(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov ‘Miniatures in Paradise’, 1995 page 1
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(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov ‘Miniatures in Paradise’, 1995
Miniatures in Paradise was the name of Evgenij Kozlov’s exhibition at the Victory Column in Berlin. These sixteen so-called Miniatures, original paintings on fabric, measuring 5 × 2 metres, are like banners hung in churches or carried in processions. On 15 June 1995, they were raised on flagpoles in Great Star square. 
It took three months to get from the initial idea of an exhibition to its realisation – surprisingly little time, considering that the entire project was done by two people, the artist and myself. The artist Evgenij Kozlov developed the symbols for the Miniatures – first as drawings, then transferring them onto stencils – and decided on the colour palette. I obtained the fabric and paint, took care of the necessary permits, and was responsible for public relations. I was also involved in the production process – I prepared the fabric for painting, sewed the pieces together, and with great enthusiasm, helped the artist paint.
During the production process, the Miniatures were lying on the floor, and every time we saw another complete Miniature hanging and unfolding in space, it was a special experience for us. The airy, harmonious geometricized shapes, the strong colour contrasts and the clear structure of the compositions are intended to be viewed from afar. In contrast to the purely graphic look of the pictogram flags by Matt Mullican, whose exhibition was also held in 1995 in Berlin, the Miniatures have a narrative content that stems from the combination of figurative, architectural, floral, and abstract elements. These elements are designed so that the compositions give the impression of movement.
The choice of images as well as their execution was heavily influenced by the location of the exhibition. The Victory Column topped by the victory angel, the Great Star square encircling the column, the square’s surroundings, and the Tiergarten park. In connection with this cycle, Evgenij Kozlov views all these as images of heaven or paradise (the two terms are synonymous here). The cycle begins with symbols created before 1995 – man, woman, and the skyline of St. Petersburg – but then the artist develops images of angels, inspired by the Victory Column and reminiscent of St. Petersburg’s architecture. There are also other ‘Berlin’ and Russian symbols.
My 1995 description of the Miniatures reads:The sixteen Miniatures capture moments from that realm of the human soul that does not obey individual desire but arises through interactions with the universal soul – paradise – and thus binds everyone. The interactions happen between different forces or forms, symbolised through cipher-like, ideal figures – first of all Woman and Man, but also Sun, City, Column, Planet, and Angel. One can trace their origins back to Evgenij Kozlov’s work in the mid-1980s.
The artist’s central question is: How would these interactions be perceived by someone who was not born on this planet or had never even set foot on Earth? Evgenij Kozlov strives for the symbolic representation of the actual dynamics of the soul – as seen from beyond Earth.
This description draws on the artist’s note written in 1991, entitled Two Cosmic Systems, which describes his artistic approach in terms of two cosmic systems. The first system refers to the laws that exist on Earth and determine the earthly perception of art. The second system refers to the view from the cosmos of creation as a whole, ‘as if the artist had been born in the Cosmos [sic] and had completed his or her entire path of development and formation there’.
The note goes on to say:
Such a situation can be imagined. Its development can be followed only through feeling, when desire and inspiration lead to the natural merging of the two systems.
This artistic approach is reflected in the cycle’s title: Miniatures in Paradise. These 5 × 2 metre images become miniatures if viewed from the cosmos. They are depictions of a cosmic experience presented as symbols for human perception..
Evgenij Kozlov first visited Berlin in 1991, a year after we had met in St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad). He moved here permanently in 1993. In 1994, we rented an industrial loft in Berlin’s Mitte borough and founded the studio The Russian Field 2, or Russkoee Polee 2 . This gave the artist the opportunity to create large-scale works, such as the Miniatures from 1995.
With these he returned to his artistic style of 1987–1989. Back then, he used symbols appropriated by Soviet propaganda – the star, the cosmos, the family, etc. – and made them archetypes, which he designed according to the principles of constructivism and suprematism. Here I am referring to the creation of figures and other elements using basic geometric shapes: triangles, squares, circles, and intersecting lines. This approach is seen in graphics by El Lissitzky and figurative paintings by Malevich, e.g. The Woodcutter (1913).
In using such archetypes, the artist wished to overcome the ‘de-spiritualisation’ of the symbols exploited by communism. He strove to pull these symbols out of a context of political agitation by means of defamiliarisation, transformation, and intensification. He had attempted this as early as 1980 with the painting ‘The Century‘s Dead Affections‘, Until…, executed in tempera and gouache. The painting shows two male figures against a winter landscape that also represents the sky. They are talking to each other, feigning friendship. On the left, we see the USA in a top hat and a tailcoat and on the right, Russia in an immense red cape. Here, Evgenij Kozlov draws on another invention of the Soviet Russian avant-garde: the aesthetics of the ROSTA windows (1919–1921), satirical propaganda posters against the class enemy, best known from Mayakovsky’s work. However, Evgenij Kozlov’s works differ significantly from revolutionary art. Revolutionary art is innovative in its aesthetics, but simplistic in its stereotypes of good and evil. Here, on the other hand, there are no such clichés: neither figure yields to the other. What they neither see nor suspect is that they are protected from mutual destruction by an angel standing behind them and engulfing them in its wings. Behind the angel there is a large cross that traverses the entire image. Since the angel and the cross merge into the blue of the sky landscape, they do not immediately catch the viewer’s eye. This subtle transformation gives the painting depth.
Another image of the angel, which occupies a central position in the Miniatures, evolved from the 1988–1989 constructivist archetypes of man and woman: beginning practically at the waist, their tapered arms are shaped almost like wings. To transform these figures into angels, one simply needs to extend either the upper or the lower line of the arm like a bow. As the arm becomes wider, it turns into a wing. In addition to such arms, the angels in Miniatures 7–10 have large feathered wings, outspread like those of the 1980 angel.
Angels as spiritual symbols play a significant role in Evgenij Kozlov’s work. However, they are not necessarily given angelic features such as wings. In the 1990 painting The Angels of the Russian Field, the central angel has no wings. This is also true of the numerous figures from the 1994 graphic cycle of the same name. In Miniatures in Paradise, on the other hand, the artist refrains from painting the face, through which he usually conveys figures’ spiritual condition. He only indicates the face with a circular cut-out. Here, he conveys the figures’ spiritual states through bodily movement and the spatial arrangement of the composition. In contrast to the largely non-objective graphic art of El Lissitzky, who uses geometric elements to create more or less complex centres of gravity within the painting, Evgenij Kozlov employs hierarchization, gradation, and mutual penetration of various elements to express human–divine connections.
The 1989–1990 cycle New Classicals, also executed with the stencil technique, develops this approach in a highly complex way. For Miniatures in Paradise, intended to be viewed from afar, the number of shapes was reduced. They had to be more pictorial but without the content losing its spiritual substance.
In terms of the production method, the Miniatures are standards. That is, unlike flags, they are unique pieces. Technically, they are banners (in the modern sense of the word): they hang on a crossbar that is attached to a flagpole with a rope. They are vertically stabilised by a ribbon with rings, which is sewn on the fabric in the middle of the banner. A rope is threaded through these rings and tied to the flagpole. Partly due to this design, but mostly due to semantics, Evgenij Kozlov has lately been calling the Miniatures khorugvs – the term for processional banners (gonfalons) in the Church Slavonic language.
Translated quotes in this document have been slightly corrected and are not identical to the same quotes in previous publications.
 The Russian Field 1 was his Leningrad studio (1989–1991).
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