Art exhibition “Other Life”
Worlds terrestrial and celestial
Italy, the country of supreme artistic traditions, the homeland of Art Academies, became a sort of Mecca for architects, painters, sculptors, graphic artists and engravers from many countries of the world. From the beginning of the XVIII century, since the emperor Peter the Great, Russian painters permanently wished to visit Italy. Among outstanding Russian masters, perfecting their skill and creating their masterpieces in Florence, Venice, Naples, and in the Eternal City of Rome there were Ivan Nikitin, Fyodor Matveyev, Orest Kiprensky, Sylvester Schedrin, Karl Bryullov, Alexander Ivanov, Ivan Aivazovsky, Nikolai Ge and many others. This list may be continued infinitely, so close were the links between Russian and Italian cultures and graphic art.
Comprehensive cultural ties and creative contacts between our countries are also continuing in 2012. A vivid illustration of that is the exhibition “Other life”. It acquaints Italian audience with three famous painters from Saint Petersburg.
They are Evgeniy Barskiy, Mikhail Koryakin and Ashot Khachatryan painters different from each other, but similar in the essential – in attitude to life and universe as a mystery linking the material and the spiritual, the sublime and the low, the rational and the expressive, the tragic and the lyric-poetical. They expose to the audience some existential essence of the contemporary Russian graphic art school, synthesizing humanistic values of the national style, its traditional principles of in-depth study of nature, on the one hand, and the findings of the ÕÕ avant-garde on the other hand.
Today we are witnessing all-pervading change of epochs, full of dramatic conflicts, a larger-scale, truly global transition from the post-industrial period to the information civilization era. Changes occur in all field of life, accompanied by crises. The trend of post-modernism culture called “current art” often has commercial, actionist, outwardly provoking nature. Speculating on achievements of the past, assuming a position of all-pervading irony occasionally running to cynicism, it came to negate many a high truth and ideal, oblivion of spiritual aspirations, lust for perception and self-improvement, carrying the man away into the world of pseudo values, where the worship of Golden Calf.
Alongside it there are processes marked by positive features, finding of new figurative and plastic qualities in art, allowing to look ahead with optimism. Painting involves struggle against dullness, greyness, and imitation. The creative thought brings forth a new image of reality, generating a new seeing and new, unheard-of benchmarks, compulsory for progressive advance of civilization and culture. The diversity originating in the contemporary world, primarily in the world of art, the very display of personality becomes public fortune.
The exhibited paintings are a certain attempt at looking ahead, when, many years after, out time will be judged by the works created today. The exhibited paintings by Russian painters, created in the hospitable land of Tuscany, combine fantasy with reality, while the human and the natural appear in various embodiments, as if synthesizing three layers – the terrestrial (human), the celestial, and the cosmic (universal).
Evgeniy Barskiy was the first of the three to pave a road to Italy. As early as the 1990-ies worked in Venice, then he visited Venice, Sicily – and, inspired everywhere by what he saw and learned, gathered abundant material later embodies in a number of impressive canvases. The painter is an untiring traveller and has walked many kilometres of roads and off-the-road from Russian North to Kamchatka with its igniferous volcanoes, fumaroles and geysers, from the “middle” Asian empire – China, an ancient country which nowadays is well away among the global leaders, to the ancient Incan country – South-American Belize.
Barskiy is primarily known as an author of large landscape canvases, though his genre boundaries are often expanded – they are sot of scenic sagas about Universe, about life of the elements, about the being of planetary cosmic forces – about Sun, Moon, about matter and spirit and, certainly, about man. The works presented at the exhibition concentrate the many years of experience accumulated by indefatigable hard work. Here the author’s explosive commitment is felt in full, at the same time showing remarkable creative self-discipline based on the discovered knowledge, and freedom of rendition far from superficial virtuosity.
His works are invariably based on communication with reality: “Nature, life itself overwhelms me so much that I can master my feelings only in the studio…” At that, his creations are not real “viewing” landscapes, but complex synthetic canvases. In the nature of his world view, Evgeniy is a dramatic, tragic and at the same time a lyrical artist, which, undoubtedly, brings him close to romanticism in the broad sense of the word. While creating a sort of a geological, “historical” landscape, he invariably seeks for a new form, both narrative and pictorial one, and that demonstrates his novelty based on the substantial foundation of high professionalism. Activity of colour, clarity of stroke, texture, peculiar rendition of volume, plane, and shape – all possibilities and components of graphic art are aimed at attaining philosophical interpretation of the world in its passions and struggles. At the same time, the painter intuitively captures the harmonic dimensionality inherent in the world, owing to which he creates not an impaired copy, but “a world much more visible that the real world” (I.W. Goethe).
Mikhail Koryakin, extremely a man of varied attainments, musician, writer, organizer of popular television programs, interprets the world as a multidimensional space-time continuum. His works featuring stars, comets, Moon, the very energy of colour, acquire an exceptionally profound material, tangible saturation, weightiness and (since he portrays planets) allow almost physical feeling of gravitation.
The author of series “Empyrean”, “Transience”, embedded in the material of easel painting “Thought-forms”, a kind of graphical Gestalt, deals with problems of rendition, by means of artistic forms, of dynamic processes of “ordering disorder”, nascence of “stellar matter” motion paths and arrangement of material space-time structures, their rarefaction and colossal concentration according to laws of “strange attractors” (here he has something in common with Evgeniy Barskiy’s searching).
