Jaroslav Hrustalenko – Artist Profile

I came upon Jaroslav’s ceramics via his website. I found his work to be a wonderful exploration of two different themes: the first being very lyrical – almost musical – exploration of shape, form & motion, the second being a focus on the abstract qualities inherent in clay and glaze itself, as material.

Shape, Form and Motion

These three teapots illustrate the first theme of shape and form.

They dance, they gyrate, they slither and wiggle and prance together. I find my eyes exploring not just the shape of each vessel, but also the negative space Jaroslav defines by his physical forms – and even the negative shapes formed between the three teapots. I hear music.

Jaroslav tells me about this dimension of his portfolio:

“When I enrolled to do my Master’s degree in 3D design (in Farnham, UK) I realized that the workshop equipment at the university was so advanced that there were virtually no technical or material constraints in the studio. I wanted to make a good use of the opportunity. I was looking for an appropriate challenge.

“In due course I conceived vessels to be geometrically stylized, gendered forms, representing couples dancing tango, and crystalline glazes made noble patterned dresses on the dancing couples.

“I went to a local dance school and shot some footage of couples taking tango dance lessons.

“This gave me a new way of looking at the ceramic vessel and working out a truly individual body of work. In particular, I employed the idea of duality and unity of the two interacting counterparts, the concept of ‘lead and follow’ that shows as a varying degree of tension which makes a whole new kind of expressive means in my work.

“There are surprisingly many analogies between music and fine art. I’m far from being the first one to explore this phenomenon. There have been a few composers that sought inspiration in fine art and vice versa – artists studying and practicing music to boost their creativity.

“I personally employ music as a source of inspiration on multiple levels. I exploit the analogies between the rhythmic patterns in music and visual art, the nature of different modes and scales (12 semitone color wheel vs. 12 semitone temperament of the octave), respectively – musical chords vs color chords and chord sequences, and not least – the composition of the artwork vs the composition in music. This may or may not be very obvious, as I find no point in following the analogies strictly and literally. I much rather use them as a tool that helps to unlock new creative solutions through analysis of potential combinations of the variables in the game. This can be both frustrating and incredibly exciting at the same time. The ‘golden rule’ is to keep it natural, not for the sake of shocking newness.

“The pairs and triads I use emerge out of multiple concepts – again. On one hand it’s to do with the idea of a musical chords or perhaps a choir where each voice is interrelated with one another – linked by a common theme, and yet has sufficient independence to act in its own right.

“The idea of ‘lead and follow’ as well as ‘lead, accompany and support’ (base, mid and treble – if you like) is inevitably present and makes a fundamental importance to me. One can also look at these pairs and triads from a perspective of modular approach that makes perfect sense in product- and vehicle design. The pieces are similar and uniform in style and expressive qualities, yet are individually different – like siblings, like children of the same parents.”

Abstract Qualities of Material

Distinct from these studies of shape, form and motion, Jaroslav also creates pieces that explore the abstract qualities of clay itself, and also the abstract qualities of crystalline glazes.

To illustrate Jaroslav’s interest in clay as material, I point to this sculptural piece:

“I have a need to explore new things to keep my creativity going,” Jaroslav says. “I don’t worry particularly about maintaining a high commercial profile, my success always follows sooner or later when I keep true to myself.”

“Based on the axiom of ‘less is more’ I formulated a working hypothesis that a complex surface pattern works better on simple shapes, whereas complex forms require a subtler finish. To find objective answers I decided to push both – the shapes and the surface patterns towards complexity and see to what extent ‘less is more’ is actually true.”

Jaroslav’s second body of work explores surface patterns that reach toward complexity and abstraction on a platform of simple, non-distracting shapes.

“I naturally seek inspiration in virtually anything that brings me joy of discovery: chemistry, geology, petrography, fabric design, music, dance, oriental cooking, art of massage, vehicle design, natural patterns of the micro- and macro world. In fact, I tend to seek inspiration in anything but ceramics, which is probably what makes my creations unique.

Bridging both themes, Jaroslav has explored crystalline glazes on his teapots. These glazes make “noble patterned dresses on the dancing couples,” he says. Crystalline glazes have “high-failure” rates, but they do add an element of abstraction to the surfaces of his teapots.

“In all fairness I just had a strong desire to work with exquisite and complex vessel shapes on one hand – and an urge to grow some crystals on the other,” Jaroslav explains.

From where does Jaroslav’s inspiration and intellectual approach to ceramics spring? He told me about his background:

“I am a Ukrainian descendant of multi-ethnic ancestors, born (in 1973 in Kiev, Ukraine) into a highly intelligent family of artists, sculptors, musicians and scientists. My creativity is driven by a passion for color, shape and vivid impressions of momentum. I constantly explore the natural world, fine art, science, music and dance, building my body of work on a broad multicultural background. I have a keen interest in foreign languages; my outdoor nature led me to adventurous rambling around the globe. I have lived and worked in Ukraine, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Kenya, Taiwan and the UK. I’ve been to most countries all across Europe, enjoying everything local and authentic.

“From earliest childhood I’ve been surrounded by the attention and creativity of my parents and grandparents. They tried their best to show me the finest examples in world’s heritage of fine and decorative art, ethnic as well as classical music, and dance. I spent a lot of time listening to my mum or grandma playing piano, my dad playing guitar and singing. My grandad took me with him outdoors to draw and paint the native Ukrainian landscape, so I guess I knew the smell of fresh oil on canvas and the drips of watercolor pretty much from the age of three or so.

“I started with painting and drawing. I think I was rather strong in perspective drawing, still life and landscape. I was really interested in principles of color harmony and fundamentals of composition. In pursuit of getting better at portraying, I went to the local art school, where I also tried wood carving and the potter’s wheel. I did enjoy very much studying the folk ornaments, font styles and human anatomy, but pottery and ceramic technology was something we never had in the family before, so these subjects absolutely prevailed and obsessed my mind.

“I tend to revisit different concepts and techniques from time to time, but I try not to make any fixed plans for the future, since creativity is something spontaneous and unpredictable. An element of surprise and discovery has to be there in order to keep the ideas fresh and exciting.”

Carry on, Jaroslav!

Jaroslav’s website contains additional examples of his work.

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