Evgenij Kozlov ‘Miniatures in Paradise’, 1995 page 4
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Miniatures: – An Interpretation
Looking out from Earth, paradise as the universal soul is hidden from our view. Artistic inspiration can conceive what happens behind the veil and express it through symbols. In this sense, the Miniatures are ‘the symbolic representation of the actual dynamics of the soul – as they are seen from beyond Earth’.
This does not run counter to the fact that symbols used in the Miniatures can be identified with earthly, physical objects. The artist searches for and creates symbols based on their meanings, which are reminiscent of, but not identical to, their earthly functions. The symbol of the woman is not a depiction of a real woman, nor is the symbol of the man a depiction of a real man. Real women and men have both female and male characteristics. Miniatures 11, The Affectionate Fires of Petrodvorets, and 12, Feminine Life – Masculine Dream, may illustrate this. The relationship between ‘above – below’ and ‘man – woman’ changes from 11 to 12. The domed tower serves as a turning point. One image merges into the other. We find a similar graphic representation of polar forces transforming into each other in the symbol of the Yin and Yang. Evgenij Kozlov depicted this transformation earlier in the 1989 painting Points of Contact. A black dot is located on the man’s head and on the woman’s lower body; a red point is located on the woman’s head and on the man’s lower body.
Even the domed tower as a Berlin motif is the result of such a thematic transformation of the rotundas at Peterhof (Petrodvorets). This is expressed by the title of 11 and this is also the reason the artist describes the painting as ‘the tsar’s residence’.
A comparison of Miniatures 5 and 7 demonstrates just how diversified the development of the symbols can be, especially with regard to the angels. Miniature 5, Paradise in Miniature, evolves out of the St. Petersburg skyline, dominated by the spire of the Peter and Paul Cathedral. For Evgenij Kozlov, this church is the city’s spiritual centre, and the two figures that frame the church’s spire are the apostles it is named after. The angel in Kozlov’s painting is pulled out of the spire; together they constitute an ideal, but not material, unity. The seven angels surrounding the central spire could be apostles as well: their arrangement is clearly reminiscent of The Last Supper.
In the sketch for this painting, the artist placed four angels on each side of the central figure. In the final version, however, the central angel has seven companions. Seven plus one or, better yet, seven in one, is a world creation number – according to Genesis, the world was created in seven days.
Evgenij Kozlov arranged the composition so that the viewer is looking at the city’s skyline – primarily, at the Peter and Paul Fortress – as if standing on the southern bank of the Neva River. The river is merely suggested by a narrow line at the bottom of the painting. Still, it is the barrier that separates the viewer from the painting’s content: it is the river of forgetfulness – Lethe in Greek mythology – from which souls drink upon entering the underworld. The artist is the ferryman who rows the souls across. We see what we are going to see when we cross the river of forgetfulness and go to the next life: not to the underworld, but to paradise. Paradise is shown to us in symbols in the heavenly assembly. But if these symbols capture reality, if, in other words, they contain nothing made up or invented, then they can affect us. This means that the boundary between this world and the other world is not solid, and forgetfulness is not absolute, neither in one direction nor in the other.
In Miniature 7, The Angel of the Great Star, the angel has one leg firmly on the ground, like a pillar that supports the angel, while the other leg swings to the side. Our gaze is directed towards the angel’s body at centre of the painting. We view the Great Star and its five radial lines from above, and the sky is seen from below, into which the angel is lifting the Victory Column. This double perspective gives the angel’s figure its optical curvature and plasticity.
The asymmetric star looks like a living creature that stretches its limbs into different directions, spreading a network of energy lines over the earth: the spikes have open ends which seem to converge somewhere in infinity. If we mentally project this figure beyond the painting’s edges, it would follow the curve of the earth. Thus, we have two colliding curved spaces: the horizontal space of the star and the vertical space of the angel. Both figures seem to float, embedded in dimensionless airspace.
The artist chose the silhouette of the Peter and Paul Fortress for the St. Petersburg motif for its historical significance. The construction of the fortress in 1703 by Peter the Great marks the beginning of the city’s history and consequently, Russia’s opening to the West, which was essential for its subsequent development. The Western European influence on the shaping of St. Petersburg was significant – not only in terms of architecture, but also the city’s institutions.
The choice of the Victory Column as a Berlin motif, on the other hand, is less obvious. Berlin’s best-known landmark is the Brandenburg Gate, and had Evgenij Kozlov been simply looking for an angel figure, the goddess of victory on the four-horse chariot would have worked just as well: just like the victory angel on the Victory Column, she is nothing more and nothing less than the goddess Nike, the Greek name of Victoria. .
However, if we put Miniatures 5 and 7 next to each other, it is obvious that the Brandenburg Gate’s horizontal orientation would have been a mere variation of the St. Petersburg skyline. This would have resulted in a certain arbitrariness and interchangeability of symbols. Their recognisability would have come to the fore, like in advertising, where a symbol is made into a stereotype.
The Angel of the Great Star (7) is no such stereotype. The painting differs from Paradise in Miniature (5) in both subject matter and composition. The main difference lies in what was outlined above: the St. Petersburg motif is mostly defined by heavenly activity while heavenly and earthly spirituality are only connected by an invisible link. By contrast, the Berlin motif has a much stronger centre: the angel bound to the earth, lifting a man-made object – the Victory Column – into the sky.
Nevertheless, the two Miniatures are in harmony with each other. This is also true of their second versions, 6, You Cannot Command Your Heartand 8, The Heavenly Angel. On one hand, this results from the choice of colours that echo each other. On the other, the Berlin motif inserts a fragment from the St. Petersburg skyline. Situated above the Great Star, this fragment casts a yellow shadow and thus forms the horizon in this painting.
If we ask ourselves, ‘what is Russian about Berlin?’, the answer will be not as clear as if we ask ‘what is German about St. Petersburg?’, which even has a German name. Of course, Berlin’s name is of Slavic origin, but it is most likely a geographical reference. In any case, it was not a conscious choice, like it was when Peter the Great named St. Petersburg after the apostle Peter. It was Kozlov’s conscious choice to transfer the silhouette of the Peter and Paul Fortress onto the Great Star.
This shows that the artist is taking a spiritual approach to the angel of the Great Star, an approach that has nothing to do with the Victory Column’s historical origin – the Prussian victories in the nineteenth century. The angel in the Angel of the Great Star is raising the Victory Column up, as if it were growing out of the angel. In Ingrid Molnar’s documentary, Evgenij Kozlov compared this Victory Column with a cross growing out of a head, an image from two small Miniatures, one Eve and one Adam:‘Sometimes I put this column on the heads of my symbols, my images, my ideas. But it is the first time that I have used a cross growing out of a head’.
This approach is the result of his artistic perception, which has been shaped by the Western European architecture of St. Petersburg and Peterhof (Petrodvorets) and the tsar’s residence on the Gulf of Finland. It is fostered by the natural harmony of the place, the sky, the gulf, and the parks. This strong sensibility, coupled with a will that removes everything disharmonious from perception, leads to new artistic forms and symbols.
The artist explains his creative goal in describing the two small Miniatures that show figures framed by hearts:I had painted hearts before, but they were very small and placed inside the figure’s chest, head, or hands. Here they have grown quite large and envelop the figure. It is a play on inverted symbols. As the heart becomes bigger and bigger, there is more and more love, more and more colour, and more and more beauty.