|M E M O
N O ! a r t
ABOUT MY PAINTINGS
|Published in: Leonid Pinchevsky, Catalog, Maya Polsky Gallery, Chicago, 1991.|
My paintings are confessional and autobiographical. That is why, following my advice to myself, I write about my own work Generally speaking, these eight paintings are self-portraits. In creating them, I was helped along by my merits. Among these I would list fear and boredom as the most prominent. Fear because having discovered that I am not such a young man anymore, I was afraid that glory would not reach me on time. And boredom, because boredom is my most usual state of 10 being - especially at art exhibits.
For most of my life I lived in Russia. There were annual exhibits in Moscow at the Manege Exhibition Hall (formerly a Czar's stable). These exhibitions were huge - tens of thousands of works of art. But after looking through the first several rooms the viewer (me) would lose all interest. The works, although made by thousands of different artists, all seemed the same. "How could one artist create so much?" a viewer, overwhelmed by the boredom of it all, once asked sarcastically. After coming to the West and after living here for some time I started experiencing the same emotions. A characteristic activity of 20th century avant-garde art is destruction - destruction of form of stereotypes, of notions. The more, the better - and the more destruction the greater the conformity. Steadily, the state of Western contemporary avant-garde has come to resemble that of the Manege.
The impetus for this series of paintings was my desire to fight this aesthetic boredom. And since all around me the "avant-gardists" thrashed and smashed with their foremost dream to destroy yet another idea, I fled their Soho scene and went in the opposite direction. This is how I came to subject matter as the content of my work.
The subject of my pictures - and all my paintings are pictures - are absolutely banal stories. Generally, the banal is what interests me most in this pseudo-intellectual world because banality smackes of stupidity. But banality is the aspect of salon painting that really interests me, especially when juxtaposed with luxurious presentations "a la Louvre," in glorious colors, and with classical composition.
For example, the painting "Better Than a Mushroom" is about a young girl who went to the forest to gather mushrooms. There, she met a beautiful naked boy who had a real penis and a sinful face. He was urinating. The girl touched his wings (angel!) and thought, "He is a better find than mushrooms!" This painting employs the luxurious colors of 19th century French salon neo-classicism, it is full of the joy of life and very beautiful. When all around us artists have replaced philosophers and everybody talks about deconstruction and postmodernism irony, such a simple painting is puzzling. It is as simple as the world and that is what makes it different - makes it unique. Reach the heights through simplicity, banality, classicism, kitsch, salon, and you can transcend postmodernism estrangement.
How were these paintings born? Take the painting "Waiting for the Rain" where two girls are sitting on their potties with a beautiful landscape behind them. When I was very young, I was intuitively and immediately interested in girls. Once, I saw two girls sitting on their potties; they were almost naked - and so beautiful. When I saw them, I rushed towards them shouting, "Girls, girls, it's me, a boy!" The girls just glanced at me indifferently.
I was always chagrined that I was not born tall and brawny. So the painting "Bad Joke" is a scene of a brawny and stupid man trying to lift a weak and clever one - a therapy of complexes!
All my paintings are big. Why? I thought that the large size would magnify the grandiosity of the idea, and it worked. As one viewer said, "I am amazed that you have dedicated such monumental labor, all to express such nonsense and stupidity!" This was the best of compliments because it was a covert dream of mine, since stupidity is very clever and pleasant. But for me, to be clever is boring and not permitted - I was there once already.
Through this very simple form of classical painting, I wanted to tell banal stories of human existence both ridiculous and light-hearted. Often having ventured on a life journey you immediately encounter idiotic nonsequiturs - you step into a red pan that is lying in the road. Or when you are on a stroll, exhaling in nature you stumble upon a lackey. Although depicted simply and clearly, all these elements in my paintings become enigmatic and mystical. As one viewer (an artist) observed, "Oh, How everything superficially obvious in your works turns out to be so complex!"
Every artist keeps score in his works. The majority strive to score thousands, millions - as I did for many years. Now I follow a different strategy; I strive to score one.