The working method of Kalmaeva is realistic, based on observation. The oil and watercolor paintings of Kalmaeva are worked through pieces with attention to structure and especially composition. In watercolors and drawings, she usually uses a looser and faster method.
Still Lifes (watercolor)
Landscapes – Painting
Nudes – Painting
Still-Lifes – painting
Ludmila Mikhailovna Kalmaeva was born in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus, in 1946. Her keen interest in painting at school determined her way in life. …The family was preparing to celebrate Easter, cakes were being baked and eggs painted with dye made from onion skins. A visiting artist was scratching the surface of the painted eggs with a needle, and Lucia was watching in awe at how Christ’s stunningly beautiful face was taking shape… The girl held out her autograph album to the artist. With a sure hand, he made a quick color-pencil sketch of a blue tit pecking at a rosy apple; an evening landscape with haystacks, a blue forest and the rim of an orange sun, too … Impressionist style, they would say now.
That evening, the girl understood that artists hold power over the world. Pencil in hand, they could do anything. To be an artist was the best thing in the world! Ludmila’s mother took her to the children’s art school of Sergey Petrovich Katkov, a renowned teacher. In the studio, they painted still lives, landscapes, imaginative compositions – work molded artists. At home, Ludmila would spend whole nights in front of the easel; she also drew at school. The girl longed to create a kind of formula of an object, a sign which, like a letter, could be easily recognized and remembered. In class, she would make quick abstract drawings, trying to discern something special in them… With a few additional strokes, she made the picture clear to everybody. Thus, she practiced creating an expressive visual form. After school, L. Kalmaeva entered the Belarusian State Art and Theatre Institute, which in those years had no departments of painting, sculpture and graphics, so she had to choose one of the applied arts.
Ludmila opted for the textile ornament department. The teaching staff was comprised of interesting, talented painters and graphic artists: P. Krokholiov, F. Doroshevich, P. Maslennikov, and M. Vetik. For the first-year students, those masters were next to gods descending from heaven… They taught by the method of example, taking a brush or a pencil and adjusting the work. The girl spent four years at the department of applied arts, coming to an ever more distinct understanding that her vocation was graphic art. “My childhood’s dream was graphic art,” wrote the young artist. “The clear line of a drawing leads me into the world of exquisite invention – the world of mystery…” Ludmila dropped out of the Minsk Institute and went to Tallinn where she enrolled as a second-year student at the graphics department of the ESSR State Art Institute. The Baltic Republics had actually never been truly Soviet; the artists had not been constrained by directives “from the top”, they created freely and boldly. Just as free were the students’ relations with the professors – P. Luhtein, U. Okas, A. Hoidre. The world-known artists allowed young people to address them as “seltsimes” (comrade). The Estonian school of graphic art inculcated into the students a love of experiment and high professionalism. During her study period in Estonia, Ludmila Kalmaeva worked out her own approach to drawing. The teachers said, “Put your strokes according to the form”.
But the sheet of paper has no volume, while nobody puts strokes on real objects. This contradiction bothered the student, who gradually developed her own philosophy of drawing – a system of transposition of real volume into a depicted one. …A line, fine and sharp, assembled in a bunch, makes a blotch, and a scattered line turns into a chaos and abstraction. From chaos, an object can be recreated to be turned into an assemblage of strokes again… Thinning out and thickening strokes create bulges and hollows, relief on a flat sheet of paper. All this is illusion. It exists only in our mind and depends on our fantasy.
Later, the artist applied to color works her conceptual approach to form. She studied for nearly ten years. Ludmila learned a lot of things and worked out her own principles and convictions. She had evolved as an artist. A ripe fruit falls from the tree. Ludmila returned to Minsk. An artist’s first steps in the USSR… The state system brought pressure to bear upon a person, directing creativity into a politicized channel. Pictures and posters were subjected to ideological control. The artist who came back from Estonia (nearly the West!) was not given a chance: her posters were not printed; her pictures were not bought… She had difficulty earning a living. As years passed, Ludmila Kalmaeva was exhibiting, and her works attracted the public with their fresh and original artistic thinking as well as perfection of craftsmanship.
