Nikolai Seleschuk

Other links:
Auctions Results. Arcadja auction.
History of modern and contemporary art in Belarus. Bella Belarus.
Nikolai Seleschuk, 1947 - 1996. Hampel auction.
Russian Art. Hampel auction.
Art Collection of Zhiltsov.

My Acquaintance with Nikolai Seleshchuk…

It happened in 1993, during the third year of activity of the arts center “Zhilbel”. The center intensified its activity and held a great number of exhibitions. At that time we exhibited Belarusian underground and the center was gaining popularity. We got offers to organize personal exhibitions of famous “names”. Two factors contributed to the promotion of the center:

The first one is the location of the center, as it is situated in the very heart of Minsk, in Troitsky trinity. The history of this place goes back to the ancient times and Minsk sprang at this very place. A square chamber hall of average size with high ceiling absorbed the ancient energy and it felt during all exhibitions. The pictures evidently imbibed this energy and generously returned it to the audience. In general it is a God-blessed place.  

The second factor is a wonderful skillful team, all members of which work at the Arts enterprise. These people are fans of art and they devote the whole their lives to it.

At that time Nadezhda Petrovna Burmak worked at the center and before that she had run a shop at the Arts enterprise, to which belonged graphic artists and Nikolai was one of them… Nadezhda Petrovna knew the artists perfectly and treated them as if they had been her own children and they reciprocated for her kindness.

Nadezhda Petrovna and I were often visitors at artists’ studios for several years; we got acquainted with their works and picked up some of them for future exhibitions. So we decided to pay such a visit to Nikolai Seleshchuk’ studio and appointed a meeting in advance. I didn’t know Nikolai personally then, although I often saw him and his works at different exhibitions and “art parties”. Moreover, I was on friendly terms with some artists, whose creative work was closely connected with Nicolai’s activity, so closely connected that their influence on each other was obvious. These are Vladimir Savich, Georgi Skripnichenko, Vladimir Tovstik, Vladimir Schepelevich, and Sergey Pchelintsev. Something more than just friendship connects us with these wonderful artists and people.  

Nikolai and I mingled in the same society and knew a lot about each other, so we understood that sooner or later our ways would cross. 

We met late summer, on the eve of autumn. The weather was nice, the sky was blue. It was Saturday, 11 o’clock in the morning. The door was opened by Nikolai, hospitable, cordial and friendly. We met like old friends, who hadn’t seen each other for ages and had a lot to share. No constraint and effort, the dialogue was easy and natural. We had tea with biscuits and talked about our plans, about past and future exhibitions, about success of “Zhilbel” and about relations between an artist and a gallery-keeper. And all these were said in the third person as if we didn’t want to touch upon the main subject, relations, as if we were afraid to broach this issue.

But the most important about all this was that I was absolutely astonished at the pictures, I saw that day. This feeling cannot be explained logically, it is at the level of perception, when you feel with your whole being the ideal harmonious combination of colour and form and you get the happy feeling of discovery, which was unknown before. Your intuition says that you hit the mark. This feeling is akin to that of a fish man who has hooked fish and draws it out of the water or to the feeling of a sniper who subconsciously knows that the blow went home, although the target hasn’t yet arrived or the feeling when you fall in love at first sight and forever.

However surprisingly it may seem, but this feeling is with me even today, for more than ten years already, I constantly deal and live with his works, which are in my collection and which are always with me in my house. His works neither weary nor disturb, but on the contrary they continue to amaze me with their perfection. I remembered several works on that day. One of them hung on the wall opposite to the window and the daylight accentuated its advantages. It was wonderful. It seems to me that the picture “In the Studio of the Artist of Dolls” had been hanging on the wall at his place for many years. At the lower part of the picture there was a portrait of my close friend artist Georgi Skripnichenko. After that we often were at my place and, while examining this picture, we tried to understand why he was depicted on this picture, easy recognizable and painted by Nikolai from memory; at first sight he had nothing to do with this subject.

I also remembered the picture “The Moment Which Became Yesterday”, which I saw for the first time then, as well as the picture “A Man with a Musical Instrument and a Woman with a Cock” (1996), which is now in my collection. The distinctive feature of these both pictures is that they impress the audience by the combination of colours, which are chosen with such amazing taste.  These works can pretend to be world masterpieces and at the same time they are soaked with national colouring, which can be confused with nothing and which is expressed with such great love.  This colouring can belong to the only place on the Earth, which lies between Russia and Poland and is called Belarus. I suppose this fine nuance in these pictures is available only for those people who grew up here and absorbed this culture. This is also typical of the third picture, which I remembered on that day, “The Day of Your Love”, which has been finished by Nickolai recently. And I also remembered the picture “Spring”, full of spring mood, snow melting and spring tide; and as usual there is a church in the distance. All this amazed me then and this impression doesn’t weak even now. As fate has willed, years later these pictures became the part of my own collection and I am thankful to the Lord for this.

To understand what happened then between us at Nikolai’s studio we should return a little into the past, when we together with Nadezhda Petrovna visited artists’ studios, got acquainted with artistic elite and simply met with artists in the search of new talents. The essence of these visits was in the fact that the better the Arts center worked the higher its achievements were, the higher the level of organized exhibitions was and the more doors of studios were opened for us. And we exercised our right to study carefully the creative work of modern artists.

One can visit studios, but don’t get the essence; it’s very important in this process that the artist would like to accept you and reveal himself. In the view of all this we formed our visit plans.

And at last the time has come to visit studios of “famous names”: Vladimir Savich and Georgi Skripnichenko. And since then these artists and I have been tied by close friendship, absolute confidence, mutual understanding and support. Gathering together, we often recollect with a smile the moments of our first meeting. The visits to the studios of Savich and Skripchenko happened almost simultaneously, with the interval of no more than three months between visits. We were received with special attention, warmth, cordiality, hospitality and they admitted our success, but to our suggestion to exhibit their works at “Zhilbel” the artists answered: “The time will come and we’ll exhibit, but you work for a while and show what you can”. Both artists answered the same, as if they had agreed. They gave us carte blanche, raised hopes and made terms – “to clear the bar” as sportsmen say. After that we always kept in touch, often talked (sometimes every day), spent holidays together, our families got close and we helped each other, but our relations were the continuation of that first talk, as it seemed to me.

Sometimes this phrase referred not to me, but to them: it became our principle “to clear the bar”. It was unnecessary to talk, it was enough to look at each other and smile as if saying - “you know it yourself, remember you told me”. And on that day we told with Nikolai about mutual relations, exhibitions and plans for the future. Leaving Nikolai’s studio, Nadezhda Petrovna asked: “Nikolai, do you want to hold your personal exhibition at “Zhilbel”?” And the answer was: “One day I will exhibit my works there, but you work now and show what you can”. So far I am grateful to my friends for this “bar” and the hope they gave me.

Some years have passed. We met by chance with Nikolai at exhibitions, presentations and at our friends’ birthday parties, but we never reverted to the talk about exhibition. There was the feeling that all our talks were the continuation of our first talk at the studio; some invisible link sprang between us. Since 1995 Nikolai has been at all our exhibitions and missed none. “To my mind, Seleshchuk is ready for his personal exhibition”, my wife Ludmila noticed one day. She is the head of the Arts center “Zhilbel”.

I remember the opening of one exhibition at the Arts center “Zhilbel”, which included some performance. The light was switched off and the actors staged some piece to prepare the audience to perceive the art. The performance was over, the light dimmed up and Nikolai was by my side, his face was shining with a happy smile. He looked at me and as if continuing our old talk I pronounced: “Well, do we deserve it, Nikolai?” And he answered: “Deserve, Valeriy!”

After several days the three of us met: Nikolai, Ludmila and I proceeded to the discussion of the personal exhibition of Nikolai Seleshchuk at the Arts center “Zhilbel”. It was early September in 1996…

And now in 2007, since ten years, I hold an exhibition in New York with participation of Nikolai Seleshchuk’s works and I plan to organize his personal exhibition at the Museum of Modern Russian Arts in New Jersey. And I feel that the ties, established between us long time ago, are not broken.

Valeri Zhiltsov, a collector, the president of the board of directors of the Museum of Modern Russian Arts in Jersey City.