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(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s >>
The New Artists.
Timur Novikov: Roots – E-E Kozlov: Cosmos
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Портрет Тимура Новикова с костяными руками
Portrait of Timur Novikov with Arms Consisting of Bones".
Mixed media on canvas, 103 x 94 cm, 1988. The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg more >>
Reproduction from the exhibition catalogue Udar kisti [Удар кисти] • Brushstroke, ed. Evgenia Petrova, The State Russian Museum, 2010, p. 180
Chapter 7 Beyond the trend: Kozlov’s Portrait of Timur Novikov (1988)
We will once more quote Novikov’s statement entirely: “The process of perestroika under way in the country has stimulated self-consciousness and the victory for our own native roots over western influences. The New Artists opened the V.V. Mayakovsky Friends Club, an organization designed to strengthen and cultivate innovative native traditions.”
We can now say that contrary to Novikov’s statement, native – avant-garde – roots were present in the works of the New Artists well before 1986. To this I will add that contrary to Novikov’s expectations, native avant-garde roots did not prevail after 1986, otherwise Kozlov might well have painted his constructivist series White on Red in 1987, but no not, in 1988, his emblematic Portrait of Timur Novikov with Arms Consisting of Bones, set against a renaissance-style background.
What is more, this portrait makes it very difficult to describe the works produced by the New Artists by a single term – for instance, by the category of recompositioning (перекомопозиция) , a term created by Novikov no later than 1986 and specified as a collage technique proper to the New Artists:
If we define recompositioning as appropriating “strange” elements for one’s own composition, then recompositioning was doubtlessly important for the New Artists, not least of all for Evgenij Kozlov. But this category doesn’t apply to his portrait of Timur from 1988, that is, unless we treat it as a re-composition of – well, of what? Of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa? They are both seen as half-figures directly engaging the viewer with their gaze, each resting the right hand on the left – in the case of Timur, a skeleton hand. As Leonardo Da Vinci, E-E- Kozlov set the horizon line at the shoulders, creating a strong depth impression with a southern landscape background. However, speaking of a re-composition makes more sense for Kozlov’s painted poster of Mona Lisa from his CCCP-USA series, which it artist turned into a personal message from the Gioconda to himself, adding the words Дорогой Женя / Dear Zhenya, Zhenya being the diminutive of Evgenij.
Or should we call Kozlov’s portrait of Timur a re-compostion of the icon of Christ Pantocrator from Saint Catherine's Monastery? They share a number features I described in my 2014 lecture (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov “New Classicals” and Timur Novikov “New Russian Classicism”:
Be that as it may, Kozlov’s highly sophisticated, magic portrait of Timur Novikov is definitely not the result of a process of recycling, of shifting pieces from left to right and from top to bottom. At most, we could call it a “further development” or “evolution” of Kozlov’s own works, as the artist used the main features from his overpainted photograph from around 1985 and from his portrait of Timur from 1986 based on the same picture, although the composition clearly demonstrates Kozlov’s profound knowledge of at history. But in a proper sense, the shock effect this portrait has on the viewer marks not an evolution of art history, but a revolution in art history. Definitions such as recomposition or recycling are much to weak to explain Kozlov’s artistic practise.
It goes without saying that when Novikov defined New Artists' style categories in 1986, he did not have to foresee what would happen in 1988. We might, however, expect more care with defining such categories retrospectively. I don’t know who was responsible for the slogan “Бодрость, тупость и задор» / “cheerfulness, idiocy, and ardour”, used for the press campaign for the “Brushstroke” exhibition, the first retrospective of the New Artists and the Necorealists, which took place at the Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg, in 2010. In its issue of 23 February 2010, the art magazine Artchronica.ru printed this slogan next to Kozlov’s portrait of Timur, where such a definition looks particularly out of place. I will come back to this slogan in Chapter 9.
In fact, any such simple unifying definition will necessarily reduce the number of New Artists retrospectively. A recent example from 2019 is the exhibition catalogue Ekho Ekspressionizma, Iskusstvo Leningrada serediny – vtoroy poloviny XX veka / Echo of Expressionism. Leningrad Art of the Mid- and Second Half of the 20th Century ; the exhibition took place at the Russian Museum in 2020.
For the exhibition, curator Ekaterina Andreeva selected works by five New Artists: Oleg Kotelnikov Timur Novikov, Vadim Ovchinnikov, Inal Savchenkov and Ivan Sotnikov. In the exhibition catalogue, Andreeva writes that “Timur Novikov and the New Artists (Ivan Sotnikov, Oleg Kotelnikov, Vadim Ovchinnikov, and Inal Savchenkov) created the information space of actual culture”. In this way, Andreeva shrank the number of the group’s members to a mere five – all neo-expressionists. This is all the stranger if one considers that Andreeva had extended the list of New artists to over forty in the New Artists catalogue for the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 2012.
