started visiting foreign residences and giving exhibitions together with his father Serhiy Yakutovych. He met his future wife, a French composer Berangere Maximin, when he was in Spain. He moved with Berangere to Paris for good in 2002. The style Anton worked in may be characterized as “magic realism”: the painter reproduced the reality through the lens of chimeric, often stylized images. “My characters exist less for their human properties than for their sculptural quality,” Anton described his works. Yakutovych cooperated a lot with the European galleries, in particular with the London-based Peace and Colour Gallery. At the end of 2013, he returned for a while to Kyiv where he passed away because of illness in 2014.