“It was one of the best openings we’ve had in my time here! A combination of exciting paintings, an artist whose modesty and skill shines through and a crowd of happy people.”
The exhibition marks a milestone in a long journey for the artist. At the age of seven, a misdiagnosis placed Svetlana in an institution for disabled children in the Ukraine, leading to severe depression.
“Art has such an ability to heal and comfort,” said Svetlana. Having inherited artistic abilities from her father, the child escaped the harsh realities of her environment through art. For five years, she drew and painted, until one of her teachers noticed her talent and encouraged her to enrol in an Art School for children. For a young girl who had almost given up on the hope of ever living a normal life like other children, art opened the door for her to return to her family and study what she loved.
Then 12 years old, Svetlana passed an entrance examination to begin a rigorous Classical Old Masters art education programme. In addition to attending a normal school with other children, Svetlana was required to produce 20 watercolours and 60 drawings each week as homework. The college ensured that no work was presented twice by confiscating all student artwork, burning it on a bonfire at the end of each term. The programme took her nearly 10 years to complete.
Life was difficult, and opportunities were few in the former USSR. Despite her extensive art education, Svetlana had no aspirations of turning her ability into a profession. In a bold move to create a better future for herself and her daughter, Svetlana immigrated to New Zealand in 1992.
Svetlana took time to paint part time while raising her family. She was exhilarated by her new country’s appreciation of art, and found other artists to help and inspire her on her journey. She especially credits Nancy Tichborne, who showed her new ways of painting with watercolours.
Now Svetlana paints in oil and watercolour in a Contemporary Realist style. “I see beauty in the simple things,” Svetlana explained. “There is a poetry in simplicity. I look for how light transitions across a form. I like to transform my chosen subject into visual poetic language.”
She further describes her process. “In creating each painting, my work begins long before I take a brush in my hand. I am deeply committed to the entire process: from preparing my own canvas to the finishing of it by framing. I choose the highest quality and most permanent materials that I can acquire. I take pride in stretching and priming my own canvas as well as framing it with my own hands. For me, as a painter, I like to focus not only on the image that I am creating, but also on the archival qualities of that image – the craftsmanship.”
Such dedicated craftsmanship is finding an appreciative audience. Orion Powerhouse Gallery, a small community gallery with a 400-year history, invited Svetlana to exhibit in what is her largest solo exhibition to date. Most of the sale proceeds will go toward the building of a new “mini hospital”, the previous one having been demolished due to the earthquakes. The exhibition includes two years’ worth of Svetlana’s work, including 10 pieces painted expressly for the event.
“I feel very privileged to be represented by this Gallery,” said Svetlana. “It’s a beautiful gallery with helpful staff. I felt like part of the family!”
After the exhibition closes on Sunday, 4th February, Svetlana plans to finish a few art commissions before travelling to Venice, where she has been invited along with 12 other artists from around the world to participate in a month-long Artist Residence Programme.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Orion Powerhouse Gallery to see — or maybe purchase for yourself — the stunning artwork of this inspiring artist.
Svetlana Orinko Solo Exhibition
20 January – 4 February 2018
Orion Powerhouse Gallery, 1 Rue Pompallier, Akaroa
Opening hours: 10am – 4pm, 7 days