(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s >>
The New Artists.
Timur Novikov: Roots – E-E Kozlov: Cosmos
Chapter 13. A perception of pureness
To create an image – the illusion of something possessing life – requires a feeling of inner freedom, a specific “state of experiencing the soul”. E-E Kozlov described a number of times – in different years and in different ways – both this “state of experiencing the soul” and the process leading to it. In a passage from his diary from October from 1982, we read:
Set in this kind of conditions, people do not create anything – they exist.
A couple of years ago, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov defined this very experience as a perception of pureness (ощущение чистоты, oshchushchenie chistoty) . The terms “pure” and “pureness” appear frequently in Kozlov’s notes. We find them already in his diaries, from which I quoted the following passage in chapter three:
The perception of pureness comprehends emptiness and plenty simultaneously. When does such an experience occur? What are the specific "conditions of the possibility of experience", in terms of transcendental philosophy?
In his seminal Letters On the Aesthetic Education of Man, Friedrich von Schiller, laying the foundation for a theory of such a “perception of pureness”, called it the aesthetic disposition of the mind or aesthetic state. It is the moment when the impact from both senses and cognition is brought into equilibrium, so that neither sensation nor reason determine us:
Such a perception of pureness “in which our nature is constrained neither physically nor morally and yet is active in both ways”, according to Schiller, has to be produced within oneself by purposefully, as Kozlov wrote in 1982. It is the result of annihilating in one’s mind all types of “outer stimuli”, that is, of constraining factors. In Evgenij Kozlov’s life, there was an abundance of morally constraining factors – not least due to his being an unofficial artist – to which Peterhof acted as a counterbalance, to use Schiller’s image of a balance. Peterhof proposed a specific sensual determination, although I would actually speak of Peterhof’s atmosphere, which constitutes an airy, though physical condition. Atmosphere refers to the air we breathe in a closed space – atmos as vapour, and sphaira as sphere, globe. In this respect, Peterhof represented a unique sphere – a microcosm I tried to briefly describe in the previous chapters.
It is therefore entirely justified to include Peterhof into Kozlov’s native roots, notwithstanding the fact that roots connote tradition, while atmosphere connotes presence. But as Peterhof’s atmosphere transcends the tradition that impregnates it, we may consider it as a topos of Kozlov’s native culture.
To put it differently: it was not because Kozlov saw a beautiful palace or garden that he felt incited to copy this beauty with his own work, like a plein air artist – although he did paint Peterhof (and Leningrad) motifs, especially in the early 1980s. Rather, as part of his everyday life, Peterhof made him experience a sufficient degree of harmony to allow him to metamorphose reality and “enhance” it in his art according to his own ideas of harmony. This is why I called his art augmented reality earlier.
In fact, Peterhof offered a peculiar combination of refined taste and highest craft on the one side, and unsophisticated, or even crude functional Soviet design on the other, often makeshift solutions lacking care for details. But sometimes, Soviet design had the potential of found objects that could be made into a work of art. Those wooden, manually printed bus stop signs “decorating” the streets of Peterhof (and Leningrad) made up an extremely interesting sample of primitive art. Kozlov appropriated them for his ART from the USSR/ART for the USA” series described in the last chapter, and in 1988/1989 they became prototypes for his “New Classicals” cycle.
This description bears some resemblance to what Ekaterina Andreeva wrote about Timur Novikov and Leningrad: “The urban environment offered him two contradictory worlds: living classicism amidst rough-and-tumble punk streets.”
Yet it stands in contrast to Andreeva’s more general remark about the New Artists:
E-E Kozlov has never rejected the notion of an artwork as something sublime – quite the contrary, he has always taken great care in achieving, for each composition, a degree of perfection that would satisfy his concept of the sublime, of harmony, which means nothing other than injecting the vitality Andreeva is speaking of. Sublime harmony is another definition of perception of pureness.
Thus, the bus stop signs from the ART from the USSR/ART for the USA” series have become highly complex images holding numerous semantic references to Russian and Soviet history, but the main point is that each of the references is integrated compositionally, that is, with regard to style and technique (lettering, collage, scratching…) into a specific structure of harmony. To perceive the harmony of an image, we do not have to understand all its references, but the more we understand them, the more its harmony unfolds.
Besides, it is not uncommon for Kozlov to return to a work after a couple of years when he sees the need for a new harmony, for instance in the case of his collage-diptych 21 AVE USA – CCCP from 1984, which he changed drastically in 1986.
I understand Ekaterina Andreeva’s point: the sublime can be a cliché if taken as a synonym for a canon of beauty, and just the same goes for the term “harmony” – we Immediately think of a group of young artists drawing from plaster casts of antique busts in an academy of art. In contrast, the “rough matter of life” seems to offer possibilities that a golden ratio denies.
But in art, the rough and unrefined can become just the same cliché or fetish as the sublime, especially when pushing it to the limit and making a virtue of necessity – for instance of the unavailability of white canvas, of the untouched, clean surface that allows thought to materialise without being distracted by reacting to unsophisticated.
After a while, the pendulum is swinging back the other way, to a cliché of beauty. Ironically, Novikov became a fierce advocate of an aesthetic canon of the past when he created the New Academy of Fine Arts at the end of the 1980s and started to invite students to draw from plaster busts.
Kozlov’ changes in style were not motivated ideologically; they constitute different approaches to create harmony which may or may not include the rough.
An example of how the rough becomes sublime is Kozlov’s constructivist painting “Points of Contact” from 1989. The artist painted it on jute fabric used for sackings to which he sewed an irregular piping, a technique he developed in 1987 for his “White on Red” series. I discussed this work in the third chapter of this article, where I described Kozlov’s compositional method of turning antagonistic forces – the USA and the CCCP – into complementary forces, thus achieving a multiple synthesis of these forces. The motif is based on a sketch from 1988 which was completed in a felt-lined cutlery tray. Both the jute fabric and the cutlery tray represent “cheap” materials, but their very qualities become essential features of these highly refined compositions. It was actually the felt-lined cutlery tray that inspired Kozlov to the specific layout of figures and script, which he transferred to the painting from 1989.
This is no proof to my argument that is was Peterhof‘s sophisticated side that stimulated Kozlov’s dialectical approach to art (or to Peterhof‘s unsophisticated side in the case of the bus stop signs). A genuine proof, in the sense of unambiguous cause-and-effect relation between harmony experienced and harmony produced, would require carrying out a comparative analysis: how Kozlov’s art would have developed had his family not moved to Peterhof but remained in Leningrad, where the artist continued spending some of his time between exhibitions and concerts at the Rock Club or the Palace of Youth, where he created performances with his fellow artists at Timur Novikov’s place, or where he simply went to see his friends, like the New Composers Valery Alakhov and Igor Verichev.
Even more intriguing is the thought that his family might have moved to Kupchino, the epitome of a monotonous microdistrict. But for obvious reasons, we cannot draw a conclusion from a hypothesis, and such thoughts remain pure speculation.
At this point, I suggest to change the term “influence” – the influence of native culture – for a better one: inspiration drawn from native culture. Influence suggests some kind of physical transmission, like contracting an influenza virus, and also a passiveness of those “being under the influence”. It is not accidentally that Timur Novikov compared overcoming western influences to overcoming a childhood disease; quite obviously, those were bad influences that had to be defeated “by the victory for our own native roots”.
Inspiration, on the other hand, has a spiritual dimension that presupposes that we possess a certain degree of autonomy and maturity with regard to what we perceive as inspiring. In which way can beauty or harmony serve as inspiration? We may find an answer once more in Friedrich von Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man:
In this way, beauty is linked to freedom via a specific state it helps to generate within a person — Schiller’s above-mentioned aesthetic state or Kozlov’s perception of pureness. Schiller also defines this state as Bestimmungslosigkeit, which has been translated alternatively as indetermination, indeterminacy (Reginald Snell), and indeterminism (Keith Tribe). During this moment of indetermination, individuals are set free: their intellectual faculties can now act according to their own laws.
Two aspects are important here. The first regards freedom: freedom is transient state; it last as long as the perception of pureness carries on.
The second aspect regards what a person will do once finding herself or himself in this aesthetic state. The concept of the intellectual faculties’ own laws presupposes that artists know what they are doing – that is to say, that they will do not just anything at random, but this, and not that. Once there is no longer the pressure (or the authority) of a pre-established canon, responsibility towards one’s own production increases.
This is why beauty “around” cannot serve as a model for beauty produced, although the former is, at least to some degree, a condition for the latter. This is also why native roots are important for, but not determining innovation.
The moment of indetermination – the perception of pureness – absorbs the past in such a way that it is still there, but not as intruder. It is there discreetly ready to provide examples. We might regard this as a certain generosity from the part of native culture, which is never jealous if “foreign” influences join in.
But how then should we know what should be done next? Because the perception of pureness makes us receptive to new impulses. In a talk from 1991, Kozlov described “a feeling experienced by the artist that places him in a state of receptiveness – a feeling, moreover, that actually precedes the creative act.”
Immediately, the next question comes up: how do we know that these impulses are new? Here, I will borrow another statement from Schiller regarding the moment when “there is the highest expansion of being“, when we have “risen to a unit of idea”:
“…time, with its complete and infinite succession, is in us” means that in this very specific “moment in time”, to use this paradox, we are partaking in what the future holds in stake for us, what is a potential, but not yet a fact.
