Russian artist displays works on his schooner
Evgeny Solodkiy shows his paintings of ocean-going vessels caught in storms, and huge rollers ramming into coastal cities on the deck of his two-mast sailboat and motor yacht.
By Metin DEMIRSAR
Istanbul (Dunya) – For the past six months, an ominous grey-black schooner, resembling a sleek buccaneer's ship, has been docked at the mouth of Kurbaglidere, a stream on the Asian side of Istanbul emptying into the Sea of Marmara, near the neighborhoods of Kalamis and Moda.
The owner of the schooner 'Helon', Evgeny Solodkiy, 49, is a Russian architect and artist who paints scenes of ocean going vessels caught in storms and coastal cities, like Istanbul, being swept by huge rollers. His workshop is inside the cavernous 30-meter (98.4 feet), twin-mast sailboat and motor yacht. He displays and sells his paintings on the deck of the steel-framed cutter.
Born in Saratov, a Russian city on the river Volga near Volgograd (Stalingrad), Mr. Solodkiy was a successful commercial artist and creator in Germany and Moscow, working in theaters, presentations, and art galleries for nearly two decades ago. He dropped out of the rat race to build a sailing yacht, go on a cruise of the world and paint as he pleased.
"I had a good career and was earning big money," the red-haired, pipe-smoking, bespectacled artist said in an interview aboard his schooner. "But I realized that the more money you make the less freedom you have. You are like a motor, or a clog in the motor. As an artist I didn't want to be part of that."
He got the idea of building a schooner-yacht by accident.
"A friend of mine borrowed a large sum of money from me, but when the financial crisis errupted in Russia he could not pay his debt. Instead he offered to give me his yacht in place," Mr. Solodkiy recalled. "He eventually did pay me what he owed, But the idea of building a boat remained. It became a fixation. I wanted to have my own castle and move around the world in it."
He returned to Saratov, a boat-building center, and over the next 13 years built the Helon from scratch. "It was like a work of art to me," he said in a deep croaky voice, the result of a throat operation.
Helon is named after an old city in Scythia, an ancient region north of the Black Sea, which was razed by the invading Persians in 500 B.C. It is believed that Helon was the site of modern day Saratov, a city of 850,000 inhabitants.
During the first three years, Mr. Solodkiy divided his time between Moscow and Saratov. But in the last ten years, he lived in his hometown aboard his yacht, as he built it.
He painted the ship in the only suitable color – grey-black.
"It gave the ship a strong, brutal character, like a pirate's ship. Pirates are like artists. They want freedom," he expressed as he donned on a corsair's triangular hat.
The schooner runs both with an engine and sails.
"If I go with the sails, I need a crew of six men. Without the sails, I can run the ship on my own," he explained.
His workshop and the master's bedroom are heated by big coal and wood-fired stoves, and he also has a sauna.
"Winters would get very cold in southern Russia – minus 30 Celsius," he explained.
His yacht became a celebrity in Saratov. "We would have artists visiting, parties given and exhibitions on the boat," he noted.
Last September, with the final touches on the Helon completed, he set for sail with his girlfriend and crew, first down the Volga, across the Volga-Don Canal and then down the Don to the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.
The first Turkish settlement in which he stopped was Inebolu, a small Black Sea port town, 400 km northeast of Ankara.
"I spent four days in Inebolu, but had to move on to the coastal city of Bartin, to get a trans log, or permission to sail and dock in Turkish waters," he added.
He took Helon eventually to Istanbul, spending a week in Arnavutkoy, on the Bosphorus, before moving on Kurbaglidere, where scores of fishing boats and small craft are moored.
Next week, he intends to sail for the Aegean resort boomtown Bodrum, where wants to spend about 1.5 months, and where he wants to hold exhibitions, and from there he intends to go to the Adriatic, to Montenegro and Italy.
"I don't like making proper plans," Mr. Solodkiy stressed. "Proper plans are useless."