Identity

Some of the features on this page require that JavaScript be enabled.
view previous artwork view next artwork
You and the Artist
Ukraine, conscription, politics of the Ukraine, military artist, Afghanistan, tour of war duty, propaganda, propaganda images, propaganda text, connecting with the viewer, realistic image, identity, personal identity, portraiture, acrylic on canvas, mood in painting, blue-black mood, personal space, invasion of personal space, creating atmosphere through colour, implied meaning
description

“You” and the Artist   was painted in 1993. In it Polataiko is combining his knowledge of the western  traditionTradition is the passing along of a culture from generation to generation, especially orally. Or, a custom or set of customs handed down in this way. The idea of heritage is related to that of tradition. Any activity — as a pattern of celebration, ritual, or other behaviour, etc. — is traditional once it is a precedent influencing comparable activities in the future. (Artlex.com)  of portraiture with his experience of  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  propaganda art for the military in Ukraine (his childhood home before moving to Canada in 1989.) Robin Laurence states about the works in this  seriesA number of things or events standing or succeeding in order, and connected by a like relation; sequence; order; course; a succession of things; as, a continuous series of calamitous events. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of paintings, “The works encompass ideas of propaganda (the persuasive conjunction of words and images), identity (The artist as ‘other’ displaced from his culture) and the interaction  of the artist, artwork and viewer (dynamics of power and perception, of self and - again – ‘other’).” (Laurence, 1994)

This  acrylicSynthetic paints, with pigments dispersed in a synthetic vehicle made from polymerized acrylic acid esters, the most important of which is polymethyl methacrylate. First used by artists in the late 1940s, their use has come to rival that of oil paints because of their versatility. They can be used on nearly any surface, in transparent washes or heavy impasto, with matte, semi-gloss, or glossy finishes. Acrylic paints dry quickly, do not yellow, are easily removed with mineral spirits or turpentine, and can clean up with soap and water.(Artlex.com)  painting is composed of two canvases placed side-by side. On one canvas Polataiko paints a realistic self  portraitA work of art that represents a specific person, a group of people, or an animal. Portraits usually show what a person looks like as well as revealing something about the subject's personality. Portraits can be made of any sculptural material or in any two-dimensional medium. Portraiture is the field of portrait making and portraits in general. Portrait is a term that may also refer simply to a vertically-oriented rectangle, just as a horizontally-oriented one may be said to be oriented the landscape way. (Artlex.com)  and on the other canvas he totally fills the canvas the with the word ‘YOU’ printed with large block letters. Both the artist’s image and ‘YOU’ are given equal space in the painting.

The painting of the artist’s image is cropped to include the forehead, eyes, nose and part of his mouth. It is harshly lit so some of artist’s features are somewhat bleached out while other areas are in dark shadows. The painting of the word ’YOU’ is somewhat curious. Polataiko does not introduce any of the highlights seen on his self  portraitA work of art that represents a specific person, a group of people, or an animal. Portraits usually show what a person looks like as well as revealing something about the subject's personality. Portraits can be made of any sculptural material or in any two-dimensional medium. Portraiture is the field of portrait making and portraits in general. Portrait is a term that may also refer simply to a vertically-oriented rectangle, just as a horizontally-oriented one may be said to be oriented the landscape way. (Artlex.com)  but has reduced the two paint colours to a mid and dark  valueThe lightness or darkness of a colour.  from his portrait. He confuses the viewer somewhat when he renders the Y and O letters in dark paint with a midrange  backgroundPart of the picture plane that seems to be farthest from the viewer.  and the U in the reverse. Both parts of the  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  are slick or cleanly painted and are reminiscent of images created for the  commercialPertaining to making money, i.e., creating art in order to sell it, rather than creating art for purely aesthetic purposes.  media.

The  paletteA slab of wood, metal, marble, ceramic, plastic, glass, or paper, sometimes with a hole for the thumb, which an artist can hold while painting and on which the artist mixes paint. Anything from ice trays to disposable paper or Styrofoam plates might be used as a palette. A pane of glass with a white piece of paper attached to its underside makes a fine palette. It's especially versatile because the color of the paper back can be made to match a painting's ground, making colors easier to choose. The term "palette" may also refer to the range of colors used in a particular painting or by a particular artist. (artlex.com)  for this work is a  monochromaticColour scheme using one hue and all its tints and shades for a unifying effect.  blue-black. This choice creates a sense of foreboding and a strangely upsetting atmosphere. The size of the work is large and the  scaleThe proportion between two sets of dimensions.  also creates an intimidating presence. The large daunting image at such close range reminds the viewer of images and ideas from the movies, like the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz or ‘Big Brother’ watching your every move. The  portraitA work of art that represents a specific person, a group of people, or an animal. Portraits usually show what a person looks like as well as revealing something about the subject's personality. Portraits can be made of any sculptural material or in any two-dimensional medium. Portraiture is the field of portrait making and portraits in general. Portrait is a term that may also refer simply to a vertically-oriented rectangle, just as a horizontally-oriented one may be said to be oriented the landscape way. (Artlex.com)  is up close and personal but it is uncomfortable and lacks any sense of intimacy.

Jack Anderson gives further insights into Polataiko’s “You” and the Artist when he writes, “Here Polataiko is analysing the relationship that exists between the artist, the art object and the viewer. In this work he disturbs the traditional mechanism and turns the viewer into the viewed, seer into the seen. As if we were in a holding cell, we viewers become the thing observed, stared at, gazed upon.” (Anderson, 1998)

 

additional resources Things to Think About
  • Find out more about Ukraine to learn about the land, history, politics, people and culture of the area. How is Canada similar to and different from Ukraine? How have the two countries been involved in the area of Afghanistan? Given the history of Ukraine, do you think Polataiko’s work would be as popular in the Ukraine?
  • Examine images of propaganda to determine methods used by artists to communicate the ideas of the state. How has Polataiko combined portraiture and the ideas of propaganda in “You” and the Artist? How has he incorporated his identity into the work? How has he involved the viewer in the work? Who is looking at whom?
Studio Activity

Portrait

  • Incorporate text if it is important to your image development. 

Chiaroscuro

  • Research the art term known as chiaroscuro.  You can start with the following websites:
  • Compare your results.
References

Anderson, Jack.  ‘The Viewer Is the Viewed.’  The Regina Leader Post, December 17, 1998.

Author unknown.  ‘Taras Polataiko.’  Canadian Artists of Eastern European Origin, undated.  Retrieved from the Internet on August 18, 2008 from:  http://art-history.concordia.ca/eea/artists/polataiko.html

Cheetham, Mark.  'Infectious Hauntings: The Transformative Art of Taras Polataiko.'  Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art.  Retrieved from the Internet on February 13, 2009 from:  http://www.ccca.ca/c/writing/c/cheetham/che001t.html

Laurence, Robin.  ‘Saturday Review.’  The Weekend Sun, January 11, 1994.

Onuch, Jerzy.  New Project by Taras Polataiko.  Exhibition announcement.  Gallery 2, 1999.  Retrieved from the Internet on August 18, 2008 from:  http://csw.art.pl/new/99/polata_e.html

 

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning