My adoptive grandfather Gregory Korobov is an artist. A well-celebrated one, if you hear him tell it. Serving as a director of the Kharkov Art College in Ukraine for the last 40 years, he has earned a number of national regalias including the “Honored Artist of Ukraine”. Having turned 80 years old last year, Gregory continues to paint daily despite suffering from a neurological condition which causes his eyelids to shut suddenly for several minutes at a time.
I should probably mention here that, although I admire Gregory’s many accomplishments, I am of two minds when it comes to his painting style. I do not share his fascination with flower still lifes and country scenes, however, I do enjoy the bold way he uses colour and the quality of his brushstrokes.
We’ve always had a complicated relationship, and the tension between us was very apparent during my latest visit with Gregory and his wife Alla in the fall of 2013. I asked if I could see his studio and shoot a few frames, hoping that this shared experience would bring us closer together. To my disappointment, he would not let me photograph him painting. The entire concept of me documenting his process seemed very alien to him. Throughout the entire day we spent together he kept repeating a single phrase: “I just can’t understand you at all” — a strong sentiment and an ongoing theme in our relationship.
For months now I’ve been debating whether or not I should even write this blog post. On one hand, I had enough images to make up the bones of the photo essay but I thought that it lacked some human interest. In the end, I decided that the studio space itself paints a portrait of sorts, though incomplete, of this complicated man and his body of work.
Gregory’s wife Alla with some of his paintings
A tribute to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine