YURI BONDARENKO (Russia)
Born in 1952 in Moscow, Russia, he graduated from Surikov Art Academy in 1982. That same year he joined the Artist Union of Russia. Since 1989, he has had over 40 solo exhibitions in Russia, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Greece, England, and Austria.
He is a traditional Russian landscape, portraiture and historical genre painter.
Excerpts from a biography by Harriet Crawley:
Youri Bondarenko was born in 1952 in Moscow. He graduated from the Surikov Academy of Fine Art in Moscow in 1982, then took a post-graduate course and wrote a thesis which embraced the study of painting techniques and drawing by Old European Masters. He finished his PhD in 1984 while teaching painting and drawing at the Surikov Academy of Fine Art. Youri has exhibited his paintings since 1980 and has been a participant in more than one hundred exhibitions. While portraiture and historical genre painting are his main specialization, he also enjoys painting landscapes. In addition, he also teaches the plein air painting technique in Russia and abroad.
While Youri Bondarenko is the first to acknowledge his debt to the past, as an artist he lives wholly in the present. He is a spiritual follower of Leo Tolstoy; whose writings influenced him profoundly as a young man. In his long essay, “What is art?” Tolstoy argues that art is the language of feelings and it is the duty of the artist to communicate. Beauty and harmony are Youri’s goals. His landscapes, portraits and historical genre paintings are the vehicles by which he hopes to transmit his innermost feelings. There is another element in his work: sympathy with suffering. Youri adheres to Tolstoy’s dictum: “For art to be genuine it must be compassionate.”
In 1984, Youri and other like-minded Moscow artists formed an independent society called the Moskovorechye Association of Painters. Their aim was simple: to uphold the traditions of Russian realist painting; and they recruited artists of all ages and from all parts of Russia, including three generations of the illustrious Kugach family.
Over the years the group has flourished, staging exhibition all over the world. Youri helps to raise money for young painters so they can join other Moskoverchye artists and spend their summer months at a dacha (Russian country house) a few hundred kilometers north of Moscow, painting in plein air in the same 19th century tradition as the French Barbizon School and the English Newlyn School. Youri has exported his ideas and his paintings to India, Cyprus, Spain, and recently Japan where he conducted a very successful plein air master class in the foothills of Mount Fuji.
In some ways, time is out of joint for Youri Bondarenko. In a world overflowing with abstract and conceptual art, Youri feels himself isolated. He finds the aggression and ugliness of so much contemporary work offensive and is bewildered by the obsession to be unique which can only lead to what he describes as “surface language.”
There is nothing superficial about Youri Bondarenko’s paintings. Look and you will see a blend of two very Russian characteristics: refinement and passion. Technically, his work is precise and polished; in spirit, his work is moody, unpredictable and intense. His paintings of Venice are damp and filled with half-light. England is a land of ancient, solitary trees, which are no longer found on Russian soil. His portraits are probing and perceptive. Although he is not religious in the conventional sense, he believes in divine power and for Youri Bondarenko, “painting is like praying.”