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Іnclusive art project “And See by Feeling...”

From November 28, 2018 to May 12, 2019, the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus presents a unique inclusive art project “And See by Feeling...” – seven tactile paintings created by professional Belarusian artist Vasily Zenko (born 1977).

The art project “And See by Feeling...” allows blind and visually impaired people to get a comprehensive impression of the museum exposition. Each of the visitors now has a real opportunity to see the paintings – either with their eyes or fingertips, to stay alone with the work of art, to contemplate the poetry of each painting.

Graduate of the department of monumental and decorative art of the Belarusian State Academy of Arts, Vasily Zenko works in the style of so-called. ecological romanticism. It was Belarusian art historian Jaugen Shunejka who provided such an apt definition to the artist's work. Vasily Zenko poeticizes natural phenomena, weaving the painting lines into filigree arabesques. His works are well recognizable. The author's technique is based on acrylic painting on canvas using a variety of textures, washes and finest glazings, but most importantly – volumetric contours, that are very convenient for tactile perception.

In 2017, Vasily Zenko took part in the work of the First Inclusive Creative Laboratory of the Belarusian and Swedish project IncArtLab at the National Art Museum. The artist got his first experience of communicating with people with special needs. The laboratory participants wanted to know how the visually impaired will perceive his works, so they conducted an experiment: blind pianist from Minsk Maria Rudko “read” the painting “Sunflowers” with her hands. On the back side of the painting a microphone was installed, so touching the canvas Maria created a unique music composition. The effect was awesome. Since the girl lost sight in her childhood, some visual images remained in her memory. It was not difficult for Mary to understand that there are flowers in the painting.

Vasily was inspired by this story. He had an idea to create a separate project for blind and visually impaired people. After all, his author's technique, incorporating volume, relief and contour, appeared incredibly suitable for the realization of this idea.

The artist worked on the project for over a year. He invited Maria Rudko to be his consultant, because there is an unspoken rule of working with people with special needs: “Nothing for them can be done without them!”

First of all, Vasily thought about creating laconic images that could be “readable” by the blind. He turned to the works of the Belarusian poet Ales Razanau, classic of Belarusian vers libre, one of the founders of the Belarusian haiku or “dotted lines”. These are lyrical miniatures of 3, 5 or 6 lines illustrating one idea, one sensation. This is exactly what Vasily needed – to create vivid images that give an impulse for thought.

The artist chose seven “dotted lines” by Ales Razanau (with author’s permission and approval) from the collection of 2018 “Such and That: Rain and Lightning” from the series “Hunting in Paradise Valley”. Vasily created a pictorial improvisation-paraphrase, introducing into the painting texts of poems translated by Maria Rudko into braille (as protruded strokes-dots in the upper left corner of the canvas). Vasily Zenko observed the necessary international braille standards when creating tactile pictures . He constantly turned to Mary for consultation so that the girl could assess the correctness of the “dotted lines” written in this special alphabet.

Due to the special texture, the paintings are well perceived through the touch. That is, a blind person first can “reads” a short verse, and then study its relief pictorial embodiment. The sighted can enjoy the paintings by Vasily Zenko as harmonious works of art with relief surface of flowing lines.

The art project “And See by Feeling...” is a series of highly artistic compositions made by a professional. For example, in the Louvre, the State Russian Museum and the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus there are relief copies of some of the paintings that give an opportunity to touch the objects of art.

The project aims to enrich the imagination of a blind person. People who have lost sight during their life will be able to recreate some objects in their memory. Those who are blind from birth have an opportunity to create new images in their minds. In any case, it is important to understand that we look at the author’s interpretation of reality. Both sighted and blind are immersed in the creative world of the artist in this project. This is not about getting acquainted with what a flower, butterfly, bird looks like ... This is about a complex synthesis of painting and poetry. This is the author's interpretation of literary images. Thus. the art project “And See by Feeling...” removes the boundaries hindering the access of blind people to works of art, and this is also an important step towards creating a barrier-free environment in Belarus.

The presentation of the inclusive project was made at the National Art Museum on November 28, 2018 in the framework of the symposium “Innovative Practices in the Museum. IncArtLab as a new model of inclusion and understanding of interactivity”. The exhibition aroused genuine interest among people with special needs, teachers, museum workers, artists and the media. This once again confirms the relevance and social significance of such initiatives on the part of creative people.

The project has already been visited by groups of people with limited vision, including employees of the Unitary Enterprise “Svetopribor” of the Public

Association “BelTIZ”. They offered to supplement paintings with audio description, which would convey verbal explanations of the visual information inaccessible to a blind or visually impaired person. Therefore, in April 2019, visitors will be able to take advantage of such audio guides created by experts from the Belarusian social and cultural institution MozArt.

In the future, the art project “And See by Feeling...” will be expanded. Its exhibiting has already been planned in exhibition halls of public organizations, specialized schools and boarding schools for the blind, as well as in some Belarusian, Russian and Polish museums.


Leading Researcher

of the Department of Contemporary Belarusian Art

Natalia Selitskaya


Vasily Zenko

Born in 1977 in the Stoŭbcy (Republic of Belarus).

Since 1989 lives in Minsk.

1989–1996 – studied at the Belarusian Lyceum of Arts (now Ivan Akhremchyk Gymnasium Boarding School of Music and Fine Arts).

2006 – graduated from the Belarusian State Academy of Arts, Department of Monumental and Decorative Art.

Since 2009 – member of the Belarusian Union of Artists.

Since 2011 – member of the Belarusian Union of Designers.

Since 1995, participates in exhibitions, including Republican and international.

Since 2010, author and organizer of many solo and group art projects in Belarus, Russia and Poland. To date, the artist has implemented about 20 personal art projects.

His works are in the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus, the National Center for Contemporary Arts (Minsk, Republic of Belarus), the Center for Contemporary Art (Viciebsk, Belarus), the Museum of Contemporary Russian Art (New York, USA), as well as in private collections of America, Belarus, Germany, Norway, Russia, Poland, Turkey and France.