1953. Nikolay Papp, future artist and mystic, is born in the West Ukraine. Admirers will call him a talented visionary; detractors will label him a dissident, whose art and attitudes rail against the repres¬sive norms of the society he has been born into. Astrologers might call attention to the fact that, within their system, Nikolay is a Sagittarian, since he entered the world on December 19th. The fire sign of Sagittarius is the sign of the Archer, symbolized by a centaur with a bow and arrow. It represents the Hunter and the idealist. Curiously enough, Stalin was also a Sagittarian, born December 21st. Fire: an element of both great creativity and destruction, emblematic in spiritual circles for the power of the Will, human and Divine. Nikolay's will was forged by circumstance. Neither or his parents were Party members. His father, an esteemed winecask-maker by profession, was also a violinist of considerable talent. His mother came from a wealthy manufacturing family whose fortunes were destroyed in the Revolution. She remade herself by learning the art of winemaking,becoming a vintner of good repute. She passed on her cultural background to Nikolay, fostering his intellectual and artistic endeavors.
She taught him independent thought. He notes, "I always had my opinion," which was unfortunate. The Soviet regime was based on the expression of Party ideology, and any deviation from that was suspect. Nikolay attended a Russian school, where children of Party members were given privilege and priority. "From the time you were small, you heard the propoganda." says Papp. "Not everybody believed it, but everybody had to hear it and deal with it. Speaking out against it meant trouble. But staying within the system was like being in a prison. There was no real communication, no real sense of life."
At home, Nikolay's mother taught him drawing, music and poetry. At school, he was taught the Party line. It was a case of expansion versus restriction. A collision was inevitable. Nikolay remembers being beaten on his hands with a ruler by a teacher when he was seven for expressing his opinion. He remembers another teacher who took a particular dislike to him when he was twelve. The teacher came upon him at recess, grabbed hold of the scarf that was around his throat, and dragged him around the playground. No one at the school reprimanded the teacher. Nikolay's mother spoke up on his behalf, but it was to no avail. She was not a Party member. Her son was not a Party member. They had no "legal" recourse. So Nikolay's oppression was tacitly condoned.
He continued his education on a somewhat haphazard path. His teachers mostly ignored him. Nikolay, on his own, sketched and wrote poetry. Sometimes he would do drawings for his literature and history classes. When he was 12, he began to write songs. Later in life, the music would provide an occasional source of income, as he would play with bands in local bars and clubs. His mother never ceased to encourage his artistic development, and with a restless intellect and a desire to learn, Papp simply turned from the lackluster offerings of his formal education and went afield looking for mental stimulation.
His first one man exhibition was in Moscow when the artist was 33 years old.
The socially restrictive and political climate he came out of helped to shape his beliefs and develop his unique style which he expressed as an underground artist. Today, his artwork has become surrealistic in nature, complex and intricate representations of the metaphysical world and self. Mr. Papp believes that through his art he is able to channel a part of a universal spirit.
Nikolay Papp has exhibited in Connecticut, New York, Japan, and Russia. His work has been published in U.S art magazines and is in the private collections of the Ukrainian President (an official gift from President Bill Clinton), and actress Kathleen Turner.
Kathleen Turner, East Hampton, New York