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by Volodymyr Kutkin
A Collection of One Hundred and Forty-Nine Graphic Artworks
from Kutkin's Personal Memories 
from His Time in the GULAG

Volodymyr Kutkin is an outstanding artist at the end of the XX - early XXI century. His years of life were 1926 - 2003.

Kutkin was born on November 12, 1926 in Zhytomyr. From 1939 to 1948 he studied at the Kyiv Arts school named after T. Shevchenko. His study was interrupted by the war. In 1948 he entered the Kyiv State Arts Institute (now National Academy of Arts), department of graphics.

In 1950 Volodymyr Kutkin was arrested by the KGB and charged by “special commission” under the article 54-10 and 54-12 of the Criminal Code of the USSR (counterrevolution activities). He was sentenced to 8 years in correctional labor camps. He served the sentence in the Viatlag (the camp within GULAG structure).

In 1955 he was set free early due to the absence of crime and was rehabilitated. The same year he renewed his study at the Art Institute from which he graduated in 1959 cum laude (class of Prof. Pashchenko).

The same year he married Olena Voyevodina, a student of the architecture department. In 1968 their son Oleksandr was born. He died in 1988 when he was only twenty years old.

From 1959 to 1961 Kukin worked as art editor at the publishing house “Radianska Shkola” (Soviet School) which published school textbooks. From 1961 Volodymyr Kutkin worked as a graphic artist. The same year he became a member of the Union of Artists.

Volodymyr Kutkin worked in graphics, painting, book design, and monumental art. All his creative work was closely connected with Ukrainian life, history and nature. The subjects of his artworks vary: from ancient times to modern times.

During all his life Kutkin was interested in creative work of Taras Shevchenko, starting from his diploma work. He created the set of works “After T. Shevchenko”(linocuts 1959-1965).

In 1963 Shevchenko’s “Kobzar” was published with his illustrations (linocuts). Another “Kobzar” which was not published (etchings, 1980), another “Kobzar” (charcoal pencil, 1986), mosaic panel “Great Kobzar” which decorated a school in Tashkent built by Ukrainians after the severe earthquake in 1968, portraits of T. Shevchenko of different years, easel artworks.

In 1988 Kutkin finished the set of works “My Land!”. The same year he created the set of drawings “Famine-33” made with graphite pencil.

In 1987 Volodymyr Kutkin started working on the series of artworks “GULAG”. He was working on this series till the end of his life. The series shows the life of convicts; the artist himself spent 4,5 years among them. Most artworks are made with graphitic pencil, color pencils, oil, mixed techniques.

In 1965 V. Kutkin was awarded a silver medal of the international exhibition of book art in Leipzig (Germany). He is a laureate of the prize after M.Ostrovsky. He has a Certificate of Merit of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the UkSSR, honorary title “Honored Arts Worker” and “People’s Artist of Ukraine”. Since 1957 he participated in different city, oblast, republic, international exhibitions as well as in the exhibitions abroad (Japan, Czechoslovakia, Canada, Germany, etc.)

The artist’s works are represented in Kyiv National Art museum, Lviv Art museum, in the museums of Kharkiv, Donetsk, and other cities. Besides, the artworks of Volodymyr Kutkin are located in the museums of Russia, Kazakhstan, Canada, as well as in private collections in Ukraine, USA, France, Italy, Canada, Finland, Great Britain, the Netherlands, etc….

Volodymyr Kutkin lived and worked in Kyiv, Ukraine. Died on March 10, 2003.

From Volodymyr Kutkin's autobiography "LIFE PUTS ITS SIGNS":

Soon I was summoned back to Kyiv where I was arrested.

I was charged by “Special Commission” and without any court decision was sentenced to 8 years in prison. Deportation points in Moscow, Gorky, Kirov, and at last Viatlag (camp within GULAG). Three years among criminals were the most difficult. Submission to criminals, thefts, murders, gambling and hard work. Everyday plan was for cutting trees. In 1953 political prisoners were separated from criminals and the life in the camp became easier.

Who knows how long I would have had to stay in the camp but for the death of “the wise leader of all the people”.My mother wrote an application to the Prosecution Office of the USSR and got the answer: “The court case against your son has been withdrawn because of no evidence of crime and your son has been discharged from the camp…”

I was discharged, renewed at the institute and even given two scholarships at a time. It was in 1955. Four and a half long years in the camps were left behind.

Almost forty years have passed since I was released from the camp. Once, I was thinking about creating a set of easel artworks about my experience. But “Khrushchov’s thaw” passed very quickly. The period of “loud applauses that turn into ovations” came back. I do not remember in which year at the exhibition of Ukrainian prints the authorities withdrew from the exposition my artwork on Cossack subject: “Oh, There is Neither Wind, Nor Wave from Our Ukraine”. When I asked why my artwork was withdrawn the answer was: “It’s not clear which Ukraine you mean”.

One could not even mention the memories from the camp. This possibility appeared only now. For the last few years I have been working on the set of easel artworks under the title “GULAG”. While working on this set and refreshing in my memory the episodes of that period I had only one purpose: to save the witnesses of the hard life of several generations and how “the bright future” was being built.

When the memorial sign (for GULAG) near the October Palace was unveiled I was the first who came there. Then other people started coming. But not very many people, maybe five hundred. I looked at them and thought – that one was in the camp, and that one, and that one, that one was not there, and that one yes, he was. Life puts its signs...

I felt that we were related to each other. We survived such a horror, God forbid! And that changed us. When returned, and if returned, you are not the same person. You are one of those who returned. This sign is always on you, does not matter how long ago it happened. You always feel that, you want to forget, but you cannot.

ONE does not let you forget. Who is ONE? I do not know. Everything around you. Everything and everybody reminds you: you are from there, you were there.

"Time is an inexorable judge of all artworks. And if at least one of my artworks will live a long life I will be happy.
I will think that I did not waste my life..."

by Volodymyr Kutkin
A Collection of One Hundred and Forty-Nine Graphic Artworks
from Kutkin's Personal Memories 
from His Time in the GULAG

Morgan Williams, Collector and Trustee