Oleg Minko

Oleg Minko
Oleg Minko
Born 3 August 1938(1938-08-03)
Makiivka, Ukrainian SSR, now Ukraine
Nationality Ukrainian
Field Painting
Training Lviv National Academy of Arts
Movement Realism · Expressionism
Awards Honoured Artist of Ukraine (1972), People's Artist of Ukraine (2009)

Oleg Terentiyovych Minko (Ukrainian: Олéг Терéнтійович Мінькó) (born August 3, 1938 in Makiivka, Donetsk Oblast, Ukrainian SSR, now Ukraine) is a Ukrainian painter and teacher, belonging to the Lviv school of artistic expression. He has been awarded the rank of 'Honoured Artist Of Ukraine' by the state and is considered to be one of the most established and rated artists in this country.



During World War II Minko's family moved to the Nosachi village in Cherkassy Oblast, where Minko's father originated from.[1] In 1944 they returned to Makiivka. His mother Antonina Andriivna worked as an accountant in the "Makiivbud" trust. His father Terentiy Ivanovych was an economist in the machine shop at the Makiivka Metallurgical Plant. After school Oleg graduated from the Makiivka metallurgical technical training school. From early childhood Oleg loved to draw and dreamed of becoming a painter. According to the family history, Oleg's great grandfather was an icon painter.[2]

In 1959 Oleg Minko entered the Department of artistic weaving at the Lviv State Institute of Applied and Decorative Arts (now Lviv National Academy of Arts). His professors were the eminent painters and gifted teachers Roman Selskyi and Carlo Zvirynskyi.[3]

After graduating from the Institute in 1965, he worked as a weaving shop foreman in the Lviv Art-Production Enterprise and within five years became the head of that shop. From 1971 to 1982 he worked as a painter of the monumental shop of the Lviv Art-Production Enterprise. Since 1982 Oleg Minko has worked as senior professor of the sub department of artistic textile fabrics at the Lviv State Institute of Applied and Decorative Arts. Currently he is the head of this sub department.[1]

Oleg Minko has been married since 1959. His spouse Olha Minko was in the past a talented weaver. Daughter Iryna Minko-Muraschyk – is a recognized artist (pastels and small format tapestry).[2]


Minko's early works took the form of abstract painting, expressing his internal experiences with minimum means. One of the first abstract compositions "Gra v karty" (The Card Play) was painted in 1961. Abstraction (1963–1965) gave Minko complete freedom in his searches for the unknown. Works "Zamkova sparynka" (The Keyhole), "Chorna maska" (The Black Mask), "Pechera" (The Cave), "Chorni pryamokutnyky" (The Black Rectangles), "Misiachne siayvo" (The Moonlight), "Kompozytsia z priamokutnykiv" (The Composition Of Rectangles) - are precisely measured works with a severe and ascetic feel to them. The colour range in these works consists of dark, noble colours: blacks, greys, browns, deep blues and bronzes. Minko's abstract painting stage continued until 1965. He then started looking for a new way of expressing his emotions leading him down the path to a new style of painting which the artist out of convenience calls figurative painting.[4]

From 1967–1969 he created a series of works entitled "Zhyttia masok" (The Life of Masks). During this period, historical and social subjects became the main focus of the artist's creative research. He experimented with the human figure within the pictorial space of his paintings and through the use of symbolism tried to express his outrage at what he perceived was wrong in, the then, communist society. Through this approach, between 1968–1972, he was to create a new series of philosophically pertinent and metaphorically loaded works: "Nostalhiya" (Nostalgia), "Bil"(The Pain), "Lyudyna z yablukom (Illuzionist)" (The Man with an apple (The Illusionist), "Kryk" (The Scream), "Bezgluzdia"(Nonsense). These paintings – were the frank reaction of the artist to the reinforced pressure of the totalitarian government.[1]

In 1970 Minko became a member of the Painters' Association.[1]

During this period, his work took on a new emphasis in historical subjects. Paintings that praised Cossack times, mourned fallen heroes: "Kosak", "Smert koshovogo" (The Chieftain's Death), "Stepom" (By Step), "Poema pro davniy step" (The Tale of the Old Step). The reading of these pieces clearly shows the artist's preoccupation with things uniquely Ukrainian, national and traditional. The understanding of history and of the glorious Cossack times, pain for Ukraine's fate, prophesies on the future and concern for the present. Later, after his creative crisis that lasted almost eight years, these series of works would get a profound continuation: "Trypillya", "Banduryst", "Kniaz Sviatoslav", "Pamyat dida" (The Grandfather Memory), "Prorok" (The Prophet). Particularly striking is the canvas "Smert koshovogo" (The Chieftain's Death) which is part of the Lviv Art Gallery's collection.[4]

Approximately from 1970 till 1978 the artist lived through a prolonged creative depression which he himself referred to as his "period of silence", triggered by long-lasting psychological stress, in turn aggravated after his friends' arrests, being tracked, being constantly called in for interrogation by the KGB, secretly prohibited from exhibiting his works and general aggravation of the situation within the totalitarian society.[5]

1978 signalled a new creative period in the painter's life, undergoing a kind of rebirth and unique catharsis. A breakthrough which began a new exhibiting phase in the artist's biography.[1]

In 1981 an exhibition of three famous Lviv painters Oleg Minko, Zenoviy Flinta and Lyubomyr Medvid[6] took place at the Lviv Picture Gallery. "The Exhibition of three" ("Vystavka triokh") – under this name it would enter art history – described as a bright event, "a sip of pure spring water" in the artistic environment.[7]

After the success of this exhibition (not only in Lviv, but also in Kiev, Vilnius[8] and Moscow) Oleg Minko, Zenoviy Flinta and Lyubomyr Medvid were awarded the rank of "Honoured Artists of Ukraine".

Periods Of Artwork

The painter's artwork can be divided into three phases:[1]

First period

Considered the most powerful, it spanned from 1960- 1972. The series of abstract works under the general name "Compositions" and the series "Life of the Masks" were, even back then, an affirmation of the emergence of an original artist who tried to escape the jaws of socialism. Oleg Minko himself recons "Compositions" and "Life of the Masks" to be the turning point to his artwork.

Between 1970 - 1978 he underwent the creative crisis which he refers to as the "period of silence".

Second period

One of "romantic realism", when the artist, according to his own words, was relearning how to paint: he worked on a series of landscapes and portraits. Artistic images were lyrically constructed by his romantically-philosophical outlook. This phase in the artists' work has its genesis with the painting "The Daughter's Portrait" completed in 1980. This work truly ushered in the romantically-realistic period that was to last until the late 1980s.

Third period

A "returning to the origins" – started in the late 1980s – early 1990s, when the artist was finally able to speak out in his mature artistic style, drawing on his unique world outlook, internal experiences and visual language. In 1989 he was to create a powerful series in the subjective-figurative style. Such works as: "Perestoroga" (The Warning), "Staryi z palytseiu" (The Old Man with a Cane) and "Vidchay" (The Despair) amongst others.

Current artwork

Keeping to his individual painting tradition, in the late 1980s – beginning 1990's he brought new elements and unique formal solutions to his works, creating an original world where his characters exist in the past, present and future simultaneously or – in parallel dimensions.[1]

The key element in Oleg Minko's art work through the years is the image of Man and his fate. He raises the philosophical questions of birth, the meaning of life, our role in the universe. "Bil" (The Pain), "Nostalgiya" (The Nostalgy), "Muky" (The Passion), "Pokayannya" (The Confession), "Dvi postati" (Two Figures), "Zemnni muky" (The Earth Passions), "Bila postat" (The White Figure), "Odkrovennya" (The Afflatus), "Liudyna I yahnia" (The Human and the Sheep), "Khymery" (The Chimeras), "Divchyna z ptakhom" (The Girl with a Bird), "Vershnyk" (The Rider), "Cholovik u krisli" (The Man in a Chair) – in these and other works we find not so much the joy of life but more its drama and tragedy, emphasized by his use of a darker palette of colours and shades.[1]

Frequently on his canvases one comes across a mysterious white figure. This figure is typical of his expressionist explorations: "Postat i bili kaly" (The Figure and White Calla Lilies), "Ogolena v lisi" (The Naked in the Forest), "Bila postat" (The White Figure), "Snig u lisi" (The Snow in the Forest)… These deformed female or sometimes androgynous figures can symbolize women, fate, Ukraine and even death.[1]

In 1995 he painted a series of works. The wonderful "Kit i piven" (The Cat and the Rooster) as well as, "Synia golova" (The Blue Head), "Naliakanyy kin" (The Scared Hoarse), the more expressionist "Zhinochyi portret z babkoyu" (The Female Portrait with a Damselfly), "Ptashynyi spiv" (The Bird Singing), "Portret iz zelenym lystkom" (Portrait with a Green Leave), "Tryvoga" (The Anxiety), "Zhinka, yaka yde po ozeru" (The Woman Walking the Lake), "Rozmova" (The Talk), "Mandruyuchi" (The Wandering), "Velyki hmary nad ozerom" (The Big Clouds over the Lake), "Metelyk na pliazhi" (The Butterfly on the Beach), "Piven" (The Rooster), "Divchyna z ptahom" (The Girl with a Bird) – these paintings speak of reality and mysticism, the attempts to sink into the mystery of the ulterior world, bizarre life situations – a Ukrainian metaphysical world created by him.[1]

In 2000, in the textbook for high school students "Osnovy estetyky" (The Essentials of Aesthetics) published in Kiev, the name of this Ukrainian postmodernist artist took it's deserving place next to expressionists such as the Norwegian Edward Munch, French artist Georges Rouault, Austrian expressionist Arnulf Rainer and the surrealists – the French Jules Breton, the Spanish Salvador Dali and the Belgium Rene Magritte. "It's worthwhile mentioning that an expressionist world outlook has always been an inherent quality of the Ukrainian national consciousness. In particular, works of the Lviv artist Oleg Minko "Vidchay" (The Despair), "Movchannia" (The Silence), "Perestoroga" (The Warning) – are a new step in the development of the "Slavic branch of European expressionism" – the authors L. Levchuk and O. Onyshenko state in their book.[9]

2009 – 50 years worth of artworks – for Oleg Minko this year was one of retrospection on the work accomplished, even though the artist continued to efficiently work as a painter and a professor. He recently started working on a new series "Znykli tsyvilizazii" (The Lost Civilizations), in which one can sense the motifs behind the artist's existential emotions towards the future of humanity.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Світлана Єременко Живопис як молитва, Книга-альбом – LLC "City Press Company", 2010.
  2. ^ a b Гудак В. Династія Міньків // Дзвін. – № 1 (651). – січень 1999.
  3. ^ Шпирало-Запоточна Л. Олег Мінько // Вісник ЛАМ. – № 9. – 1998.
  4. ^ a b Афанасьєв В. Сучасний живопис: здобутки, проблеми, тенденції // Образотворче мистецтво. – 1987. – № 5. – С. 1-6: про творчість О. Мінька.
  5. ^ Голубець О. Між свободою і тоталітаризмом (Прорив шістдесятників – 1956– 1972 рр.) // Вісник ЛАМ. – № 12. – 2001.
  6. ^ Любомир Медвідь, Олег Мінько, Зеновій Флінта: Альбом / Авт.-упоряд. О. Жирко-Козинкевич. – К.: Мистецтво, 1992. – 208 с.: іл. – (Художники Львова).
  7. ^ Островський Г. Полотна трьох // Вітчизна. – 1983. – № 9. – С. 208. – Про художників О. Мінька, Л. Медвідя, З. Флінту.
  8. ^ Sabonyte G. Trys dailininkai is Lvovo // TIESA. – 1982. – 27 rugsejo pirmadienis.– About an exhibition of the three artists from Lviv in Vilnius– L. Medvid, O. Minko, Z. Flinta.
  9. ^ Левчук Л.Т., Оніщенко О.І. Основи естетики. Підручник. – Київ: Вища школа, 2000. – С. 199.

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