LIGHT, STRONG, TALENTED

"Light, strong, talented, beloved...", Serhiy Yakutovych described the artist Olha Dyomina who agreed to become his wife in the 1970s. Dmytro, his younger brother, mentioned Olha as a warm and soulful woman, a gifted and demanding artist. The last feature — strictness to herself — was inherent in the artist since childhood: Olha recalled that when she was a girl, besides her lessons, she had to attend a music school and an art studio. "... And everything was easy and joyful." Similarly, the image of light, simple and, at the same time, strong Olya remained in the memory of the Yakutovychs and their friends.

The artist was born in Nizhny Tagil (Russia, the Ural region) on September 1, 1950. Her father was a metallurgist, during the Second World War he quenched the tank armour, later became the chief engineer. The industrial city has largely defined the life of the Dyomins: Olya recalled that every day began with a "factory beep." And this "labour rhythm" accompanied her during all life.

While the studies at the secondary school, Olha began to admire Russian literature. She was taught by Olha Nesterivna Ovchinnikova, whom the artist recalled with a great gratitude:

Olha Yakutovych. The 1970s.
Photo from the family’s archive

As now, I see her eyes behind the glass of the spectacles — sheer harshness could not hide the boundless devotion to her profession. How many times did she bring to us the reproductions of paintings, how many conversations on art we had!

Olha`s interview with Tatyana Fedorova, "Friend of the reader", September 7, 1989/ Serhiy Yakutovych. An Absolute Pitch of Time. Kyiv: Charter Publishing House, 2008. — P. 127.

Olha Nesterivna, by the way, allowed Olya to decorate the cabinet of literature with paints, and even did not restrict her in the choice of the subject: "There are the paints — draw what you want!" Similarly, the artist warmly mentioned the director of the art studio which she attended in childhood and adolescence. He encouraged her to develop her own vision of the world. Likewise, Olya met good teachers at Moscow Polygraphic Institute — they taught the students to convey space, time and volume in the artworks.

Olha Yakutovych.
Fortune-teller, the 1990s, pastel

Olha Yakutovych.
August, 1992, autolithography

What is the book illustration? In fact, it is a space of a sheet where an action is deployed. The task of the artist is to master this space.

Olha`s interview with Tatyana Fedorova, "Friend of the reader", September 7, 1989/ Serhiy Yakutovych. An Absolute Pitch of Time. Kyiv: Charter Publishing House, 2008. — P. 127.

Serhiy and Olha met in the early 1970s at Moscow Polygraphic Institute where they studied at the Department of the Artistic and Technical Design of Printed Materials.

I met Olya in the lobby of the institute, illuminated by December sun, and in the rays a wonderfully slim and golden girl floated. ‘There is my future wife’, — I thought and fell in love immediately and forever. And then ... then our romance began which seemed to continue all our lives. With all attributes of family, creativity, and everyday life.

Yakutovych S. Olha / Serhiy Yakutovych. An Absolute Pitch of Time. Kyiv: Charter Publishing House, 2008. — P. 146

Olha and Serhiy Yakutovych. Photo from the family’s archive

The former students of Higher Art and Technical Studios were the professors at the Department of the Artistic Design of Moscow Polygraphic Institute at that time. The Studios, known under the abbreviation Vkhutemas, functioned only for six years, from 1920 to 1926. During this time it became the place where such representatives of the Soviet avant-garde as Wasyli Kandinsky, Vladimir Tatlin, El Lissitzky, and Alexander Rodchenko were active. Olya’s professors, who were her mentors indeed, were the graphic artist and the painter Pavel Zakharov and the book artist Andrey Goncharov. In Vkhutemas, Zakharov was a student of Petr Miturich, and Goncharov was taught by Vladimir Favorsky. Here one can notice the manifestation of the strange (and therefore charming) connection between the members of the Yakutovychs family — the artist Mai Miturich-Khlebnikov, the son of Petr, was a close friend of Heorhiy, and the eldest Yakutovych also considered Favorsky his teacher.

Serhiy did not finish his studies in Moscow due to the exacerbation of tuberculosis, and in 1973 returned to Kyiv. Olha also moved after him, after a short period of work in the publishing house "Belarus" in Minsk. Their correspondence of this period is full of gentle care and, at the same time, painful anguish:

My beloved, my dear! Your letters are so tender ... I dreamed of a blue-blue shore. Beloved ... White city and huge white stairs. I am very sad. Somehow I manage to successfully pass the exams ... I hug you gently, and I miss you a lot. But I have to think about some other things. Your letters are like dreams. And you — alive, rosy, cheerful, with radiant eyes, and other words — left somewhere far away.

On February 10, 1975, Anton, the son of the couple, was born. "I really like this boy's name. It is musical. As two strings — An-ton, "—Olya briefly noticed in the letter.

Olha Yakutovych. Summer. Series Beach, the 1990s, autolithography

Olha Yakutovych. Series Beach, the 1990s, pastel

From Olha's letter to Serhiy, the early 1970s. From the archive of the family

She lived, giving herself to our son, me, relatives, close friends, the environment, her viewers and readers. And giving herself to her, because she clearly understood her mission in this life...

Yakutovych S. Olha / Serhiy Yakutovych. An Absolute Pitch of Time. Kyiv: Charter Publishing House, 2008. — P. 146

Olha Yakutovych’s Drawings from the Letters to Serhiy, the 1970s, ballpoint pen

In 1976, the Kiev publishing house "Veselka" offered Olha to illustrate a collection of fables by Leo Tolstoy The Ant and the Dove, and she agreed. The artist worked over the book at the House of Artists "Palahna", where another acquaintance, significant for the development of her oeuvre, happened — she met Russian graphic artist Valeryi Alfeevskyi. Olya recalled that particularly he said to her: "In addition to the illustrations, Olya, there is also a drawing. You should pay as much attention to it as possible. " A few years later, the artist began to work over one of the most important subjects of her life — illustrations to Alexander Pushkin. The first book that she issued for the "Veselka" publishing house was The Belkin Tales (1988). Olya chose this literary work on her own, because, in her memory, she literally was "addicted” to it, and offered her idea to the publishing house. At first, the artist created illustrations in her favourite technique — watercolour. However, she was not satisfied with the result. According to Olha, she could not convey "purity and transparency, irony and astonishing simplicity", inherent in Pushkin's prose. Then the artist turned to etching — the technique that Serhiy mastered - and particularly the necessity to prove her own skillfulness in this field gave Olha the strength to finish the artworks.

Olha Yakutovych. Illustrations of Aleksandr Pushkin’s The Squire's Daughter (cycle The Belkin Tales), the 1980s, watercolour, coloured ink

Olha Yakutovych. Illustration of Aleksandr Pushkin’s The Belkin Tales, title page, 1988, etching

In the spring of 1981, Olha and Serhiy participated in the exhibition Graphics which took place in the Exhibition Hall of the Kyiv Organization of the Union of Artists of Ukraine. Jointly with the Yakutovychs, the artworks of three other artists were displayed there: Igor Vyshinsky, Oleksandr Vozianov and Anel Tolkachova were presented. One of the visitors of the exhibition, whose name is impossible to identify, wrote in the review book: "At last, the barrier was broken and graphics appeared."

At the exhibition, the series Senezh, created in the technique of etching with the use of soft varnish, were presented among other Olha’s artworks. The artist made it during the 1979-1980s (In 1979 Olha joined the Union of Artists of the Soviet Union thus she was able to work more often in the Houses of Creativity, particularly in "Senezh" which was located in the Moscow region). Famous Ukrainian art critic Leonid Vladych said at the discussion of the exhibition:

Olha and Serhiy Yakutovych with the poster of the exhibition Graphics. Kyiv, 1981. Photo from the family’s archive

Pictures of Olha Yakutovych depict a daily life that surrounds her, I would even say, her personal life. Her works, besides being her daily life, are the part of the artist’ biography, heart, and feelings... Very interestingly Olha Yakutovych is revealed in her landscapes. Nature in her landscapes is spiritual, human, I would even say personified. There are alive people, not trees... It can be described with living, daily, but the very significant concept — sincerity. Things, shown by Olha Yakutovych on the basis of literary works, and especially the selection of the works itself, suggest that there is a purity of feelings that is inherent in the author. There are The White Poodle [ by Alexandr Kuprin], Mumu [by Ivan Turgenev]. It is a literary performance, not an exhibition. There are The Artist and the Book, Nikita’s Childhood [Aleksey Tolstoy]. One can find loving, a very accurate attitude not only to the characters, the heroes but also to their everyday life in these sheets. It is the traditions of the Russian school of book illustration.

Documents on the exhibition of graphic artists I. Vyshinsky, O. Vozianov, A. Tolkachova, S. Yakutovych, O. Yakutovych, held on March 31, 1981. Fund 986. Case 523. UCSAMLA.

Olya had several favourite artists. She admired the works of Russian graphic artist Dementy Shmarinov. The works of the book artist Oleg Pakhomov were also the source of inspiration for her. Olya considered as significant the elaborations of art historian Volya Lyakhov who developed his own conception of book design and was the Head of the Department of the Artistic and Technical Design of Printed Materials at Moscow Polygraphic Institute when Olha studied there. According to Serhiy’s recollection, the artist understood and appreciated world art and could not resist visiting the Louvre each time she was in Paris.

In 1994, the Japanese publishing house "Fukuinkan Shoten" invited Olha for cooperation, and she agreed. During the period while from the middle of the 1990s to the middle of 2000s, Olya not only illustrated a range of the books based on Slavic tales but even wrote some of the texts. Her soft and light illustrations, created with watercolours and coloured pencils, quickly found admirers in Japan. A large number of her artworks are currently located at the Tokyo National Museum.

Olha Yakutovych. Illustrations of Le cosaque dans la neige, Evelyne Brisou-Pellen, series Ukrainian Love Songs, Hachette Publishing House, Paris, 1992, coloured lithography

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Olha Yakutovych. Illustrations of Following the Red Ball of Yarn, the author of the text — Olha Yakutovych, Fukuinkan Shoten Publishing House, Tokyo, 1996, coloured pencils, watercolour

Olha Yakutovych. Illustrations of Following the Red Ball of Yarn, the author of the text — Olha Yakutovych, Fukuinkan Shoten Publishing House, Tokyo, 1996, coloured pencils, watercolour

Olha Yakutovych. Illustrations of Following the Red Ball of Yarn, the author of the text — Olha Yakutovych, Fukuinkan Shoten Publishing House, Tokyo, 1996, coloured pencils, watercolour

Olha Yakutovych. Illustrations of Tom-Bei The Cat, the author of the text — Olha Yakutovych, Fukuinkan Shoten Publishing House, Tokyo, 2003, coloured pencils, watercolour

Olha Yakutovych. Illustrations of The Wild Duck Who Had Her Leg Broken, Fukuinkan Shoten Publishing House, Tokyo, 1994, coloured pencils, watercolour

Olha Yakutovych. Illustrations of The Wild Duck Who Had Her Leg Broken, Fukuinkan Shoten Publishing House, Tokyo, 1994, coloured pencils, watercolour

Olha Yakutovych. Illustrations of Tom-Bei The Cat, the author of the text — Olha Yakutovych, Fukuinkan Shoten Publishing House, Tokyo, 2003, coloured pencils, watercolour

Olha Yakutovych. Illustrations of Tom-Bei The Cat, the author of the text — Olha Yakutovych, Fukuinkan Shoten Publishing House, Tokyo, 2003, coloured pencils, watercolour

She loved children and immediately found a common language with them. In general, she was able to get along with everyone — with children, elderly, peers, youth — always staying true to herself and contemplating everything ... Everything she did was simple and beautiful. And everybody understood it: relatives and colleagues, viewers and readers from different countries and continents. This feature was revealed clearly in her latest books for children, published in Japan that were successful and recognized there.

Yakutovich S. Olha / Serhiy Yakutovych. An Absolute Pitch of Time. Kyiv: Charter Publishing House, 2008. — P. 146

For Serhiy, Olya was "the most valuable gift" in his life. In the letters of the 1970s, he called her "Lou" or "Ole-Lukoie" (by the name of Hans Christian Andersen’s character who showed children dreams). Olha was his muse: one can find in Serhiy's works women who resemble his wife. Thus her death from cancer in 2008 was a genuine tragedy for him. Since then Serhiy slowed the pace of his work and significantly limited the circle of people he communicated with and the number of artistic projects.

Serhiy Yakutovych.
Olya and I, 1986, etching

Olha Yakutovych. The 1970-1980s.
Photo from the family’s archive

For me there is no death. And those who leave us still remain with us, they are alive for us. Only something changes in our relationship. Probably, there is more responsibility — for my life, my actions ...

Сиджу на кухні. Сорок днів, як поховав Олю. Сиджу один — згадую молодість… I am sitting in the kitchen. Forty days from Olya’s burial. I'm sitting alone — I remember the youth... The son has just called from Paris, maybe somebody else will call...
Where are you, Generation of Kyiv Railway Station?...

Yakutovich S. Untitled / Serhiy Yakutovych. An Absolute Pitch of Time. Kyiv: Charter Publishing House, 2008. — P. 257

Serhiy Yakutovych. Expectations, 1990-1999, oil painting

Olha Yakutovych. The 1970s. Photo from the family’s archive

The text of this episode is predominantly based on Tetyana Fedorova’s interview with Olha Yakutovych, "The Friend of the Reader", September 7, 1989, which was published in the book Serhiy Yakutovych. An Absolute Pitch of Time, issued by Charter Publishing House in Kyiv in 2008.