oleksiy koval



In EVENTS | VERANSTALTUNGEN on June 15, 2017 at 6:14 pm

Dear Oleksiy Koval,

Artwork as an Event: Symposium June 3-10 2017
I am writing on behalf of the Contemporary Arts Practice Group to invite you to participate in the Artwork as an Event: Symposium here at the University of Hertfordshire from June 3 – 10 2017. The event is hosted by the Contemporary Art Practice Group of the School of Art and Design.

The aim of the symposium is to bring together a group of artists to discuss and develop the concept of the Artwork as an Event. The project includes practice-led research and develops the idea of “field-work” for artist practitioners and research involving collaborations through which the participating artists share insights into their research and methodologies. It is planned that the outcomes are presented at an international exhibition/public symposium in 2017-2018. The symposium provides an opportunity to initiate debate and make site-based artwork around questions of the ‘event’: what constitutes an artwork as event and is the ‘event’ an act or trace or both? By looking at the artwork as subject to time/site/contexts and (re)arrangements this project will consider how work happens as much in action as it does in the way it is shown and presented. We will initially consider a range of new strategies which would allow new methodologies to emerge while acknowledging the complex and temporary nature of artworks as events. Underlying the aims of the symposium is the opportunity to have time working together in order to individually ‘tailor’ the eventual research project so that it is reflects the nature of each participant’s practice.

Yours sincerely,

Alison Dalwood
Senior Lecturer in Fine Art
School of Art and Design
University of Hertfordshire


Oleksiy Koval, RM11, 2017, 90 x 60 cm, ink on foil. Cornwall, Porthleven


Oleksiy Koval, Porthleven Harbour Composition, 2017, 70 x 90 cm, ink on foil. Cornwall, Porthleven


Oleksiy Koval, Porthleven Harbour Composition. Cornwall, Porthleven


Oleksiy Koval, high tide, 2017, 70 x 90 cm, ink on foil. Porthleven, Cornwall


Oleksiy Koval, untitled ebb, 2017, 70 x 90 cm, ink on foil. Porthleven, Cornwall


In INTERVIEWS on March 5, 2017 at 2:40 pm


Oleksiy Koval, Klitschko vs Chisora, 2012
80 x 70 cm, adhesive foil, marker on FPY
Private collection, Starnberg
Photo © Klaus Mauz

Any surface, any material can become a challenge for Oleksiy Koval. Armed with his favorite tools, paint and creativity, Oleksiy Koval struggles with surfaces that attract his attention because of their form, texture, structure, or color. His battle, painting, develops in a series of deliberate instinctive movements, drawing rhythmic forms, almost musical brush-strokes, on his adversary, the canvas.

Laura Sánchez Serrano: Do you remember when you started painting?

Oleksiy Koval: I was about three years old. My father is a designer of children’s books; he worked at home so he always had material and paint I could use.

LSS: That means you grew up in a family of artists?

OK: Not exactly. My father is a graphic designer and my mother an architect. I also have an uncle who sings at the opera, but no family members involved in visual arts.

LSS: You had your first art education in Kyiv. However, you came to Munich when you were only 19 and have been living here since then. Why did you come to Munich in the first place?

OK: I was curious about how art is taught in Germany. Art education in Kyiv was pretty conservative and I wanted to learn more about contemporary art. At that point in time, teachers in Munich were quite famous in the contemporary art scene. That’s why I decided to come here. Additionally, the Academy of Arts in Munich was the only one renowned in Kyiv.

LSS: And then you stayed?

OK: First I thought I would only stay a couple of years and then return to Kyiv. But when I went back to Kyiv I realized that it wasn’t anymore the place I had left; It was better to stay in Munich to continue my artistic career. Munich is a city with a lot of opportunities; and is well connected. From Munich it is easy to travel anywhere. Besides, I already had friends, connections, and my family here; so I had no reason to go back to Ukraine.

LSS: Which artists influenced your work?

OK: Garry Kasparov, Valeriy Lobanovskiy, Segiy Paradzhanov, Andrey Tarkovskiy, Blinky Palermo, Robert Ryman, Steve Coleman, Medardo Rosso, Paul Cezanne, Piet Mondrian, Tizian…

LSS: An odd group of people. Interestingly, the first two aren’t artists, but a chess player and a football trainer. How did they influence your work?

OK: I think there are a lot of similarities between chess, football and painting. All of them need a surface (a chessboard, a football field, a canvas), elements moving in a rhythmical way (chess pieces, football players and brush-strokes), and a strategy. All of them have the same goal: winning. Whether this means winning against a chess player, a team, or, in the case of painting, winning against the surface.

LSS: Is painting a game for you?

OK: Mostly, painting is my biggest passion. But yes, it’s like a game: The surface is my adversary and my aim is to defeat it and win the battle.

