Evgenij Kozlov ‘Miniatures in Paradise’ 1995 page 2
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Forum Kunst Rottweil
1 000 000 Shards of Heaven
Miniatures in Paradise had a precursor.
In early 1995, the Forum Kunst Rottweil invited Evgenij Kozlov and two other St. Petersburg artists, Oleg Zaika and Inal Savchenkov, to hold an exhibition. Evgenij Kozlov called it Absolute Carte Blanche.
It was a common practice for the artists to paint a flag for the exhibition, which then remained in the Forum Kunst Rottweil collection. Evgenij Kozlov used a 4 × 1.60 metre piece of white cotton fabric for his flag. As for the subject matter, he decided on two stylized figures – a man and a woman – created in 1994 for the Liverpool exhibition Signification. With this couple he further developed the 1988 figures, which, at that point, represented the polarity of the world powers, the USA and the USSR. A characteristic difference between the two symbols was already clear in 1988: the man, rooted in the earth, is extending his arms down; the woman is raising her arms up, reaching for the sky.
In contrast to the 1988 work, the 1994 figures are not standing next to each other: the man remains on the ground while the woman is floating towards the sky. The skyline of St. Petersburg is visible below the woman, and one of her arms is piercing a cloud. This gives the painting its vertical movement, which follows the idea of the Liverpool exhibition: Signification displayed ‘signs’ – flags – in a public space, and flags belong to the air element.
The Rottweil flag has another difference from the Liverpool flag. Due to the work’s vertically elongated format, the two figures are stretched out and more curved. The centre of gravity is shifted upwards; the figures become light and dynamic. Now the man also raises one of his arms: it joins the woman’s arm, and they penetrate a cloud together. This gives the impression of the man holding the weightless woman in the air. It is like when gravity is suspended in a dream. We will see that this motif undergoes a further change in the Miniatures cycle. As a reminder of where it was made, the skyline is different, too: here, we see the medieval towers of Rottweil.
In Rottweil, the artist made a stencil with sodium kraft paper for the precise execution of the image, and put it on top of the fabric.
Sodium kraft paper or kraft paper is a strong packing paper, slightly rough on one side and therefore highly absorbent. A second, uncut piece of paper was placed under the fabric and protected the floor from the lacquer paint, which was applied with rollers. Immediately after painting, the fabric had to be removed from the paper underneath so that they would not stick together. Due to the fabric’s permeability, an identical image remained on the paper below. Basically, it is the same technique as screen printing except that the print is marbled because the fabric partly absorbs the paint as it passes through with irregular intensity. This results in a rather appealing combination of the brown substrate of the paper and the soft, marbled layer of paint – in this case, red. While the stencil technique gives the textile flag a more graphic look, the print on paper is softer and has more texture.
Evgenij Kozlov decided to bring both the stencil and the paper print of the Rottweil flag to Berlin and to repeat this process with white fabric. To do this, we bought a roll of sodium kraft paper that was 1.60 metres wide and about 200 metres long. The process was the same: the paper underlay, the fabric, and the Rottweil stencil were placed on top of each other. The only difference was that the artist painted the fabric twice to achieve higher colour saturation. He also used a fresh paper underlay for the second painting, which resulted in a second print. The second print was lighter than the first one, since the cotton fibres of the fabric had remained partly stuck together after the first painting. To a certain extent, this prevented the paint from leaking through during the second painting.
The Rottweil image, to which silver stripes were added in Berlin, was given the poetic name 1 000 000 Shards of Heaven.
Paradise in Miniatures
The large roll of kraft paper gave Evgenij Kozlov an opportunity to experiment with screen printing. He had already worked with painting through fabric, especially after 1988. At that time he used gauze, which is much more permeable than cotton. He was primarily interested in the effect produced by different types of paint through wide-meshed gauze. Thus, thanks to the gauze, oil on cardboard acquired a texture reminiscent of canvas. But now that the artist used cotton and flag fabric (a dense acrylic cloth), the work on the fabric was moved to the foreground and the print on paper became a wonderful by-product.