In philosophy, this “moment” has been regarded as a nunc stans, a timeless moment, the eternal now. Hannah Arendt spoke of a nunc stans as a “time gap, which is an immovable present”. Paradoxically, such a “time gap” opens the possibility for the activity of thinking:
“Galaxy Gallery”, the very limited physical space available to Evgenij Kozlov for realising his artistic ideas, offered him, from time to time, the unlimited temporal dimension to experience a nunc stans. We may thus consider Kozlov’s “galaxy” not as distant physical realm but as kind of temporal/non-temporal realm – in contrast to Hannah Arendt, who looks at cosmos as a physical place: “The most radical change in the human condition we can imagine would be an emigration of men from earth to some other planet”.
Physical emigration can be replaced by a development of one’s feelings. Kozlov’s theory “Two Cosmic Systems”, discussed in Chapter 3, suggests an “as if” process to make “the entrance of art into the Cosmic space, i.e., into Infinity, spiritual and fruitful” :
If we relate Earth to matter and Cosmos to form, we find important parallels to Schillers statement quoted above: “Beauty can become a means of leading Man from matter to form, from perception to principles, from a limited to an absolute existence”.
In this way, the faculty to create within oneself a perception of pureness is the decisive factor to proceed from a limited to an absolute existence.
Many have described of this state of indetermination, when the “scales of a balance stand level”. The concept of French philosopher, mystic, and political activist Simone Weil’s appears to be very close to Kozlov’s perception of pureness: “Thought must be empty, waiting, not searching for anything, but ready to receive in its naked truth the object which will penetrate there”.
It is very important that for Kozlov as well as for Weil, this “waiting process” is not a passive process, but a form of attention. Weil speaks of “the practice of a form of attention which is rare in itself and impossible except in solitude. This is never achieved by a man who thinks of himself as a member of a collectivity”.
Perhaps better than the term “time gap” (which puts us “out” of time and thereby connotes a spatial dimension), Schiller’s formula of “time being in us” can help us to conceive of our activity as unfolding with dialectical aspects of receptiveness and will, of meditation and concentration, in the way Kozlov expressed it in our conversation about the “Art of the Future”:
Meditation and concentration do not lead to a life of contemplation. In the 1980s, Evgenij Kozlov kept the balance between being a member of a collectivity – the New Artists – and being at distance from this collectivity, in Peterhof. Both activities were equally significant for his art, and through his art, made a contribution to the collectivity.
Let us assume that a certain inner freedom is required to be receptive to impulses coming from “the not-yet” – the future – and that freedom also needs to be present in terms of external factors to allow a certain inner freedom. How do these two “types” of freedom relate to each other? To what extent are external factors decisive to allow a certain inner freedom to come into existence?
This question is all the more relevant in a society subjected to repressive state control, like that of the Soviet Union which added political restrictions to those “normal” constraints an unofficial artist experienced: lack of space and finances. Clearly, the perestroika process played a liberating role in the second half of the 1980s, but in no lesser way, Peterhof‘s atmosphere constituted a positive external factor in the case of E-E Kozlov, especially for the period prior to perestroika.
Yet Kozlov burnt one of his paintings from 1986 on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, an early work from his “CCCP-USA” compositions which he feared might lead to his arrest – a regretful act of destruction, judging by the black-and-white pictures from his archive. The canvas didn’t burn very well and he discarded the painting behind some rocks close to Peterhof’s Lower Park, where it might be found one day.
In 1989, Kozlov moved from Peterhof to Leningrad, leaving “Galaxy Gallery” for his new studio “Russkoe Polee” / “The Russian Field”, before finally moving to Berlin at the beginning of the nineteen nineties. His synthetic view of art, fostered during his Peterhof years, has developed further. It led him, in 2009, to his theory of “CHAOSe ART, where he defined art as “the spiritual layer is located between the paper and the paint applied by the artist.“
The perception of pureness, “caught” in the spiritual layer, allows Kozlov to integrate whatever has the potential to become a novel feature in his art, be it “native”, “non-native” or fragments from his previous works. With this pluralism of stylistic approaches, he has created his own distinctive style.
In August 2020, E-E Kozlov formulated his artistic credo in the following way:
В этом мире всё материально, кроме мысли.
(Даже Душа имеет свой вес и объём)Everything in this world but thought is material
(Even the soul possesses weight and volume)
 Душа - человек, находящийся в состоянии полного покоя, естественно влившийся в окружающую среду. Человек без какой-либо человеческой системы общения, подобный природе. Состояние ощущения души возникает вообще крайне редко. Время без внешних раздражителей нет, но его возможно создавать самому по своему желанию – сила ума.
Человек, поставленный в подобные условия ничего не создает, но существует.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozloy, Diary III, pp. 41-42, 1982. Web 20 August 2020
 In a private conversation, around 2016-2017. No written documentation available at present.
 Когда я творю, этот непонятный процесс движения руки и мысли – это «передатчик» нашего неразрывного единства. Масса мозга чиста с точки зрения человеческого понятия о необходимости рождения в ней каких-то мыслей, но бесконечно наполнена ощущением окружающей меня жизни и пространства, это чистое чувство, оно не стремится быть выраженным словами. Здесь не существует таких слов как объективность и субъективность – они возникают уже позднее в глазах и ушах зрителей.
Kozlov, Evgenij (E-E), Diary III, pp. 3-10, January 1982. Web 20 August 2020.
 Schiller, Friedrich. On the Aesthetic Education of Man, translated with an introduction by Reginald Snell. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, 1954. Reprinted in 2004, p. 98
For a detailed discussion of Schiller’s theory see Alexander Schmidt’s introduction in Friedrich Schiller On the Aesthetic Education of Man, Penguin Classics, 2016
 Schiller, Ibid, p. 99
 Fobo, Hannelore. (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov “Новая Классика • New Classicals.” 2019. Web 20 August 2020.
 Andreeva, Ekaterina “A new wave. Classical aesthetics: the paintings and graphic art of the New Artists” in: The New Artists. Edited by Ekaterina Andreeva and Nelly Podgorskaya. Moscow: Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 2012, p. 41
 Andreeva, Ekaterina “ASSAmblage as an Operative Principle”. in: The New Artists. Edited by Ekaterina Andreeva and Nelly Podgorskaya. Moscow: Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 2012, pp. 63
 I discussed the reasons why Kozlov didn’t join the “New Academy” in my paper from 2014: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov “New Classicals” and Timur Novikov “New Russian ”
Web 15 September 2020.
Kozlov had in fact copied plaster busts in the 1970s, when preparing himself for the entrance examination to the Mukhina Art School, Leningrad's prestigious Higher School of Art and Industry (present-day Stieglitz Academy), where he planned to complete the textile design programme. He failed the tests twice and as a result wasn't admitted to the art school, which he later called a lucky twist of fate.
 In 1985, Kozlov employed the same material for two large portraits, one of Georgy Guryanov, and another one of Timur Novikov. “Timur Novikov on Horseback” was printed on the cover of the catalogue the New Artists’ first large international exhibition in Stockholm, 1988. Web 20 August 2020. http://www.e-e.eu/The-New-From-Leningrad-1988/index.htm and Chapter 3
He again used the same material for a number of paintings in the 1990s, among them a self-portrait from 1995.
 We can, however, definitely refuse the argument that Kupchino would have erased Kozlov’s art altogether. After all, artist and musician Georgy Guryanov, who lived with his family in Kupchino, nevertheless set a benchmark for stylishness among his artist friends; Kozlov caught his elegant presence in his well-known 1984 series of painted photo-collages “Good Evening, Gustav”.
 Schiller, Friedrich. On the Aesthetic Education of Man, translated with an introduction by Reginald Snell. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, 1954. Reprinted in 2004, p. 92
 Denkkräfte is the German term translated as Intellectual faculties; perhaps “faculties of the realm of thought” would be a more appropriate translation, if we want to avoid associating intellectual faculties with academic reflexion.
 The Art of the Future. A conversation between (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov and Hannelore Fobo, 1991.
Web 20 August 2020.
 Schiller, Friedrich. On the Aesthetic Education of Man, translated with an introduction by Reginald Snell. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, 1954. Reprinted in 2004, P. 67
 Arendt, Hannah. The Life of the Mind, Chapter “The gap between the past and future”. New York, 1978, pp. 207.
 Ibid. p.211. I would change Arendt’s translation of Kant‘s “Land der reinen Vernuft” – “land of pure intellect” – into “land of pure reason”, as reason is the higher category with respect to intellect.
 Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Chicago, 1958, Second Edition 1998, p.9
 Kozlov (E-E) Evgenij. Two Cosmic Systems, 1991, translated into English. Web 20 August 2020
 Weil, Simone. Waiting on God 1951, tr. Emma Caruford. New York: Putnam, 1951, pp. 92-93
 McLellan, David. Utopian Pessimist: the Life and Thought of Simone Weil, New York, 1990, p. 276
 Fobo, Hannelore and Kozlov, (E-E) Evgenij. CHAOSE ART. 2009. Web 20 August 2020.
Research / text / layout: Hannelore Fobo, May / September 2020.
Uploaded 24 September 2020