Oleg Tistol

Ukrainian artist Oleg Tistol was born  in Vradiivka, Nikolaev region,Ukraine, in 1960
Graduated from the Kyiv Republican Art School in 1978
Graduated from the Lvov State Institute of Decorative and Applied Arts in 1984

Pinchuk Art Center, Kyiv; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Norton Dodge collection, USA; Museum of Moscow history, Moscow; Ministry of Culture of Turkey, Ankara; Christoph Merian Stiftung, Basel, Switzerland; Gradobank collection, Kyiv; Ukrsocbank collection, Kyiv; Va-bank collection, Kyiv; Alpha Capital collection, Kyiv; private collections in Switzerland, Great Britain, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Ukraine and Russia




by Galina Sklyarenko

The art of Oleg Tistol belongs to such phenomena that ever since the «perestroika times», have defined the main trends in contemporary Ukrainian art. It is clearly illustrated by his regular participation in international art forums (San Paolo Biennale in 1994, Venice Biennale in 2001), as well as by the steady interest in his works by galleries and museums in Russia, Norway, Switzerland, France, and Great Britain. Moreover, despite the fact that, since the late 80-ies (when he began exhibiting), the new Ukrainian art has undergone many changes in the means of expression and artistic strategies, Tistol’s works (paintings, large-scale installations, photos, sculptures, and art objects) have always been in the centre of the Ukrainian artistic process. Furthermore, they were indicating not only the changing of the course of Ukrainian art, but also the milestones of its development.

Among them, there was a concept of “the new stereotype”, pronounced by Oleg Tistol and Konstantin Reunov in the text “A Resolute Edge of National Post-Eclecticism”. At that time (in the late 80-ies) it was considered as a way of modernization (or, more exactly, postmodernization) of Ukrainian art, which was still firmly trapped between folklore and socialist realism. However, over time, the attempts to conceptualize the unfolding post-Soviet epoch run into the problems of national history as well as into the difficulties, connected with the creation of the independent Ukraine’s new cultural project. In this situation, the concept of “the national stereotype” not only had acquired a new meaning, but also broadened in its significance and relevance. The way of “a subjective study of the national context” introduced by Tistol successfully associated with the dialogue between “the local” and “the global”, that is one of the most important and trendy tendencies in contemporary art.

In Ukraine “the construction of a new artistic contexts” (Boris Groys) co-exists with the urgent necessity to reconstruct its own regional context, which is complicated nowadays by the contradictions in the country’s socio-economic, cultural, and political spheres. After all, Ukrainian artists have inherited from the imperial-colonial and soviet-totalitarian past the repressed local history. Therefore, before voting down traditions, they should at first be marked, defined, formalized and brought to a certain “norm”. That was probably the reason of the popularity of the word “normal” in the present culturological and political discussions in Ukraine. Clifford Geertz, in his research, not in vain titled “The Interpretation of Cultures”, compared “the new States” to “the young artists”, who hardly and painfully seek for the personal artistic identity, while choosing between “the routine ways of existence” and following “the spirit of the times”. In this situation, it was namely “the actual art”, which unexpectedly and quickly emerged in Ukraine at the end of the 1980-ies and turned out to be a space of the cultural reflection, where the old and new mythologies, the post-Soviet reality and the search for national identity have found certain “visualization” which does not illustrate, but rather artistically analyze “the Ukrainian subject matter”.

For Oleg Tistol the theme of “stereotype” was formed at the end of 70-ies, when he was studying in the Lvov Institute of Applied Arts and was working as “a type designer for the Khudfond (Art Fund) in Nikolayev. Exactly at that time, while practicing “the art of graphical propaganda”, he discovered for himself the notion of “the simulacrum” - the copy with no original – such a paradoxical self-sustainability of propaganda as substitution for the non-existing items, which unexpectedly unite propaganda with pop-art. Indeed, both the Soviet aesthetics and pop art tend to simplicity, clarity, and legibility using repeated cliché images. The difference lays in the meanings and symbols of ideology and the market. In contrast to the Russian conceptualists, who worked with propaganda images, specially emphasizing the contradictions between the image and its meanings, Tistol was primarily interested in its formal aesthetic aspects (stencil plates, color backing-ups, smoothly painted surfaces) and its material (carton board and tile) which he would later include into his art works. He was also attracting by the principal magic of art - its “ability to visualize and affirm the non-existent” (Alain Вadieu). Oleg Tistol’s art has the roots in the Soviet epoch, and hence comes his distrust to straightforward statements and evident truths as well as his acute sensitivity to situational grotesque, image-bearing expressions and the unexpected “positivity” of Tistol’s irony as a mean of overcoming an ideological pressure. Tistol’s art, that emerged at the edge of the Soviet and post-Soviet epochs, combined both a critique of Soviet culture with re-evaluation of its clichés as well as the vital, joyful and playful atmosphere, which largely defined the look of “the Ukrainian new wave”. Mixing in his works national and Soviet symbols, myths, and utopias, the artist demonstrated his personal vision of reality where the acceptance of life and keenness by the metamorphoses of art gets on with a sense of “defeat”, which is an eternal destiny of contemporary artist who is inescapably bound to reuse the pre-existing forms of visual expression.

Oleg Tistol’s early works, such as the large-scaled paintings “Zinovy Bogdan Khmelnitsky”, “Reunification”, “The Farewell of Slavyanka”, “Exercise with Maces” demonstrated the main features of Ukrainian “new wave” – free game with symbols, the bright expressive colors, and emphatic “exaggeration” of the artistic devices. “New wave” firmly connected Ukrainian art with the theme of “national Baroque” which, in many ways, had defined its tendencies in first half of the 90-ies. Harmony of Baroque art with post-modernist aesthetics and its propensity for mystification and production of illusions not only linked the national historical experience to the contemporary artistic practice, but also allowed to comprehend the paradoxes of the tradition going back to the times of Zaporozhskaya Sech, Liberation wars, and the hetman Mazepa. That closeness to the general artistic problems encouraged many art critics compare the “new Ukrainian wave” with Italian trans-avant-garde.

Meanwhile, the “Neo-Baroque” had played, to some extent, in Ukrainian art the role, which Moscow’s “Sots-art” had. Still, if the Moscow artists subjected “sots-realism” to analysis by taking its conception to its logical conclusion, the Ukrainian artists chose as their “object of study” the national tradition, which often identified as the “Cossack baroque”, with its concentration on long-outdated models and the impossibility to advance to new levels of comprehending reality. This led to ambiguity of stereotypes as well as to the mythological nature of the native world-view and the retrospective glance of its orientations were presented as a drama of culture, traditional features of which did not always preserve exclusively its positive meanings.

In 1984, Oleg Tistol began to work on the project “Ukrainian money” which, without exaggeration, marked a new stage in contemporary Ukrainian art. In the project, which was in progress until 2001 (at the beginning of the 90-ies, it was realized in collaboration with Nikolay Matsenko) Tistol moved from small drawings and etchings to big panel paintings and large-scale installations. Having started at the end of the Soviet epoch with its mythology, where money was a temporary category destined to disappear in the new Communist society, the project “Ukrainian Money” stepped into today’s – capitalist – period when money had become life’s most decisive operating lever. In Tistol’s project, money appeared as a cultural-symbolic category, which not only marks the history of national independence (in 1918 the design for “Ukrainian karbovantzy” was developed by such famous artists as G. Narbut, M. Boychuk, and A. Bogomazov), but also anticipates and reflects the main problem of the contemporary Ukrainian reality: the choice of values, both genuine and false. Combining in this project Ukrainian “historical brands”, such as the legendary Roksolana (a Ukrainian slave girl who eventually married the Ottoman Sultan), Cossack horsemen, hetmans, and pseudo-baroque décor read through the Soviet aesthetics of stencil plates and clichés, the artist introduced the phantoms of national mythology into the explicitly of “marked spaces” of today’s market.

Simultaneously, starting from the middle of the 90-ies, Oleg Tistol and his fellow artist Nikolay Matsenko began to develop the concept of “Natsprom” (“National Industry”), or a study of the national stereotypes fixed in the surrounding environment. Their projects: “The Museum of Ataturk”, “The Museum of Architecture”, “The Museum of Ukraine”, “The Mother of Towns” - which combined painting, photography and art objects - are a perfect example of clarity and adequacy of the concept, as well as strictly determined authors’ position. Architecture appears in this series, as a certain decoration, set capable of providing décor to most surprising life performances. At the same time, after having passed through the filters of artistic vision, both famous and ordinary buildings – the embodiment of gone-by styles and social ambitions – appeared as visions and ghosts, that at any moment are ready to relinquish their place to new architectural fantasies. In this way, the artists’ works drew the Ukrainian public’s attention to an extraordinarily important theme of manipulation with historical heritage marked by the popularity of “architectural re-constructions” which fulfilled many Ukrainian cities, having the traditional layouts, with the stylized fake buildings. It is evident, that in these projects “the Ukrainian myth” had arguably reached its' most grotesque and apologetic finale, having reflected the paradoxical nature of the Ukrainian situation, where the necessity of analysis of still unstudied history was easily substituted by the latter mythological versions.

The theme of “stereotypes” was continued by Oleg Tistol in his painting series “National Geography” where he combined “the local” and “the foreign”, the authentic and the borrowed, the ethnic and the global problematic. The sources of this series were the old illustrated magazines with ethnographic photos of “different tribes”. National exoticism was viewed here as the contemporary strategy of “selling local brands in the global market” (Boris Groys). However, in these works, the artist primarily appealed to the internal Ukrainian situation, to its cult of “the national”, which paradoxically coexist today with the declared European orientation.

In the meantime, the author’s conception of the stereotype acquired some new features, coming from another medium – the photo- and TV-picture, which today are the main operation factors of the visual. Tistol created his own version of “post-media picture”, based on the screen image. In many ways, he was influenced by the events of the Orange revolution of 2004 when the entire country for hours was mesmerized by what it saw on a TV-screen, following the latest developments on the Independence Square. At that time, Tistol produced a series “Television” where he depicted the “screen-shots” of the major news programs by different TV-channels, such as RTR, INTER, and DEUTSCHE WELLE. The artist was interested here in metamorphoses, which the image underwent on the TV-screen, turning the human individuality into a flat media image.

In 2005, Tistol painted the series “Telerealism,” adverting arguably to one of the most important problems of contemporary culture, that of the television’s ability to manipulate situations and characters as well as attaching importance to any kind of image. Transferring TV pictures to canvas, Tistol treated them as ready-mades, objects capable of assuming new meanings in new contexts, or, even more important, of becoming doubly illusionary through the imposition of painting’s illusiveness onto the illusiveness of the TV screen. Transferring a TV screen shot into the format of a painting, the artist connected the former to the tradition of genre painting, and use the new conditions to attract attention to the possibility of reflecting reality (not without reason recent criticism had noted the influence of the screen epoch on the “return to narrative” tendency in contemporary art). Besides, using in these works frequency’s resolution, visually marking pixilation of the media image, typical for photography and cinema, he in fact moves in the direction of traditional painting by constructing canvas’s coloristic space according to the classical rules.

Tistol’s latest project “U. B. K” (the abbreviation for “Southern Coast of Crimea”), on which he had been working since 2007, features a new stereotype as well. As Tistol explains: “Palm trees for me, just as for all other people, are the symbols of paradise. Moreover, in our tradition, the fir tree is a substitute for the palm. Therefore, I always perceived the palm as our ‘national tree’. One can also add here the summer, the Yalta seafront, and the holiday-like feeling of light-heartedness…” However, if, on the level of subject, Tistol’s “Palms” attract with their pointed out simplicity, the real artistic meanings of their figurative ambiguity let one speak of some representative trend. Even more, in contrast to his earlier works, here the irony changes into gentle humor, the grotesque - into lyricism, and the depicted object’s interpretation – into rather exquisite aestheticism. In this series, one can find neither complex design nor intricate historical-cultural reflections nor that collision of meanings, images, and spaces that were characteristic of his earlier works. Here, the artist comes to the peculiar “trivialization of the exotic” and poeticizing of the everyday life, where the banal turns into the festive and the unusual. However, the uncommonness here looks like vacations promising a pleasant rest in the midst of well-known landscapes. It is not accidental that the project includes several cycles of prints made against the background of the pages from school notebooks.

In his “Palms”, Tistol again enters the territory of pop art surprisingly demonstrating the closeness of contemporary perception to “the acceptance of life in all its fullness” formulated by Tom Wesselmann in the 60-ies. However, the impossibility for the artist to transcend stereotypes in the media epoch enables him to create new works through their mutual collision in artistic context and through their assumption of unexpected meanings.

Oleg Tistol’s painting series “Mountains” perhaps most consistently demonstrates his method of work with the stereotype. Begun in 1987, it has included such series as “Landscape”, “Sinai”, “Caucasus”, “Kazbek”, and “Ararat” (2002-2008). All the works in the series are made according to one principle: they feature realistically depicted mountain peaks overlaid with stripes of one-color, with some ornaments stenciled over them. According to artist’s conception, this series has originated from the image on package of “Kazbek” cigarettes, which bare in turn a well-known picture by E. Lancere. In contrast to Lancere, Tistol inverses the process – he brings the image from a non-artistic and profane space into the space of a new picture. However, he does this not through adequate repetition but by a metaphor, that contains both artistic and non-artistic meanings, which results in quotations being imposed on quotations, and conventionality – on conventionality. Still a certain neutral distancing of these paintings reminds one of the well-know Zen parable. Before the Buddhism study, I believed a mountain to be a mountain. After some study of it, I had realized that a mountain was not a mountain, and now, after I have studied Buddhism at length, I have understood that a mountain is a mountain… The quite “simple” “Mountains” by Oleg Tistol are full of ambiguous play of meanings and of that precise and complex correlation of proportions, elements, and signs that give the paintings a special inner life. They possess an enigma and mystery and that is called The Art.