LSS: Are there rules in this battle? What is your painting process?

OK: I first choose a surface that attracts my attention. The process starts with the act of observing. I carefully observe the colors and the surface for hours. First I decide on a strategy based on color, material, rhythm, movement, or structure. Then I attack. The goal is to find the balance between control and improvisation, freedom and knowledge, understanding and intuition. The final result depends on all these factors. If I win, there will be a part of myself on the beaten surface.

LSS: Most of your works are created following a premeditated schema. Actually, you have developed a sort of visual score dividing the surface in areas, determining rhythm and tempo of your brush-strokes. Isn’t it too restrictive as a method?

OK: My method is not static. I combine structure with improvisation. The structure allows me to have more freedom. It is an equation that contains variables. Painting, just like living, needs structure. We have agendas, watches; we arrange meetings like the one today. But what we do during those meetings can be spontaneous and creative. The same is true for my method. I have a framework that allows me to freely react while painting. In the end it is the spontaneous reactions that will determine if I win or lose against the surface.

LSS: Why is rhythm so important in your work?

OK: Rhythm allows me to control space and time. Sometimes you start painting and after some hours you find that you have lost yourself in the painting. I realized I needed some structure to prevent this from happening. The rhythmic framework that I set up before painting allows me to paint the surface without losing myself in the process. Rhythm gives structure to my painting. It helps me out not to get lost in the surface.

LSS: You work with a lot of different materials. How do you choose them? What are your criteria?

OK: I use the materials that I find attractive. Those who look interesting and nice. The way to find them is fairly random. It can be the carton of a package I receive, the wood I find in the shop of a carpenter… I have worked a lot with classic materials; but I really like to work and experiment with new ones. For example, lately I have worked with polyester fabric I found at the atelier of a fashion designer. I love trying new materials. It’s fun and I think fun should be an essential part of painting.

LSS: What role has color in your work?

OK: It’s one of the basic elements in my work; together with material and rhythm. Color is the essence of painting. Painting means to apply colors on a surface. And that’s what I find fascinating about painting: to apply colors, to combine them, mix them and see how they react; the effect they have on the surface. But also how we perceive them. When I paint, I consciously apply the fundamental three parameters, material, color, and rhythm, to the surface.

LSS: In 2010 you founded the group Rhythm Section together with Stefan Schessl and Kuros Nekouian. What is the idea behind that project?

OK: In 2005 I met Stefan Schessl in China at an exhibition we both participated in. We became friends and regularly discuss about rhythm in our works. Kuros Nekouian joined our discussions a bit later on. We decided to research the concept of rhythm in contemporary art. We created a group which supports artists in exploring the subject. Artists in the group exchange ideas with each other, learn from each other’s experiences, and organize exhibitions together.

LSS: How many artists are members of the group?

OK: By now the group consists of more than 25 artists. Not only painters, but all kind of artists. We constantly receive requests from artists to join the group. In almost every exhibition we invite new artists. We choose the artists based on the project, the country the exhibition will take place, etc. All artists interested in working with rhythm are welcome to join us, as long as their work fits in the concept of Rhythm Section.

LSS: In 2011 you created another group The Beautiful Formula Collective. What is the nature of this group?

OK: The Beautiful Formula Collective is an open group that collaborates on single paintings following an initial formula: a rhythmical structure that gives form to the application of colors on surfaces. In contrast with Rhythm Section, The Beautiful Formula Collective is about only painting, and about creating collective works. We use an initial pattern or structure, where areas of action, rhythm, and tempo are determined. Each of us paints following the rules; but at the same time also reacts to what the others do. The final result is as interesting as the process. That is why we often do it in front of a public, as a performance; or together with other artists or students, as a workshop.

LSS: In a sense it is a group version of the rules you set up for your personal work. Thanks to The Beautiful Formula Collective you are no longer alone in your battle against the surface?

OK: Sure, it is teamwork. The most interesting part is to see how artists from different countries and backgrounds (e.g., traditional painting, street art, graphic design) paint together following deliberate rules to achieve amazing results. Painting together with other artists is really interesting and fun. We learn a lot from each other.

LSS: Since you created these two groups, you have showed your works in many group exhibitions all over the world (Zurich, Singapore, Kyiv, etc). Where will the next project take place?

OK: We have many projects this year. On the 9th and 10th of February I will be in Kiev organizing a workshop at the School of Visual Communication. In April we have three exhibitions: one in China, one in Greece, and one in The Netherlands. It will be a year full of nice projects.

LSS: It sounds exciting. Good luck with all your projects and thank you very much for sharing with us some thoughts about your work. I hope you keep on defeating the surface!