L. Kalmaeva was invited to teach at the Belarusian Academy of Arts. Teaching students proved a vocation for Ludmila, alongside creative work. She used new methods of teaching (role play and team work) and actively attracted students to “adult” creative activities – participation in international, All-Union and Republican competitions, publishers‘ commissions, theatre posters, exhibitions… Students worked on an equal footing with their “seltsimes” – the teacher. The results of the new teaching approach were convincing. In 1977, V. Sidorova won a prize in the Republican Environmental Protection Poster Competition for her course project. Many of L. Kalmaeva’s students took part in the international poster competitions of 1978–1981: “1980 Olympics”, “Soviet–Polish Friendship”, and “Red Cross in Struggle for Peace”. V. Scherbin’s poster on environmental protection (course project) was published by the “Belarus” Publishing House. N. Belevich, I. Golubenko, A. Drozd, E. Lis, A. Los, and V. Scherbin in 1981 became prize winners of the Republican Fire-Prevention Poster Competition for their course projects. In 1982, A. Drozd got an award of the Republican “Red Book” Poster Competition. O. Karpovich and V. Rulkov presented their course projects at the 1984 “Peace and Security” International Competition. Ludmila Kalmaeva gained renown in her native land. Repeatedly, she won awards at All-Union and Republican poster competitions, such as the All-Union Health-Protection Poster Competition (1978), the International “Moscow Olympic Games-80” Poster Competition (1979), the Republican “Poster Struggling for Peace” Competition in Minsk in 1987… For high achievement in her artistic and teaching work, Ludmila Kalmaeva was awarded the medal “For Labour Distinction” in 1986. Moscow, Riga, Tashkent, Brno, Warsaw, Oslo, Sofia, Paris, Damascus, Dublin, Lahti, Reykjavik, Osaka, Sidney – L. Kalmaeva’s works have been displayed in many cities of the globe. As for Ludmila herself, she lived in Minsk and had never been abroad… A person has only one life… But if one moves to another country – there appears an opportunity to live another life ‘from scratch’. In 1991, on marrying Brian Tordoff, an Englishman, Ludmila left for Holland with him. The climate and nature as well as the people’s appearance and mentality – everything was different for the Belarusian woman.
She had to adjust to everything: learn Dutch, furnish her home, find a job and a studio… And the main thing – she had to go on creating under the new circumstances. “During the first years of my life in Holland I found myself in complete social isolation. I had no contacts whatsoever with any artistic associations. I had no earnings of my own,” recalls Ludmila. The artist worked in the streets of her town of Vlissingen. Passers-by, those willing to have ‘they painted’, were queuing up. Half an hour of strenuous work – and there came a portrait painted in pencil, sanguine, charcoal or watercolor. It was a meagerly paid job, for painting was treated as play… It was not easy to make one feel at home in the foreign world. Only years after did L. Kalmaeva open the door of her own studio where she began to teach painting pictures and icons. Students of the “By the Windmill Studio“ are adults and pretty wealthy, too. They consider fee-paying classes a good investment. Growing a creative seed in an ordinary adult is quite feasible.
Ludmila Kalmaeva is convinced of it, having developed her own original system of teaching. “Each person is somewhat of an artist,” considers Ludmila. She is going to register the copyright on her teaching methods. In her home country, Ludmila enjoyed painting landscapes. “Belarusian nature is spontaneous, romantic, and seems perfect. In Holland, everything is trimmed, orderly, artificial, and stirs little emotion,” says the artist, who stopped painting from life. A fictional world, full of harmony, light and color, has substituted for the foreign reality; fantastic, fanciful images seek to be embodied. Carnival, circus, fairy-tale… Improvisation and intuition form an important part of the artist’s work. “I work intuitively, without a plan. I cover the surface of the canvas with rhythmical color blotches… This rough product helps me immerse myself in the unconscious… Looking at the canvas, I begin to see random images. I help them to transpire… Then I am carried away into a world of fantasy, forgetting where I am and what I am! But the vague shocks from sub consciousness finally stop…”
The artist puts the brush aside. Some time later, she resumes the interrupted work, trying to enter that world of hers, attentive to her senses… So, it goes on until Ludmila decides that there is nothing more to add. Everything has been said – the work is ready. The master calls her working method “meditation with the canvas”. Work helps the artist live. Natalia Gromyko Ludmila Kalmaeva If a world-famous artist appeared at Ludmila Kalmaeva’s exhibition, he would be likely to address her as “Master Ludmila”… Master Ludmila, allow me to bless your hands… In our time, when we are so short of professionalism, when the fever of amateurishness has spread onto the holy of holies – art, your creations come as a real miracle… “It is an artist’s duty to keep one’s soul tense,” says Ludmila. Her muse is a toiler, a martyr with burnt wings and a deep introspective gaze. “Talent means kindness; it is humanity, a force that unites people…” L. Kalmaeva’s works are known and admired not only in her home country but also in Finland, France, Germany, Syria, the Czech Republic, Poland… “In the future, I suppose, every person is going to be a creator of both the surrounding and the inner world…” And Ludmila Kalmaeva creates, reopening to us the light and shade of existence… I would also call her “a master”. If I did not know her personally. Gentle and so womanly, in the profound and wise sense of the word… Galina Bogdanova]]>