Selected exhibitions


People live here, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Kyiv

White and Black, National Academy of Arts of Ukraine, Kyiv

Byzantine Nostalgia, CCA Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw 



My Story: 32 Years of Independence, Museum of Kyiv History, Kyiv

Concentration of the Will, Modern Art Research Institute, National Academy of Arts, M17 Contemporary Art Center, Kyiv





UNFOLDING LANDSCAPES – Landscape and Poetics in Contemporary Ukrainian Art Kunst(Zeug)Haus, Switzerland

UNFOLDING LANDSCAPES – Landscape and Poetics in Contemporary Ukrainian Art, Art & History Museum, Бельгія

UNFOLDING LANDSCAPES – Landscape and Poetics in Contemporary Ukrainian Art”, Silkeborg Bad, Denmark




Ukraine. A different angle on neighbourhood, Krakow, Poland

30x30. Contemporary Ukrainian art, National Center «Ukrainian House», Kyiv





Strange Time, online, www.strangetime.art

Ukraine Today, Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv

The Artifical Pain, Сontemporary Art Centre ZnakiCzasu, Toruń, Poland

Imprint. Ukrainian printmaking of the XX – XXI centuries, Mystetskyi Arsenal, Kyiv




Media dependence. Ukranian version, Ukrainian House, Kyiv

The Long Journey. Contemporary Ukrainian Art 1985 - 2004 from private collections, Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv 

Art United, Mandarin Maison, Kyiv




Auguste Rodin. Premonition of the future. Cherkasy Museum of Fine Arts, Cherkasy, Ukraine

Tribute to Viborg, 1018 – 2018, An exhibition of Contemporary Collage Art. Viborg, Denmark

Natsprom, 1991-2018, Gallery "Dzyga", Lviv, Ukraine

Permanent Revolution. Ukrainian Art Today, Ludwig Museum, Budapest





Private Collection. Contemporary Ukrainian Artists. Modern Art Research InstituteKyiv, Ukraine

Show Promise. Lviv Palace of Arts. Ukraine

Reymuzey. ArtUkraine Gallery. Kyiv.





Recipe for Utopia, Modern Art Research InstituteKyiv, Ukraine




Wien,Österreichisches Museum für Volkskunde,Ukraine. Transformation der Moderne, 20-29 november, 2015

The Museum Collection. Ukrainian Contemporary Art. 1985–2015, 22.09–10.10.2015. From Private Collections

Ukrainian contemporary art. From private collections. Koruna Hotel Gallery, Tatariv, Ukraine
Koelner Liste-Contemporary Art Fair 2015, Dymchuk Gallery


I Am A Drop In The Ocean Künstlerhaus, Vienna, Austria
I am a drop in the Ocean, MOCAK, Krakow
A New Ukrainian Dream, Forbes Ukraine and Mystetskyi Arsenal Art Project Mystetskyi Arsenal, Kyiv
OURS, YermilovCentre, Kharkiv
SCOPE Art Fair Miami Beach HudPromo Art Gallery Miami, USA


London Art Fair 2013, London
Terrain Orientation National Art Museum of Ukraine Exhibition of Contemporary Ukrainian Art, Kyiv (catalogue)
Contemporary Ukrainian Artists. Saatchi Gallery. London (catalogue)


The Ukrainian Baroque Myth, National Art Museum of Ukraine, Kyiv
Perspective, Mystetsky Arsenal, Kyiv


The Mythology of Happines , Salon Vert, London (solo show, catalogue)
Art-Kyiv Сontemporary 2011, Mystetskyi Arsenal, Kyiv (catalogue)
Art Moscow 2011, Central House of Artists, Moscow (catalogue)
20 years of presence, Modern Art Research Institute (NAAU), Kyiv (catalogue)
Independent, Mystetskyi Arsenal, Kyiv (catalogue)
11ème Festival Européen de la photo de nu, Arles, France (catalogue)
Art Chicago 2011, Black Square Gallery, Chicago, USA
A Space Odyssey 2011, Mystetskyi Arsenal, Kyiv
UKRAINIAN ARTISTS, gallery Albert Benamou, Paris
SCOPE International Contemporary Art Show, New York, USA
Interpretation of Memories Black Square Gallery, Miami, USA (solo show)
Art Palm Beach, Art fair, Black Square Gallery, Florida, USA
MIA art fair, Black Square Gallery, Miami, USA


