When I first encountered the breathtakingly intricate drawings by the young Belarus artist Dzmitryi Kashtalyan (Dima) I would have never thought that his path to art was in fact graffiti. I was initially attracted to the lyrical amusing subject matter, and a delightful transformation of an academic genre of ink on paper.
Perhaps I had too long associated graffiti with gesture and a kind of hieroglyphic patterning. Slowly, as I learned more about Dima and his different projects, I came to discover another colorful side of his life and artwork, his murals –and in turn came to appreciate the unique charm of this very young artist –an engaging combination of illustrative style, folkloric animal figures, bright color, and fine composition.
I can only imagine that all those who encounter his joyful and beautifully made murals are delighted, whether every day in a school or in an entirely unexpected way as one turns around a street corner! It is important to note that street art is illegal in Belarus, but there are pockets of street creativity and commissioned projects.
Dima tells me that his transformative moment was witnessing a graffiti contest at a Moscow music festival in 2009, the young man decided he would pursue his the fine arts as a means of personal expression. His own father was an accomplished artist, but according to the artist it was impossible to make a living this way.
For his part, Dima tells me that he continues to pursue this field because art is at the centre of his life: “Art makes me better; it forces me to continually develop artistically. I am also convinced that real art can have a significant impact on people.”
A highly disciplined artist, Dima has studied illustration, painting, composition and some academic drawing but did not formally purse a fine art degree.
Rather his imaginative oeuvre is in fact a result of personal commitment to constant study, a viewpoint equally reflected in his relationship with the literary arts: “To my mind, each artist and author should also be a man of worth. As such, my favorite artists are Bosch, Pieter Brueghel, Aivazovsky, Repin, and Vasnetsov and my favorite author is Fyodor Dostoyevsky.”
Today, the artist mostly concentrates on graphic works, ink on paper, and as well, recent projects he feels particularly happy with include special commissioned wall paintings for a nursing home and mural made in collaboration with Urban Myth Street Festival for a kindergarten, 2015.
I should add that this element of surprise while speaking with Dima is one of many during my work with artists. If we can recognize that often a decree of talent is merely a question of taste, we must look inwards.
Perhaps some readers might find this unduly serious in a post about an artist who makes pictures of cats riding chickens, but all in all, Dima’s is a wonderful body of work that makes me laugh and wonder, and reveals in turn, parts of myself that I still do understand (other than liking a lot of art with pictures of cats, but perhaps not the animals themselves). Nevertheless, any endeavor should be a continual learning process, and yet as curators and art historians, we tend to regard ourselves as authorities.
Any writer whose work in dependent on the creativity of others must remember to relinquish “knowledge” and truly listen, if we wish to learn and grow, and most importantly if we want the privilege of a glimpse of an artist’s soul, his working process, or her imagination.
You may learn more about Dima here Kashtalyan Artist Site