Evgenij Kozlov on the Leningrad Eighties and the “New Artists”. page 4

Questions by Yelena Fedotova, art magazine “Artchronika” (Moscow), on the occasion of the exhibition
“Brushstroke. New Artists and Necrorealists 1982-1991” at the Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, February-May 2010

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What sort of an exhibition was “The 1st Biennale of Portraits of Timur Novikov” in the ASSA Gallery?

Some of the photos I took that year in the ASSA Gallery show an exhibition of various artists, where all works were portraits of Timur Novikov, including my co-production with Khazanovich and Egelsky, published in the catalogue “Brushstroke”. [Ed. note, 21. September 2021: the 1984 exhibtion was actually the 3 Biennale of Portraits of Timur Novikov, as Ekaterina Andreeva rightly noticed]

Verschiedene Künstler: Portraits von Timur Novikov You might have in mind this exhibition, although I do not remember that it was called a “Biennale”. Our co-portrait was completed very quickly, nearly within an hour. It is therefore not impossible for it to be made “to the order”, especially for that exhibition. Everyone likes his portrait, and Timur was no exception. In this portrait, besides other things, I applied the white hatching to integrate all the different elements of the picture into one whole. My pictures of the 1980s differed from other “New Works” mainly in that, as a rule, the composition of the picture arose not spontaneously in the process of painting; it was not “CHAOSE ART” more >>, as I call it today. Rather, it was planned step by step, from the very beginning, which made the integration of single elements particularly important. D. Egelsky. K. Khazanovich, E. Kozlov,  „Portrait Timur Novikov“, Sammlung Russisches Museum
various artists: Portraits of Timur Novikov D. Egelsky, K. Khazanovich, E. Kozlov, “Portrait of Timur Novikov”,
collection of the Russian Museum

This exhibition would have been the most proper place for my “Portrait of Timur Novikov with Bone Arms”, but this portrait was painted only in 1988. In the catalogue, it has a shortened title – “Portrait of Timur Novikov”, as is written on its back. This painting is much more significant than the co-production of 1984, and was held in high esteem by Timur.

It would nevertheless be a mistake to think that I intended to paint a portrait of a particular person. After all, Timur had not commissioned it, and I am no Andy Warhol, ready to paint a designer portrait of anyone who will put 25,000 dollars on the table. I aim for the complete transformation of the person, which can be also called «spiritual metamorphosis». To be more precise, on the portrait of Timur Novikov of 1988 it is not Timur that is shown, but the state of being which he eventually reached.

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 colors 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.

Еvgenij Kozlov „Portrait von Timur Novikov mit Knochenarmen“, 1988 Sammlung Russisches Museum Еvgenij Kozlov in der „Galaxy Gallery" mit den Bildern „Papagei“, „Portrait von Oleg Kotelnikov mit Krokodil und rotem Punkt" und dem noch unvollendenten Portrait von Timur. . Kozlov, aus der Serie „Classic", übermalte Fotografie. Оriginale Fotografie 1995 Timur Novikov und Evgenij Kozlov in der  Ausstellung „Selbstidentifikation / Self-Identification", Berlin, 1995.
Еvgenij Kozlov
“Portrait of Timur Novikov
with Arms consisting of Bones”, 1988
collection of the Russian Museum
click to enlarge picture >>
Еvgenij Kozlov at “Galaxy Gallery"
with paintings “Parrot”, “Portrait of Oleg Kotelnikov with crocodile and red dot” and unfinished portrait of Timur.

photo: V. Sadovnikov, 1988

Е. Kozlov, from the series “Classic", painted
Оriginal photo from 1995

Timur Novikov and Evgenij Kozlov at the exhibition
“Selbstidentifikation/ Self-Identification”, Berlin, 1995.

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.

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Last updated 25 September 2021

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