For the catalogue Beating The Surface. Munich, January 2013


In ESSAYS on July 9, 2016 at 10:44 am

Valeriy Lobanovskiy (1939 – 2002) Picture: Imago

Im Januar 1997 kehrte Trainer Lobanovskiy, aus Kuwait zu Dynamo Kiew zurück. Der Club befand sich damals in einer tiefen Krise. Aber dem ukrainischen Fußball-Trainer gelang es schon im selben Jahr, Kiew an die Spitze des europäischen Fußballs zurückzubringen. 22. Oktober 1997, UEFA Champions League: die Fussballmannschaft Barcelona ist zu Gast bei Dynamo Kiew. Barcelona verliert 3:0. Pech erklärte Louis van Gaal, damals Trainer des spanischen Meisters, während der Pressekonferenz die Niederlage seiner Mannschaft. Eine Woche später in Barcelona gewann Dynamo Kiew das Rückspiel mit 0:4. Einen Monat später wurde Kiew Sieger in der Gruppe C, in der neben Barcelona, Eindhoven und Newcastle gespielt haben. Grund für diese Erfolge war eine besondere Spielweise, die Valeriy Lobanovskiy selbst als Universal-Fußball bezeichnete. Lobanovkiy’s Unternehmen ist wirklich eine Philosophie, die sich aus einer Art osteuropäischer Beschaulichkeit herleitet. Valeriy Lobanovskiy betrachtete Fussball als physischen Prozess, an dem zwei kritische Massen teilnehmen. Die Aufgabe dieser Massen heisst: Raum ergreifen und kontrollieren. Kontrolle bedeutet dabei nicht unbedingt Räume zu besitzen, sondern dem Gegner den Spielrhythmus aufzuzwingen.

442 v 351.  Soccer formation tactics on a blackboard.

442 v 351. Soccer formation tactics on a blackboard.

…dem Gegner den Spielrhythmus aufzuzwingen – was heisst das genau?
Um diese Frage zu beantworten, sollte man zuerst klären was Rhythmus ist.

Biologischer Rhythmus entsteht durch regelmäßig wiederkehrende Zustände und Veränderungen von Organismen; in der Poesie unterscheidet man im Rhythmus die Abfolge verschiedener Akzentmuster von der metrischen Konstanz der Versmaße; unter Sprechrhythmus versteht man die zeitliche Gliederung sprachlicher Rede; die durch die Folge unterschiedlicher Notenwerte bezeichneten Akzentmuster, die über dem Grundpuls liegen, ergeben den Rhythmus in der Musik.

Im Inhaltsverzeichnis des Buches Der Liebe Tun von Sören Kierkegaard findet man ein Beispiel für die Art wie der Rhythmus die Bedeutung desselben Satzes beeinflussen kann:

Abschnitt II.

B. Du sollst den N ä c h s t e n lieben.
C. D u sollst den Nächsten lieben.

Der Rhythmus ist also eine Akzentuierung innerhalb einer regelmäßigen, wiederkehrenden Konstante.

Verteidigung und Angriff sind Lobanovskiys Akzentmuster während des Spiels. Das Bestimmen des Einsatzes solcher Akzente heisst: dem Gegner den Spielrhythmus aufzuzwingen.

Ich betrachte die Malerei als ein Spiel und ich interessiere mich als Maler für Fussball, weil sich für mich Malerei und Fussballspiel in einem Verhältnis der Ähnlichkeit bewegen. Wie in allen übrigen Spielen zählt in der Malerei das erfolgreiche Ergebnis. Ich will im Kampf gegen die Fläche triumphieren. Allerdings bin ich erst dann zufrieden, wenn ich nicht nur irgendein erfolgreiches Ergebnis erreiche, sondern wenn ich mein Konzept realisiert habe. Ein solcher Erfolg lässt sich nicht im voraus bestimmen, aber man kann sich um Prozeduren bemühen, die ihn möglich machen. Genauso wie es beim Fussballspiel geschieht, suche ich den Rhythmus in der Malerei.

Und was ist Rhythmus in der Malerei?

Die Antwort auf diese Frage liegt im Wesen der Malerei. Malerei ist das Anbringen von Farben mittels Hand oder anderer Gegenstände auf einer Fläche. Das Anbringen von Farben auf einer Fläche ist eine Bewegung im Raum und in der Zeit. Die Akzentuierung dieser Bewegung ist der Rhythmus in der Malerei.


