A true artist can create outstanding art from almost anything, even ugly, greasy oil. Who would have ever imagined that petroleum could be used to paint breathtaking images? Belarussian artist Ludmila Zhizhenko, that’s who.
Ludmila was a designer at a petroleum company for years before she invented this new technique of painting in 2009. She would use watercolors earlier, but petroleum is now her material of choice. Ludmila’s paintings have are elegant, with an old-world charm. They resemble vintage, yellowed photographs from the last century. Photo artist Sergei Kholodilin says, “This is a synthesis of photography and painting.”
For her paintings, Ludmila uses petroleum produced in the Gomel region. To make one ‘heavy oil’ painting, she needs about 10 grams of the stuff. And there are only two types of petroleum she can make use of. Ludmila lets us in on a few of her trade secrets: “It is important not to stop putting stroke after stroke. Otherwise, if the oil dries out, it will be very difficult to fix something,” she says. Due to the chemical composition of petroleum, she mostly paints outdoors.
Ludmila primarily paints portraits, landscapes and still life. All her paintings reflect nature – scenes like spring floods, summer fishing and village in the winter. Ludmila says that her paintings are the color of earth, which means life. “The color of the oil is the color of our earth, brown. It depicts fertility, and in combination with white it can convey emotion and quiet.”
Ludmila is a graduate of the Minsk Art School and a member of the Belarusian Union of Designers. Two dozen of Ludmila’s petroleum masterpieces are displayed on the walls of Gomel studio. In 2012, a solo exhibition of her oil works called “Pumping oil in Art” was displayed at City Exhibition Hall, Bryansk, Russia. She lives and works in Gomel, Belarus.
Photos: Ludmila Zhizhenko