The medium Miniatures on fabric are Papa – Mama, The Eternal Start, and The Fifth Column. Here, the artist used several of the 1988–1989 ‘constructivist’ images, for which he had also made stencils.
Among these, we find such symbols as a rocket, a Doric column, a sun spiral, a star, as well as numerous abstract elements, e.g. lines and zigzags that ‘accompany’ representational figures. We also see elements from later paintings. In The Fifth Column, for example, the group of angels on the cornice of the triumphal arch echoes the movements of several figures in the painting My Father’s Expeditions, completed in 1995.
Besides dripping, other painterly elements include single circles and series of circular dots, lined up like pearls on a string. Like dripping, they are used only sparingly, but this makes prints of the same subject unique and diverse. It is logical, therefore, that each work should have its own name.
While Evgenij Kozlov was working on the medium Miniatures, we wanted to develop the motifs on a larger scale, namely as flags for a public space. I do not remember which of us had this idea first. If I remember correctly, it was in mid-March 1995 that we decided to organise two exhibitions. The first part of the exhibition, which opened on 1 April 1995, was called Paradise in Miniatures. It showed twelve medium Miniatures at the Russian Field studio. The second part, called Miniatures in Paradise, was scheduled for 15 June, and the invitation card for the opening on 1 April stated ‘15 June to 7 July (scheduled) in a public place in Berlin’.
Miniatures in Paradise
When this decision was made, we actually had no idea of the project’s scale, that is, of the number of Miniatures, their size, or how they could be made. Besides, we had no budget, not to mention the necessary permits for the use of public space. However, it was clear to us that there was only one place in Berlin suitable for our project, and that was the Great Star square around the Victory Column. We were moved solely by the artistic effect of the Victory Column and its victory angel stretching towards the blue sky amidst the green of the trees. The upward movement of the angel breaks the horizontal plane that divides heaven and earth.
We did not consider any historical events that took place at this monument, nor the victories and defeats it symbolised. In no way do the titles of the Miniatures refer to the concept of victory: in the cycle, the victory angel is called either the Angel of the Great Star or the Heavenly Angel.  The first sketch of the arrangement shows the Great Star square from above. This ‘view from above’ corresponds to the cosmic view mentioned in the introduction. Seen from above, the Victory Column brings the earthly towards the heavenly.
From the heavenly – or the cosmic – point of view, the earthly is a miniature, but a miniature with such a strong creative potential that is significant for the cosmos.
In the text for the exhibition, Evgenij Kozlov phrased it in the following way:
When I moved my studio The Russian Field from St. Petersburg to Berlin some time ago, I never suspected that a creative paradise awaited me here – a paradise in miniature, when compared to the infinite divine paradise. The energy and power of Berlin, the pulse of German creativity, and my natural artistic strength coupled with creative visions threw me almost instantaneously in the wonderful current of German–Russian images. They arose in this city at the beginning of the twentieth century, and now reach vast proportions.
We called the first exhibition Paradise in Miniatures, based on the feeling Evgenij Kozlov experienced at his new Berlin studio. Miniatures in Paradise, the title of the cycle of sixteen flags, would be the name given to them by a human being ‘who was not born on earth and has never set foot on it’. Art, as a spiritual creation, can add something to paradise, if only in miniature.
 The opening sequence of this otherwise excellent film includes a 1945 photograph that shows Soviet soldiers celebrating their victory at the Victory Column. This is a cinematographic device that has nothing to do with our intentions. It is certainly tempting to examine Miniatures in Paradise in this particular context, just as it might be interesting to compare the cycle with other artistic productions and projects that involve the Victory Column. Other examples are Wim Wenders’ film Wings of Desire and the Love Parade of 1996–2006. Such comparative research would redefine ‘victory’ and could, therefore, also consider works like the 1913 futurist opera Victory over the Sun. This is, however, not the subject of this essay, since the Miniatures are connected to the Victory Column not through its history but its aesthetics.