Picture: Jim Pickerell

Um Rhythmus in der Malerei zu illustrieren nehme ich einen Bus als Beispiel. Ein Bus hat eine bestimmte Anzahl von Sitz- und Stehplätzen, die über den Innenraum verteilt und vom den Konstrukteuren bestimmt sind. Die Akzentuierung, bzw. den Rhythmus, der innerhalb eines Grundmusters (Verteilung den Plätzen) stattfindet, schaffen die Passagiere, ob klein oder gross, dick oder dünn, allein oder in Gruppen, mit Kinderwagen oder Rollstuhl. Die Einheiten, deren Größe und Charakter, die ein Maler auf der Fläche anbringt, sind die Passagiere eines Buses.

Leben ist permanente Bewegung in Zyklen und Rhythmen. Solche Rhythmen prägen meine physische und psychische Verfassung und wirken sich unmittelbar auf meine Malerei aus. Je sicherer und bewusster ich mit ihnen umgehe, desto höher sind meine Chancen auf den Sieg über die Fläche.

Die Lust am Malen vergeht schnell, wenn sich das Konzept nicht realisieren lässt. Oft liegt die Unfähigkeit es zu verwirklichen nicht an verschiedenen Techniken der Malerei, sondern daran wie man verschiedene Techniken aufzurufen in der Lage ist. Die Arbeit mit verschiedenen Techniken erlaubt mir das Terrain zu wechseln und erhöht meine Chancen auf den Sieg über die Fläche. Derart wechselnde Bewegungen bilden einen technischen Rhythmus, der mir erlaubt meinen physischen Rhythmus effizient zu nutzen.


Garry Kasparov. Picture: 2007, S.M.S.I., Inc. – Owen Williams,The Kasparov Agency

In der Malerei habe ich von Garry Kasparov gelernt. Während meiner Kindheit in Kiew in den 80er Jahren war Schachspiel genauso angesehen wie Fussball oder Eishockey. Für diese Popularität sorgte vor allem das Duell zwischen Anatoliy Karpov und Garry Kasparov. Da Anatoliy Karpov damals in der Hauptstadt der sowjetischen Ukraine als Favorit und Vertreter der Moskauer Regierung galt, gewann Garry Kasparov die Sympathie der Kiewer. Kasparov’s Spielkunst ermöglichte dem Großmeister 1985 den WM-Titel zu erobern und die nächsten 15 Jahre erfolgreich zu verteidigen.

Der Großmeister macht Züge, nicht weil er nur spontan auf Ereignisse reagiert, sondern weil er den Gegner in 10-15 Zügen schachmatt setzen will. Ich bringe Farben auf eine Fläche nicht in unmittelbarer Reaktion auf ein Geschehen, sondern weil ich die Fläche als ganze besiegen will. Ziel im Schach ist es, den König des gegnerischen Spielers schachmatt zu setzen; Ziel der Malerei ist es – die Fläche zu besiegen.

Ein Ziel erfordert Strategie und Taktik. Jede Berührung der Oberfläche des Gemäldeträgers mit der Farbe stimmt entweder mit meiner Strategie überein oder sie widerspricht ihr. Das kontinuierliche Nachdenken über das Procedere beim Malen hilft mir über die Hindernisse der Unentschlossenheit und der bloßen Selbstsicherheit hinwegzukommen. Ob ich mich auf der Fläche langsam, Schritt für Schritt oder schnell, dynamisch, angreifend bewege, entscheide ich mit Beginn des Spiels. Aber es gibt keine universelle Strategie, die den Erfolg garantiert. Ich liebe es schnell, dynamisch und angreifend zu malen, aber wie oft habe ich mich in dieser Vorgehensweise verloren! Oftmals ändert sich die Situation auf der Fläche während ich mit den Farben jongliere und ich muss entscheiden, ob ich meine ursprüngliche Strategie beibehalte oder nach einer neuen greife?

Im Schach und in der Malerei gibt es Züge, die der Strategie des Vorgehens absolut widersprechen und das Spiel doch retten. Wenn die Strategie ein Spielentwurf ist, dann ist die Taktik eine bewusste Reaktion auf den Spielverlauf. Oft gelange ich beim Malen zu einer ausgewogenen Position – ich habe ein Unentschieden erreicht. Ich will aber weiter gehen und wenn ich es tue, verliere ich die erreichte Position. Das muss ich aushalten. Beim Schach wird ein solcher Zustand achtsames Nichtstun genannt. Die Ausgewogenheit zwischen mir und dem entstehenden Gemälde dauert nicht und es wird mir klar, dass ich einen Angriff wagen muss. Wenn ich mich aber nicht beherrsche, wird es kein Unentschieden mehr geben und ich werde verlieren. Das strategische Ziel muss sich organisch in taktisches Denken überführen lassen.

Häufig bricht aber eine Intuition in den Verlauf der Regeln ein und verlangt einen nächsten Schritt. Jedes gelungene Gemälde von mir hat Stellen, die sich der Deutung entziehen. Solche Stellen auf der Fläche stehen im Widerspruch zu meinen Absichten und dennoch spielen sie eine wesentliche Rolle. Wenn ich mich aber der Intuition zu sehr überlasse, mache ich Fehler, und die gemalte Fläche zerbröckelt. Das Kalkül darf nicht zum Schema degenerieren.


Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906) Picture: http://impressionist-art.com/cezanne_photo.html

Was ist The Beautiful Formula?

Im Buch Gespräche mit Cézanne zitiert Joachim Gasquet den französischen Maler:
… Man muß ein guter Arbeiter sein. Nichts als ein Maler. Eine Formel haben, verwirklichen.
Er blickt mich traurig und zugleich erhaben an.
Das Ideal des Erdenglückes … eine schöne Formel.

Während meines Studiums an der Akademie der Bildenden Künste München suchte ich nach einer Polarität in der Malerei: ich wollte räumliche Darstellungen vermeiden und stattdessen eine Differenz wiedergeben, in der die Farbe auf der Fläche bleibt und dennoch eine visuelle Weite gewinnt. Um mich beim Experimentieren mit den Eigenschaften von Farben nicht zu verlieren, suchte ich nach einer Organisation der Fläche, die mir einen anschaulichen Einstieg und einen erkennbaren Abschluss beim Malen verschaffen sollte. So habe ich ein Grundmuster entwickelt, das die Fläche in gleichen Abständen durch zahlenmäßige Impulse wie z.B. 1/4, 1/9, 1/16 , 1/25 oder 1/36 teilt. mEin solches Metrum bestärkt nicht nur die Konzentration bei spontanen Entscheidungen zwischen entstehenden Ereignissen, sondern bewirkt auch den bewussten Umgang mit dem Tempo, in dem sich Farben auf Flächen anbringen lassen.


Oleksiy Koval, Lamed, 2002, acrylic on MDF, 132 x 132 cm Private collection Munich. Photo © Bernard Larsson

Parallel zur Einteilung der Fläche habe ich meine Gedanken auf das Procedere der Bewegung beim Malen konzentriert. Ein herausragendes Element des Malprozesses ist der Rhythmus, in dem sich die Herstellung eines Werkes vollzieht. Rhythmische Strukturen generieren den Malprozess als eine mehr oder minder geregelte Bewegung in Raum und Zeit. Sie geben dem Anbringen von Farben auf Flächen eine Form.


Oleksiy Koval, RM10, monochrome lithography Private collection Munich

Die Regeln derartiger Formgebung, ihre Folge und ihr Anzahl lassen sich festlegen und als rhythmische Motive wie z.B. 2,3,1 oder 1,1,2 handhaben. Hierbei hat man sich 1 als frei zu wählende basale Bewegungseinheit vorzustellen.

Als Beispiel eines rhythmischen Motivs nehme ich ein Feigenblatt. Wenn man die Größenverhältnis eines einzelnen Teils des Blattes vergleicht, bekommt man folgenden Rhythmus: 1,1,3,3,5.


Solche Grundmuster bei der Teilung der Fläche und dem Procedere der Bewegung beim Malen lassen sich mit der Hilfe von bestimmten Zeichen und Symbolen notieren. So ist die Sprache The Beautiful Formula Language entstanden. Diese Sprache ermöglicht es, den Verlauf von Kompositionen zu begreifen, die Kompositionen zu verwirklichen und neue zu entwerfen.

Als Beispiel für eine Komposition, die mit The Beautiful Formula Language entworfen und aufgeschrieben wurde, nehme ich die Komposition Melancholiker von 2015. (mehr unter Composition)

Oleksiy Koval, “Melancholiker”, 2015, 70 x 65 cm, marker, tape on FPY

Oleksiy Koval, “Melancholiker”, 2015, 70 x 65 cm, marker, tape on FPY

Die Idee, The Beautiful Formula Konzept bei einer Gruppenarbeit anzuwenden, wurde im Winter 2012 erfolgreich realisiert. Mit fünf anderen Künstlern aus verschiedenen Bereichen der Bildenden Kunst (Malerei, Zeichnung, Graffiti) habe ich eine offene Gruppe The Beautiful Formula Collective gegründet. Seit 2012 hat The Beautiful Formula Collective Live-Painting-Performances, Workshops und Seminare an der Kunsthochschulen, Galerien und Museen u.a. in München, Zürich, Singapur, Kiew, Wuhan, Tbilisi und London realisiert. Die spontane und reflexartige Reaktion auf visuelle Bedingungen einer Komposition auf der Fläche ist die wesentliche Struktur von The Beautiful Formula Collective.


The Beautiful Formula Collective 2012 Stefan Schessl, Oleksiy Koval,Veronika Wenger, Pascal Worsch, Daniel Geiger, Kuros Nekouian. Picture: LW44

Das Beautiful Formula-Konzept erlaubt nicht nur die Verwirklichung von Kunstwerken in verschieden Bereichen der bildendende Kunst, sondern ist auch medienübergreifend.

Seit 2000 setze ich mich mit den Werken des US-amerikanischen Musikers, Alt-Saxophonisten, Bandleaders und Komponisten Steve Coleman auseinander. Mich faszinieren an Coleman’s Musik vor allem seine rhythmischen Formen und die Art und Weise, wie er diese variiert. Wie Lobanovskiy’s Dynamo von der Verteidigung zum Angriff, so gehen Steve Coleman’s Bands rhythmisch von Stille zu Sound über. In einem Interview sagte Steve Coleman, er wolle das Erkennen natürlicher Rhythmen des Universum ausdrücken.


Steve Coleman. Photo © Anna Drabinski

Im Sommer 2008 habe ich Steve Coleman im Night Club des Hotels Bayerischer Hof in München mit zwei Bands live gehört. Der Altsaxophonist und seine Five Elements aus New-York trafen auf die Rapper des Hip-Hop-Kollektivs Opus Akoben aus Washington. Coleman ist es gelungen, durch eine komplexe Rhythmik aus zwei Bands Eines zu machen. Die Musiker spielten eigene Rhythmen in unterschiedlichen Zyklen. Die Zyklen trafen sich und gingen wieder auseinander. Diese Schwankungen wurden noch durch intensiven Groove unterstützt. Dieser wechselte in einem Wahnsinnstempo von leise und langsam zu laut und schnell. Die Musiker haben auf die sich verändernden musikalischen Bedingungen reflexartig reagiert, ohne dabei die Balance der Band zu verlieren.

Ich habe den Kontakt zu Steve Coleman aufgenommen, um mit gemeinsamen rhythmischen Motiven eine Performance zu verwirklichen, an der Maler und Musiker teilnehmen. Die Performance wurde an der Akademie der Bildenden Künste München im Juli 2013 erfolgreich verwirklicht.

Letztes Jahr wurde ich vom Architekturbüro Steidle angesprochen, The Beautiful Formula-Ideen an der Gestaltung einer Fassade auszuprobieren. Hier ist ein Beispiel mit einem rhythmischen Motiv 1,2,1,3,1,5.


Photo © steidle architekten

“Liebe nur die Spiele und den Tanz.
Suche in allem nur den Rhythmus.”

Oleksiy Koval, München, Januar 2016
Besonderen Dank an Prof. Bernhard Lypp, Audrey Shimomura, Claus Stirzenbecher und Veronika Wenger für die Unterstützung bei der Realisierung dieses Textes


In ESSAYS, EVENTS | VERANSTALTUNGEN on March 15, 2016 at 9:10 am

Daniel Geiger, Oleksiy Koval, Veronika Wenger / Art Talk / University of Hertfordshire


by Oleksiy Koval


Valeriy Lobanovskiy (1939 – 2002) Picture: Imago

In January of 1997 coach Valeriy Lobanovskiy returned from Kuwait to Dynamo Kyiv. At that time the club was in a deep crisis. However, the Ukrainian soccer coach succeeded to bring Kyiv back to the top of European soccer that very same year. On October 22, 1997 at a UEFA Champions League game in Kyiv, the Barcelona soccer team played against Dynamo Kyiv. Barcelona lost 3-0. Bad luck was how Louis van Gaal, manager of Spanish champions at the time, described the loss of his team at the press conference. One week later in Barcelona, Dynamo Kyiv won the return match 0-4. And within a month, Kyiv was the winner in the C Group, which in addition to Barcelona included Eindhoven and Newcastle. The reason for this success was the special way they played, which Lovanovskiy described as universal soccer. In contrast to European soccer philosophies, where a list of quite complex strategies and tactics are crucial, Lobanovskiy’s organization is really a philosophy. It is derived from a kind of Eastern European tranquility. For Valeriy Lovanovskiy, soccer is a physical process, where two critical masses participate. The task of these masses is to seize and control the space. Control means not only occupying space, but imposing the rhythm of the game on the opponent.

442 v 351.  Soccer formation tactics on a blackboard.

442 v 351. Soccer formation tactics on a blackboard.

imposing the rhythm of the game on the opponent. What does that mean exactly? To answer this question, rhythm must first be defined.

Biological rhythm is caused by periodic states and changes of organisms. In poetry, rhythm is considered as sequences of different accent patterns within the constancy of the verse metre. In language, rhythm is defined as the temporal division of speech. And rhythm in music is the accent patterns designated through the sequence of different note values that overlay the basic pulse.

