At a very early age my curious nature led me into the field of visual art. When I was around seven or eight years old, I would often leaf through my mother’s Bible, adorned with engravings by the French artist Gustave Doré.
I even began to draw copies from the evocative and dramatic compositions of the master printmaker and illustrator, and dreamed of becoming as accomplished an artist as he had been.
My grammar school studies took place in my native village of Kalinov, which is now part of Slovakia. Then later my middle school years were spent in the town of Medzilaborce.
My favourite subjects, Ukrainian history and literature, offered the foundation on which to create my own early drawings and paintings.
Left: Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 2016. Right: Girl holding apple, 1989, oil on canvas.
Another equally powerful source of inspiration was the beauty of my natural surroundings where I grew up, in the Carpathian Mountains.
When my father returned from Siberia in 1948, where he’d spent three and a half years in the gulags, he often recounted numerous episodes of prison life.
Darren Twerdochlib chariot racing, 2018, oil on canvas.
Listening to him, I began to imagine them and depict them on paper.
Even in my childhood I yearned to one day create Byzantine icons, like the icons painted in my village church by the Bogdanskis, who were artists from Poland.
Left: Tree of life, 1995, oil on canvas. Right: Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, Sifton, MB, Lemko Style, 2010, oil on canvas.
Also, as I mentioned above, Gustave Doré’s hugely popular wood-engravings for the Bible owned by my mother drew me into iconography.
But in communist Czechoslovakia I didn’t dare write icons. In fact, I only seriously began to write icons in 1980, when I studied egg tempera techniques under Phoebe Gilman at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto.
Left: Kolomyika, 2011, oil on canvas. Right: Faith, Hope and Love, 1990, tempera.
When my second grade ended, I remember my mother taking my report card and quarrelling with the teacher. Why did her son get a poor grade, when in fact he could even paint the President!
A great part of the influence in the themes of my paintings come from the Symbolist and Surrealist painters, also from old masters like Rubens, and the Italian Renaissance artists da Vinci and Raphael, among others.
Portrait of a little girl, 1990, oil on canvas.
While working full-time and studying part-time at the Ontario College of Art (1978-86) I began seriously exploring surrealist painting thanks to the encouragement of one of my professors, Carmen Cereceda.
In my artistic endeavours I have mastered the use of pencil, egg tempera, acrylics and oils. Many themes are visible in my works, such as portraits, wooden churches, icons, linear expressionism and surrealistic symbolism.
Left: Windmill, 1972, watercolour. Right: Horses in a storm, 1975, oil on canvas board.
My other passion is researching and writing articles related to the arts, culture and history.
Over 450 articles have been published in periodicals, journals and newspapers.
Left: Pavlo at Incubation Exhibit at LAC, Rooster on a Fence, 2019. Right: Pavlo at the Highland Games in Kingsville, 2019.
To date, over 1,000 of my artistic works can be found in private and museum collections in Canada, the USA, Poland, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic and Ukraine.
I have held 33 solo exhibits, most recently in March of this year where a virtual exhibit of 73 icons could be viewed at the Ukrainian Canadian Art Foundation (KUMF) Gallery in Toronto.
Left: Our neighbour Julia in our home, pencil on paper. Right: View of my village Kalinov, pencil on paper.
Over the years, I have also participated in over 90 group shows.
I am happy that we moved to Kingsville, I finally have room to have an in-home studio and gallery where all of my paintings in different genres can be hung on our walls and viewed by all.
I am proud to be a member of the Art Society of Kingsville and grateful for the opportunities it provides to local artists. It brings me great joy to be able to communicate with so many different artists who I feel have also become my friends.
To learn more, or to contact Pavlo Lopata:
About Pavlo Lopata
All photos provided by Pavlo Lopata