He sees it as one of the most topical problems of perception of time. One of the organizers of painters’, poets’ and novelists’ movement “Spiritual mission”, he is focused on visualization of the regularities of shaping in space and time, studied by non-linear thermodynamics which generated the notion of determinate chaos, closely related to the theory of self-organization of systems – synergetics. Searching into the mysteries of shaping, the painter comprehends the principles of world construction, cognizes secrets of some fundamental “combinatorial algorithm”. As the phrase goes, God created everything out of nothing, but the nothing appears from everywhere. The view of artistic creativity from the viewpoint of energy and information exchange holds out much promise. After all, art is a system having an excess of information, since the artistic image is an organic combination of all levels of artist’s spiritual life, including the rational and the subconscious.
D.I. Mendeleyev in his time wrote about the unity of historical paths of science and art. Moreover, many mathematicians and physicists consider beauty a heuristical principle of science. Thus, Paul Dirac suggested the positron hypothesis on purely aesthetic grounds.
Ashot Khachatryan sets himself the task to render the world in all its sonorous polychromy, full colours, in a peculiar pictorial cue, combining moderate ornamentality with condensed energy. “I consider painting the most intimate of all art forms – the painter stays face to face with his canvas, with his thoughts, ideas, subconsciousness – and he should push himself to the limit. He must create beauty. Painting does not tolerate narration or preaching. In my opinion, if a painting has captured the whole person at once, was able to influence his feelings – it is a success”. Composition, to which Ashot pays much attention, is, in his own words, an exact science, which one can master consciously insistently and consistently, on the basis of calculation, on strict rational prerequisites. But he is a follower of a fundamentally different approach, and rather prefers intuitive approach to the ideal, maturing in the course of practical work directly on the canvas. That is why he seeks to ensure that his works at any stage make the impression of a complete whole.
The painter is certain that: a painting must necessarily have vagueness: it as though releases the initiative, and everyone can see something of their own, deeply personal, in any work. Possibly, it is due to this reason that the author sometimes finds it difficult or consciously avoids giving specific titles to his creations.
In A. Khachatryan’s opinion, also shared by his colleagues, it is immensely important to transform paint into colour, rich colour scheme, brought forth not only by emotional experience, but by overall intellectual strain as well. Depiction as the basis of image for them does not exist on its own, separately from painting, the goal is set to achieve organic plastic and colour pattern of the artwork. Much attention is paid to the painting technique, aesthetics of canvas, its very surface, brush movements and the method of stroke are not concealed, the pattern of painting is revealed. The high generalization level does not diminish the living sensation, rich emotional experience.
Thoroughness of aspirations, supported by vast work experience and professional skill, marks the graphic artwork by Petersburg artists Evgeniy Barskiy, Mikhail Koryakin and Ashot Khachatryan. Their typical love of life in all its manifestations and search for the essence of being lead them to recognition of the unity of Universe in its entity; and man with his daily concerns, passions and aspirations turns out to be the focus, where, as though in a microcosm, macrocosm is reflected.
They embody the reflections about the sense of human life on Earth, about the very elements and man’s creation – his house. Owing to their large-scale creativity and magnitude of their canvases, the authors have gained the merited reputation of original, forceful and prodigiously talented creators of modern art in their homeland.
Titian painted a picture called “Sacred and profane love”. This abstracted allegory, embodied by the language of plastic, colour and beautiful images in a harmonic work of graphic art, echoes in the creative work of modern Russian painters as well. During comprehension of pictorial art laws, all the more profound insight into nature and the achievements of antecedent masters, painters opted to take a step beyond matter, render in art the original substance inseparable from spirituality. It led to rethinking of the painting tasks, creation of a peculiar, original form focusing all the possibility of pictorial art: space, volume, plane, the real, and the formal. At that, while avoiding any manifestations of eclecticism, painters try to attain an organic unity of the whole, and their best canvases are distinguished for polyphony, a sort of pictorial symphonism.
Based on development of colour, light, and plastic, observed in the reality, they fuse together in a unified composition the objectivity of Universe and subjectivity of their own perception. They are constantly working on refinement of their intention, on connection of the conceptual basis with live human attitude. Without breaking with specifics, artists are able to embody the elusive motion of the elements and the state of depicted characters in an image convincing due to its sensuality.
The idea of total organic unity of laws of nature, human perception and creativity, and art is convincing enough. While science is grappling with the problem of constructing the ultra-unified field theory, joining both worlds – the physical and semantic, art is long since giving convincing examples of that. In its very essence, it is the realization of the unity of the objective and conceptual, the symbolic; the general and the particular, where potential probability, virtual possibility finds the indisputable credibility of artistic image. It is the security of immortality of art, no matter how emphatically some theorists affirm its indivertible decease, not matter how often they even state it (which happened regularly throughout the XX century, since the epoch of futurism until now).
The exhibition of three artists from the cultural capital of Russia, Saint Petersburg, convincingly demonstrates the painters’ having their mastery at hand, full of vigour and new creative designs.
Senior research associate
at State Russian Museum,
assistant professor at Repin Institute,
Member of Russia Artists' Union
and Russia Journalists’ Union