Søren Kierkegaard’s book Works of Love, describes the way rhythm can manipulate the meaning of the same sentence. Kierkegaard, philosopher and poet, finds a way to attach different meanings to the same sentence – just by altering the rhythm. For example, in the second paragraph:

(Thou Shalt Love Thy N e i g h b o r)
(T h o u Shalt Love Thy Neighbor)

In this case, the rhythm is an accentuation within a regular, recurring constant.

Defense and attack are Lobanovkiy’s accent patterns during the game. The implementation of such accents means forcing or imposing the rhythm of the game on the opponent.

I consider painting a game. I am interested in soccer strategies, because painting and soccer have common aspects and share similar processes. As in all other games, in painting the successful result is crucial. My goal is to triumph in the battle against the surface, however I am satisfied, not just by achieving any successful result, but only if I have realized my concept. Such an accomplishment can not be planned beforehand, but one can try to find procedures to make it possible. Just as in soccer, I am looking for the rhythm in painting.

So what is the rhythm in painting?

In order to answer this question, it is necessary to understand the essence of painting. Painting is applying color to a surface by hand or by using other tools. This applying of color to a surface is a movement in space and time. And the accentuation of this movement is the rhythm in painting.


Picture: Jim Pickerell

To illustrate rhythm in painting, let us imagine a bus. The bus has a specific number of seating and standing capacity allocated by the designers. The accentuation or the rhythm, happens within a basic pattern – within a set number of places to be used. This creates passengers, whether large or small, heavy or slim, alone or in groups, with prams or in wheelchairs. The units which a painter applies to the surface, are the size and character of the passengers of a bus.

Life is a permanent movement in cycles and rhythms. Such rhythms shape my physical and psychological state and have a direct influence on my painting. The more secure and the more conscious my use of them are, the higher my chances for a victory over the surface.

The pleasure of painting quickly vanishes if the concept cannot be realized. The impossibility of realizing it, often does not depend on varied techniques of painting, but rather, on how one is able to implement the different techniques. Working with different techniques allows one to change the terrain and raises the chances for beating the surface. Such shifting movements form a technical rhythm which gives me the possibility to use my physical rhythm efficiently.


Garry Kasparov. Picture: Copyright 2007, S.M.S.I., Inc. – Owen Williams, The Kasparov Agency

In painting, I learned from Garry Kasparov. The game of chess was just as reputable as soccer or ice hockey during my childhood in Kyiv in the 1980s. Especially, the rivalry between Anatoliy Karpov and Garry Kasparov provided for this popularity. While Karpov was regarded as a favorite in the capitol of the Soviet Ukraine and as a representative of the Moscow Government, Kasparov won the sympathy of Kyiv. Kasparov’s art of play enabled the Grand Master to win the world title in 1985, which he successfully defended for the following 15 years.

The Grand Master makes moves, not only because he responds spontaneously to events, but because he wants to checkmate his opponent in 10-15 moves. I am applying the colors on the surface not in direct response to an event, but because I want to conquer the painting as a whole. The goal of chess is to checkmate your opponent’s king. The goal of painting is to dominate (to beat) the surface.

Achieving the goal requires strategy and tactics. Each touch of the surface of the painting with color is either consistent with my strategy or contradicts it. The continuous reflection on the procedure of painting helps me to get over the obstacles of indecision and mere self- confidence. I decide at the start of the game, whether I go slowly on the surface, step by step or fast, dynamic, attacking. There is however, no universal strategy that guarantees success. I love to paint in a fast, dynamic and aggressive manner, but many times I have lost using this procedure! The situation changes often on the surface while I juggle with the colors and I have to decide during the process whether to retain my original strategy or pick up a new one…

In chess and in painting, there are moves that contradict absolutely the strategy of action, but save the game. If the strategy is a gameplan, then tactic is a conscious reaction to the game. Often when I paint, I get to a balanced position – I have achieved a draw (peaceful solution). But I want to go further and if I do, I lose this attained position. So I must hold out. A state like this in chess is called mindful idleness. The balance between me and the painting does not last and it is then clear for me when I should attack. If I cannot get myself under control, there will be no draw anymore and I will lose. “This strategic goal must be converted into organic tactical thinking” Garry Kasparov.

Often however, breaks in intuition mandates a new step in the course of the rules. Every successful painting of mine has points that are beyond interpretation. Such points on the surface are contrary to my intentions and nevertheless they play an essential role. But when I entrust too much to intuition, I make mistakes, and the painted surface crumbles. The calculus must not degenerate to the scheme.


Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906) Picture: http://impressionist-art.com/cezanne_photo.html

What is The Beautiful Formula?