Andreeva’s text also shows the difficulty of connecting the New Artists with native roots and novelty simultaneously. In her introduction to “Echo of Expressionism”, Andreeva argues that:
Andreeva specifies this tradition as a rebellion of man against the system, an element proper to the metaphysics of Saint Petersburg manifesting itself, at the beginning of the twentieth century, as both a source and an instrument for expression . As examples, she names Eisenstein, Matyushin, Malevich, Tatlin, and some others. In this way, Andreeva is able to connect expression (ekspressiia, экспрессия) with expressionism (ekspressionizm, экспрессионизм), that is, to build a tradition from Malevich and Tatlin first to expressionist artists of the 1940s – 1960s (mainly through Vladimir Sterligov and his followers), then via Bob Koshelokhov to the 1970s, and finally from Bob Koshelokhov to those five “neoexpressionist” New Artists. Such an approach allows her ignore the problem of connecting Oleg Kotelnikov’s painting Peter I on Horseback (selected for the exhibition poster) stylistically to, say, Malevich’s Black Square.
At the same time, this Leningrad expressionist tradition allows Andreeva to speak of a “synchronic” development of Leningrad neoexpressionist art with European and American art in the 1970s and 1980s . We remember Timur Novikov’s argument from his 1986 text about the New Artists: “As they studied the arts, they could not fail to notice kindred movements in world culture.” But then, we also remember that according to Novikov, “This age-related affliction quickly passed, giving way to mutual influence.”
Taking into consideration those many years of political isolation, it has become extremely important to argue that Leningrad art not only stayed connected to the rest of the world – didn’t lapse into provincialism – but was able to draw new energy from its own sources. While this may well have been the case, turning one’s attention to “the line of tradition” means taking a risk: it can easily lead to overlook what is de facto a novelty – such as Kozlov’s “Portrait of Timur Novikov with Arms Consisting of Bones”. This portrait is definitely not an example of neoexpressionism, although it is highly expressive.
In an interview with Artchronika, 2010, Kozlov commented on his portrait:
Certain elements introduced in the portrait seem to symbolize death or immortality, such as the bone arms, painted carefully and thoroughly, their details so small that they can be seen only when standing directly in front of the painting. These elements create a striking dissonance which increases Timur’s energy in relation to the city in which we all lived… At the same time, they show that I understood his place in modern art as well as my own. This fact also explains the variety of colours on the face. The face is the central element of the picture. It will not lose its expressiveness even if the arms and everything else surrounding it are left out. But if all of this is kept in place, it offers a much richer basis for exploring the inner world.
This exploration can be expanded by taking off the mask and revealing the sight of the brain, but it is not Timur’s brain. I painted not only him, but also myself, though on the basis of what I saw in him. When da Vinci painted Mona Lisa, he, in the most general sense, painted himself.
This thought needs to be expressed much more accurately, if we want to understand it correctly. But if we proceed from this idea, it becomes possible to show the beauty of just any element of the picture. For example, this lower trapezoidal surface of skin representing the state between water and fire, or the blue flames twisting on his shoulders. Timur burned. Here he does not burn. When I created this composition, I did not think of the possibility of Timur’s death. On the contrary, my objective was to express the impact of beauty. This is not the place to discuss in detail how this beauty reveals even deeper interrelations, but perhaps these hints can help to understand the potential of a portrait and of this portrait in particular.
Kozlov’s composition interrelates life and death in a radical way: he treats death not as a memento mori or a vanitas, like Hamlet holding the skull of Yorick, but as something present within our own selves. It is the bones we are growing inside, so that we can live, that will inevitably lead us to death. The shocking effect is produced by the beauty of the bones, but also by their being both a dominating and a natural part of the composition.
Three years later, in 1991, Britsh artist Damien Hirst created The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living – a shark preserved in formaldehyde in a vitrine. (Kozlov painted a shark in 1990.) Hirst demonstrated with a dead animal the paradox death constitutes for a living being; whether he would have preferred to use a human body instead I cannot say. Perhaps he wasn’t able to express his concept through an image, or an image didn’t seem to be the strong enough. Yet as an allegory of The Physical Inevitability of Death in the Mind of the Wise, Kozlov’s Portrait of Timur Novikov with Arms consisting of Bones is much more powerful than Hirst’s shark, which has become an icon of British art.
Kozlov’s portrait of Timur of has the potential to become the icon of modern Russian art. In 2011, it represented three decades of Russian avant-garde art: the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Moscow curator Andrei Erofeev, who gave a cycle of lectures at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art dedicated to Avant-Garde in Russian art of the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, selected it to announce one of his lectures.
The specific lecture featuring Kozlov’s portrait was to describe “characteristic features of Russian avant-garde art in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s and those of its leaders who renewed contemporary art, taking into consideration specific characteristics of contemporary Russian art.”
In this way, Erofeev declared Evgenij Kozlov to be one of those leaders “who renewed contemporary art”. This supports my argument that a work of art cannot be new and typical simultaneously. “New” and “typical” are mutually exclusive categories, just in the same way as “innovative” and “tradition”.
