(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: art >>
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov • White on Red
Five paintings from 1987
|Page 1: Image and sign|
|Page 2: White on Red|
|Page 3: Star|
|Page 4: Star. 6. Figures|
|Page 5: CCCP|
|Page 6: The Human Being Comes First
|Page 7: Smiling Sickle|
|Page 8: Exhibitions|
The Human Being Comes First
The Human being Comes First combines two elements we already discussed separately, one being a figure of a man with one arm lifted up, the other one pointing down (Star. 6 Figures more>>), and the other one being the letters CCCP more>>. CCCP, placed above the figure‘s head, is presented inside some kind of flag or banner. Other than in Star. 6 Figures, the figure forms a negative – unfilled – (red) shape. Its contours are defined by a densely applied structure of motion lines – white stripes that appear like hatchings. This also applies to the negative shape of the flag, into which Kozlov inserted the letters with the same white stripes.
No colour reproduction exists of this work, but it is documented in a series of black and white vintage prints from 1987 which Kozlov coloured with translucent ink. The painting is in a vertical rectangular format, which means that Kozlov used two pieces of calico to create the surface for the composition – not three, as in Star or Star. 6 Figures. The left border of the painting displays the fringy selvedge of the cotton material, and the other three sides are seamed.
The pictures, taken at Kozlov‘s apartment-studio Galaxy Gallery, actually show two paintings: to the left of The Human being Comes First we see Smiling Sickle (which will be discussed in the next chapter). The paintings are attached to one of the walls, and the artist is standing in front of them, looking at the camera. None of these pictures gives us a complete view of the painting in question, but when we combine views from different pictures, we can say that the composition very much corresponds to a felt-tip pen drawing from the same year, 1987; perhaps the figure in the painting might be somewhat slimmer than the one in the drawing.
Very likely, this felt-tip pen drawing followed another sketch drawn with a ballpoint pen, where Evgenij Kozlov first developed the composition, correcting the contours of figure and banner in several places before he filled the space around them with hatches. Thus, the left foot (left as seen from the viewer) seems to have been originally directed to the right, in the same way as the right foot, and this would have made a walking figure. Directed to the left, the figure is now in a standing position.
The felt-tip pen drawing adopts the composition of the ball pen drawing, but there are some differences between them. In the first drawing (by logic, it must have been the first of the two), the letters CCCP are placed onto the chest. In the felt pen drawing, the letters have been shifted to the flag, replacing the inscription УРА / URA, “hurrah“.
Another, no less important difference is the fact that in the second drawing, the contours of figure and flag are no longer drawn as outlines. Instead, contours are shaped through a regular pattern of horizontal motion lines defining a particular form as a void, that is, through a negative definition. As we have seen, this concept applies to the painting as well.
This negative definition of red shapes is in fact a typical feature of the White on Red paintings – although in the case of The Human Being Comes First, the shapes are not as geometrically perfect as those in Star, for example, because here, the white brush strokes imitate some of the characteristics of the felt pen lines. Such features are the somewhat rounded strokes and the slightly irregular pen lift that results from speedy drawing. But these are, of course, carefully calculated imperfections, as Evgenij Kozlov wanted to transfer the appeal of a hand-drawn sketch to a large format.
Speaking of horizontal motion lines, we must add a note: the strokes are mostly horizontal. This specification helps solving a puzzle posed by the photograph: the diagonally cut strokes in the painting‘s upper left corner.
These four parallel horizontal stripes are located between the painting‘s upper border and the top of the flag, and it is the upper border that cuts through these white stripes diagonally. Because of the picture‘s a linear perspective, the upper border displays a right-slanting diagonal which has its vanishing point somewhere to the right, outside the image.
As a result, the stripes or lines below the border become gradually longer, the one on top being the shortest, and the forth line being the longest: together, they form a triangle pointing towards the right. It looks as if the upper border of the painting was not horizontal, but oblique in relation to the painting‘s vertical axis. Yet, the painting‘s upper border displays a perfectly even distance to the ceiling line, so it must have a horizontal edge! To put it differently, the border cannot be inclined and straight at the same time – it would be an impossible object, like one of M.C. Escher‘s intriguing compositions of impossible stairs, where you walk up the stairs only to find yourself at the bottom again.
The drawing shows us that the obvious contradiction can be solved if we understand that the photograph offers multiple viewpoints, which is the principle of impossible objects.
The perspective distortion of the painting‘s upper border in the picture is in fact counterbalanced by an intentional distortion of parallel lines in the painting itself: while the figure’s feet are positioned parallel to the lower border, the flag is displayed as a skewed rectangle – a left-slanting parallelogram. In this way, the composition presents a frontal view in its lower half that progresses, in the upper half, into a linear perspective which has its the vanishing point to the left. The motion lines or hatchings further accentuate this change of perspective as they gradually change from a horizontal position at the bottom to a left-slanting position at the top.
In other words, Evgenij Kozlov dragged the top right corner point of the frontal view upward, and the composition became asymmetric. We can easily undo the asymmetry with the help of a computer graphics programme. We now understand that the dragging effect is based on a compositional principle: it follows the movement of the figure’s uplifted arm. We might just as well say that the diagonal line formed by the left and right arms “stretches” the composition asymmetrically. It is this asymmetry that causes both a distortion of the parallel lines and a linear perspective with a vanishing point somewhere to the left of the composition.
In the vintage print, however, with the camera positioned in a left angle towards the wall, the vanishing point is to the
Text: Hannelore Fobo, April/May 2020
Uploaded 11 May 2020