In his book Conversations with Cézanne, Joachim Gasquet quotes the french painter:

“… It is necessary to be a good worker. Nothing but a painter. To have a formula and to realize it.
He looks at me, sad and sublime.
The ideal of heaven on earth … is to have a beautiful formula.“

During my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, I was looking for a polarity in painting: I wanted to avoid spacial representations and instead produce a difference in which the color remains on the surface and yet wins visual vastness. In order to not lose control in my experiments with the properties of color, I was looking for a way of organizing the surface that could provide me with an obvious entry and a clear conclusion in painting. Thus, I have developed a basic model, which divides the surface into equal intervals of numerical impulses such as 1/4, 1/9, 1/16, 1/25 or 1/36.



Oleksiy Koval, ‘Lamed’, 2002, acrylic on MDF, 132 x 132 cm. Private collection Munich. Photo © Bernard Larsson

Such metre encourages not only the concentration of spontaneous choices between events, but also causes a conscious attitude towards the pace, in which colors can be attached on surfaces.

According to the division of the surface I focused my thoughts on the procedure of the movement in painting. An outstanding element of the process of painting is the rhythm in which the fabrication of an art work is accomplished. Rhythmical structures generate the process of painting as a more or less determinated movement in space and time. It gives form to the application of colors on surfaces. The rules of such a shaping, its sequence and number can be set and handled as rhythmical motives, such as 2,2,3,1 or 1,1,2. Here the 1 is to be conceived as a basal unity of movement that can be freely chosen.


Oleksiy Koval, ‘RM10’, monochrome lithography. Private collection Munich

As an example for one rhythmical motive I take a fig leaf. If you compare the proportion of a single part of the leaf, the following rhythm appears: 1,1,3,3,5


This basic pattern during the splitting, or dividing of the surface and the procedure of the movement during painting are represented with the help of certain signs and symbols. And so The Beautiful Formula Language was created. This language allows us to understand the procedure of the compositions, to realize the compositions and to create new ones.


Oleksiy Koval, ‘Schar’, 2012, 55 x 50 cm, marker, tape on FPY. Private collection Starnberg. Photo © Klaus Mauz

As an example of the use of and creation by The Beautiful Formula Language, is the composition Schar 2012 or the composition Stalker 2016.


Oleksiy Koval, ‘Stalker’, 2016, 135 x 140 cm, marker on foil. Photo © Klaus Mauz

The idea, to apply The Beautiful Formula Concept in to a group work, was successfully realized in the winter 2012. Together with artists from various sectors of the visual arts (painting, drawing, graffiti), I founded The Beautiful Formula Collective. Since 2012, The Beautiful Formula Collective has realized live-painting-performances, workshops and seminars at art colleges, galleries and museums in Munich, Leipzig, Zurich, Singapore, Kyiv, Wuhan, Tbilisi, Tehran, London to name a few. The spontaneous and reflexive reaction to visual conditions of a composition on the surface is the essential structure of the The Beautiful Formula Collective.


The Beautiful Formula Collective, 2012. Stefan Schessl, Oleksiy Koval,Veronika Wenger, Pascal Worsch, Daniel Geiger, Kuros Nekouian. Picture: LW44

The Beautiful Formula concept allows not only realizing of artworks in different areas of the visual art, but is also cross-disciplinary.

Since 2000 I deal with the works of the American musician, alto saxophonist, bandleader and composer Steve Coleman. I am fascinated in Colman’s music especially his rhythmic forms and the way how he varies these. How Lobanovskiy’s Dynamo from defense to attack or Cezanne’s painting skip from white to black, so do Steve Coleman’s bands rhythmicaly from silence to sound. In an interview, Steve Coleman said, he wanted to express the recognition of the natural rhythms of the universe.

In the summer of 2008, I heard Steve Coleman live in Munich with two bands. The alto saxophonist and his Five Elements from New York met the rapper from the hip-hop collective Opus Akoben from Washington. Steve Coleman has succeeded via complex rhythm to make one band out of two. The musicians were playing their own rhythms in different cycles. The cycles overlapped and parted again. These fluctuations were supported by very intense groove. That changed in spectacular speed from soft and slow to loud and fast. The musicians responded reflexively to the changing musical conditions without losing the balance of the band.


Steve Coleman Photo © Anna Drabinski

I contacted Steve Coleman in order to undertake a performance with common rhythmical motives in which painters and musicians participate together. The performance was successfully realized at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts in July 2013.

Last year, I was asked by Steidle Architects to try to implement The Beautiful Formula Ideas on the design of a storefront. Here is an example with the rhythmical motive 1,2,1,3,1,5.


Photo © steidle architekten

“Just love the games and the dancing.
Look only for the rhythm in everything.”

Munich, January 2016

Thanks for help realizing this text to Prof. Bernhard Lypp, Audrey Shimomura, Claus Stirzenbecher and Veronika Wenger



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