Home > Artists > Lerman, Zoya > Woman at Table

The painter Zoya Lerman lives in the middle of the beautiful Ukrainian capital of Kiev with its population of over 4 million people. Her home is not easy to find as
it's in an old apartment block tucked away behind the kitchens of a large hotel through an alley and at the end of a shaded yard. In Soviet limes the hotel was a
place for party officials and groups of well-chaperoned tourists but now it's frequented by foreign businessmen with no time to explore this interesting city.

Zoya Lerman has lived and worked for over 40 years in the hotel's shadow. On a hot summer's day in the Ukrainian capital her apartment, which doubles as her studio, is a perfect place to escape the heat and ever present noise; calm and cool, the walls arc covered with her paintings, sketches and drawings.

Zoya was horn in l934 in Kiev, which was then one of the principal cities of the USSR. A difficult time and place to be born in as this was at the height of Stalin's purges and just before what the Russians called the 'great patriotic war' in which the people and city of Kiev were one of its many victims. Recognized at the age of 6 as a painting talent, Zoya was sent to special art schools for gifted children. At the age of 16 she went to study at Kiev Art Academy in the Fine Art faculty. Artists in Soviet times were trained and firmly instructed in the principles of Soviet Realism, a classical art tradition with severe political socialist correctives. Zoya absorbed the classical tradition but not the prescribed Soviet realism. Her magical paintings have their resonance in the late 19th century with their elegant drawing and subtle colouring. Zoya says, 'I saw my art not as an illustrator of Soviet doctrine but as a responsibility to my senses and imagination....'. Her allegiance was to artistic truth as she saw it. Her unwillingness to conform cost her dearly and as a consequence was denied the rewards that were bestowed on those who compromised. Zoya's work was recognized by a few well informed individuals such as museum directors and art critics who collected her pieces for their private collections. Zoya's work is now. since the fall of the USSR, on display in museums in Moscow. Kiev and Tel Aviv as well as in private collections in Russia, the Ukraine and abroad.

In her childhood, Zoya unfortunately found herself following her family's tradition of fleeing. Her parents came to Kiev after they fled a pogrom against Jews. Interestingly, they fled from the same area as the great Russian artist Marc Chagall originated from and for whom the small Jewish villages and their traditions provided much of the inspiration and subject matter of his early paintings. Chagall's works have had a great influence on Zoya, in particular his use of colour. In 1940 Zoya and her family fled Kiev to avoid the Nazis but were then evacuated to the Urals deep inside Russia as the Nazis brutally murdered most of the Jews of Kiev in an anonymous suburb of the city called Babi Yar. 100,000 were murdered in 3 days.

Zoya's subtle portraits and elegant figures, painted with soft traces of brush strokes, are gentle visions. She sees her portraits as, 'Not specific to any place. They are not meant to represent types or ideas, only my feelings...' She is a true non-conformist. A nonconformist to fashion, politics or movements in art. she has always had a gentle confidence and natural artistic vision that has lead her in a unique direction, avoiding categorization and yet with her own distinctive style.

Her influences are subtle, not concerned with the earth shattering changes that encompassed her life but with a sensuous aesthetic, more to do with her own feelings towards the individuals she painted, Zoya's portraits can almost be indistinct from the colour used on the canvas as they emerge from the soft hues. Almost like excavations of character. Her vision is subtle, non-direct, you need to look. It's not obvious.

Swiss STYLE
Special 10th Anniversary Issue

Read more

Artwork name: Woman at Table

Slideshow Slideshow

1954
21x15 cm
(8 1/4" x 6")
Oil on Cardboard

Price: £578 GBP