We can go even further: only a work of art being untypical for its epoch can actually represent its epoch, because it stands for novelty. Malevich’s Black Square represents the Russian avant-garde as the first of its kind, not as the most typical of its kind. If Malevich reduced matter to “nothing”, that is, to an image of the spiritual, then Kozlov’s portrait unites matter and spirit in an unprecedented way, through an image. In this regard, his portrait is the next step in art, after Malevich’s Black Square.
Concerning the question which style represents the New Artists best, I suggest a pluralistic approach. Why shouldn’t such different works as Kotelnikov’s Peter I on Horseback, Novikov’s Horizons and Kozlov’s Portrait of Timur Novikov with Arms Consisting of Bones all represent the New Artists? This would require defining the New as members of their group not on the ground of their following a particular tradition, but by referring to some essential “points of contact” established by their common activities. In my text from 2018, Timur Novikov’s New Artists Lists , I attempted to compile a periodisation of these activities by looking at when, how, and where they happened.
 In his lecture from 2002, Novikov explained recompositioning as a method having its origin in Oscar Gustave Rejlander’s photo-montage technique and in Lev Kulehsov’s working methods for the early Soviet cinema.
“Timur Novikov “The New Artists” Lecture from March 2002 for the Pro Arte Institute, Saint Petersburg.
Web 20 August 2020. https://docplayer.ru/25805056-Lekciya-byla-prochitana-v-institute-pro-arte-v-marte-2002-goda.html and in print form in Russian and English in the exhibition catalogue Timur, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow 2013, ed. by Ekaterina Andreeva, Nelly Podgorskaya and Ksenia Novikova, pp. 135
 Novikov, Timur: Perestroika in the works of the “Novye Khudozhniki”. ” Web 20 August 2020
Printed in: Timur Novikov. Catalogue. Moscow 2003, pp. 21-23.
The text was first printed in Russian, with Novikov’s pseudonym Igor Potapov, in: Antologiia Novye Khudozhniki (Anthology. The New Artists, 1982-1987) [Антология Новые художники 1982–1987], edited by E Andreeva and E. Kolovskaia, Saint Petersburg, approx. 1995, pp. 80/81, where it is also dated to 1985.However, Novikov’s references to the “Club of Friends of Vladimir V. Mayakovsky (Клуб друзей В.В. Маяковского) and the Club of Folk Art Lovers (Клуб любителей народного творчества), both founded in September 1986, mean that the article must have been written no earlier than September 1986.
Fobo, Hannelore (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov “New Classicals” and Timur Novikov “New Russian Classicism” 2014 Web 15 September 2020. http://www.e-e.eu/Classic-and-Classicism/Index.html
 Ekho Ekspressionizma, Iskusstvo Leningrada serediny – vtoroy poloviny XX veka [Эхо экспрессионизма. Искусство Ленинграда середины – второй половины ХХ века] (Echo of Expressionism. Leningrad Art from the Middle and Second Half of the Twentieth Century). Ed. by Ekaterina Andreeva ed al. Palace Editions, St. Petersburg, 2019
 “Тимур Новиков и «Новые художники» (Иван Сотников, Олег Котельников, Вадим Овчинников, Инал Савченков) формируют информационное поле актуальной культуры.”
Ibid., p. 9
 Ibid. P. 5
 В начале ХХ века Петроград-Ленинград […] становится одновременно источником и инструментом экспрессии. Ibid. P. 5
 Эта внутренняя динамика приводит на рубеже 1970 — 1980-х годов, синхронно с европейским и американским искусством, как показала выставка «Свободная изобразительность — 1980-е» в Фонде Леклерк (Франция, Ландерно, 2017), к появлению мощного побега неоэкспрессионизма, берущего начало сплоченной Кошелоховым группе «Летопись» Ibid. P. 9.
 Evgenij Kozlov on the Leningrad Eighties and the “New Artists”. An interview with Artchronika, 2010.
Web 15 September 2020. http://www.e-e.eu/E-E/New_artists/New_Artists_4.htm
 Erofeev, Andrei. Avangard v rossijskom iskusstve vtoroy poloviny XX – nachala XXI vekov / Авангард в российском искусстве второй половины ХХ – начала ХХI веков, Moscow Museum of Modern Art.
 В рамках курса лекций «Авангард в российском искусстве второй половины ХХ – начала ХХI веков» состоится лекция о характерных чертах российского авангардного искусства 1980-х, 1990-х и 2000-х годов на фоне особенностей русского современного искусства в целом, о лидерах обновления современного искусства.
Erofeev, Andrei, Lecture 1 March 2011.
 Fobo, Hannelore. Timur Novikov's New Artists Lists (2018). Web 15 September 2020.
Research / text / layout: Hannelore Fobo, May / September 2020.
Uploaded 24 September 2020