VozhdiЛєnіє, Ukrainian House, Kyiv (catalogue)
Art-Kyiv Сontemporary 2010, Mystetskyi Arsenal, Kyiv (catalogue)
Star Wars, Art Center of Alexander Korobchinskogo, Odessa, Ukraine
RESTART , Modern Art Research Institute, Kyiv


Khudfond, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow (solo show, catalogue)
Assortment, Ya-Gallery, Kyiv (solo show)
Art-Kyiv Сontemporary 2009, The Ukrainian House, Kyiv (catalogue)



Ukrainian Art Today, Museum of Russian Art, Kyiv (catalogue)
The Ideal Age, Collection Gallery, Kyiv (catalogue)
YuBeKa, Collection Gallery, Kyiv (solo show, catalogue)
Art-Kyiv Сontemporary 2008, The Ukrainian House, Kyiv (catalogue)


Reflection, PinchukArtCenter, Kyiv (catalogue)
Class Work, Ya-Gallery, Kyiv (solo show)
Television, World Bank Building, Moscow (solo show)


Made in UKR, Tsekh Gallery, Kyiv
A New Space, PinchukArtCenter, Kyiv (catalogue)
Ararat-06, Ya-Design Gallery, Kyiv (solo show)
Television, Tsekh Gallery, Kyiv
Television, ARTStrelka projects gallery, Moscow (solo show)


Reality Check, Cultural Center Ukrainian House, Kyiv (catalogue)


A Farewell to Arms, Arsenal, Kyiv (catalogue)


Natsprom (in collaboration with M. Matsenko), M. Guelman Gallery, Moscow
The First Collection, Central House of Artists, Kyiv (catalogue)


National Geography, M. Guelman Gallery, Moscow
Behind the Threshold, Central House of Artists, Moscow


The First Ukrainian Project, 49th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (catalogue)


Intervals, National Art Museum, Kyiv, Ukraine—Henie-Onstad Museum, Oslo (catalogue)
Paintings, Atelier Karas gallery, Kyiv


Preventive Measures, Passage de Retz gallery, Paris
20 Ukrainian Artists. End of the Century, Atelier Karas gallery, Kyiv (catalogue)


Accommodation, the Jesuit Gallery, Poznan, Poland
Per Gynt, National Art Gallery, Tronheim, Norway


Photosynthesis, Artists´ Union gallery, Kyiv


Hermetic forest, CCA at NaUKMA, Kyiv
Interphoto, International Photo Biennale, Moscow (catalogue)
The Museum of Architecture, CCA at NaUKMA, Kyiv


Kyiv Art Meeting, Cultural Center Ukrainian House, Kyiv (catalogue)


Free Zone, Museum of Fine Arts, Odessa, Ukraine
Alchemical Capitulation, flagship Slavutich, Sebastopol, Ukraine
Artistic Impressions, The Ukrainian House, Kyiv (catalogue)
September, 17th , Brama Contemporary Art Center, Kyiv
The 22-nd Bienal Internacional de Sao Paolo, Brazil (catalogue)


The Kyiv Mohyla Academy, Kyiv
Europe´s Steppe, Center for Contemporary Art Uyazdovsky Castle, Warsaw


Kosoi Kaponir, Kyiv Fortress Museum, Kyiv
Nine Days, St. Alban Tal, Basel, Switzerland


Wanderlieder, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (catalogue)
End of the Century Art, World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland (catalogue)
Shared Earth, Peterborough Museum, Peterborough, United Kingdom
An Act of Artistic Opposition, Central House of Artists, Moscow


The End of the Century, National Gallery of Iceland, Reykjavik (catalogue)
Horizontal Line, Beljaevo Exhibition Hall, Moscow
Art in an Empty House, National Gallery, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia
In der USSR en Erbuiten, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (catalogue)


The Furmanny Lane, Petr Novitsky Gallery, Warsaw
Eidos, The Youth Palace, Moscow
A Resolute Edge of National Post-eclecticism, Kashyrka Exhibition Hall, Moscow
Three Generations of the Post-Stalin Avantgarde, New Beginning Festival, Glasgow, Scotland


Soviart, The First Soviet-American Exhibition, Kyiv (catalogue)


Kyiv-Tallinn, Polytechnic Institute, Kyiv