The 70’s and 80’s – a time where the creative intelligentsia indulges in philosophical streams of the east: Zen, Buddhism, Krishnaism, the art of Chinese Calligraphy… Schelest has not avoided this trend.
However, he approached it very seriously and thoroughly as with everything that he decides to do. He read any books that he could find on the subject. He experimented, transferring what he discovered onto paper. One of these discoveries was the fact that one could express every thought and emotion with just one line.
Here he meet the real East – Tashkent. Probably that is how he avoided stylization and banality. Growing up in a Ukrainian city he found a new kind of human plasticity in Tashkent, and could not help but be fascinated by it.
And then appeared the “Asiatic” series – “Art of defense”, “With sword and coil”, “Readers of the Koran”, “The meaning of the pitcher” and others (the 90’s). But that was not an imitation of China, that was an original artistic interpretation by an artist who is completely taken by this idea – an overwhelming expression ability of every line and dot with which one can show the plasticity of real people with the whole spectrum of their feelings or ways of life.
However, the artist feels that the lines need to differ, somewhere thin, somewhere thick: turning into spots or the other way around – into a fine filigree. And suitable tools are needed for that. The feather does not satisfy Sсhelest, he thinks the possibilities of a thin feather are limiting. Therefore, he invents his own tool, which he calls “Iron brush”. It could be approximately described as a spring set on a handle. By using this spring it is possible to retrieve a large amount of ink and then by turning it on its thin side or bringing its maximum surface one can produce both spots and lines.
Herein lies all of Sсhelest – from early years till today – whenever he feels that the traditional tools or materials are not enough, he will search and invent new ways using surprising materials. That might be simple or coated paper, metallic boards or paper towels (!), basket, different combs, typographical ink or a solution of potassium permanganate. Schelest is interested in testing out any different or new texture to see what will come out of it.
However, let us return to the “Asiatic” period. As much as the silhouettes in one line were successful, they did not become a go-to proven method, and neither did they become the main theme. In the same years, he painted the series “Aral” and the furious “Aralian Laces” (1989) – the billowing and crumbling sprays, interrupted nervous lines, some debris carried by water. Random spots that were not put there by the artist surprisingly put themselves together into a figure. It is even possible to see strange ghostly faces.
Here Schelest uses his own technique, which he simply calls “mixed”: glue poured on paper, upon which ink is rolled. All of this is then formed by the hands of the artist, and his tools, it is pressed and smeared. Perhaps these are the first works in which it is seen what will later be important for the artist whilst using the monotype technique: unpredictability of the outcome, which is the realization of a powerful impulse that is put into the work of art at the beginning.
Very similar to “Aralian Laces” are the sketches of the diploma work “Ibn Sina” (Avicenna), executed in the same technique. The artist thought that the subject demanded a closer approach to the stylistics of Arabic manuscripts, and in the depiction, he includes elements from traditional Uzbek ornaments, while at the top of the main page he includes a quote from Avicenna written in Russian, but imitating Arabic script.
Almost at the same time, he paints the series “Mosque Gur-Emir in Samarkand”: traditional ink, balanced, horizontal-vertical forms, ending in a rounded cupola, but tension exists even here, in the figures of the praying.
Even in these relatively early works, the distinctive nature of Schelest’s work can be seen: it is always based on real impressions, but his works are not mere copies, but instead transform everything into almost or completely symbolic imagery.