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      (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s >> ART>>

E-E KOZLOV

The Atlas of Ontology




Chapter 2. From movie to mythology: changing emotive formulas

Interestingly, a number of E-E Kozlov’s works generated from contemporary images have titles or possess other components connecting them to ancient mythology, for instance, the marker drawing God and Bacchantes Accompanying Him (1991).

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Бог и Сопровождающие Его Вакхантки God and Bacchantes accompanying him Marker on paper, 29 x 41 cm, 1991

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Бог и Сопровождающие Его Вакхантки
God and Bacchantes Accompanying Him
Marker on paper, 29 x 41 cm, 1991
see Panel 20 for the detail with angels playing the violin and the harp, respectively >>




In a first version of the chapter, I wrote that the main subject, reflected in the title, was based on a still from the Hollywood production Mata Hari (1931), an image with Ramón Novarro and Greta Garbo, displaying their heads and shoulders. The couple’s intense exchange of gazes is further intensified by the diagonal arrangement of the figures. It is a double feature we find in many of the other images from panel 18, which are chiefly stills with movie couples. The still from Mata Hari is the one at the top left corner.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov E-E-Drafts • Panel 18, detail (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov God and Bacchantes Accompanying Him Marker on paper, 29 x 41 cm, 1991 Detail with god and bacchante

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
E-E-Drafts • Panel 18, detail
Still from “Mata Hari" (1931) with Ramón Novarro and Greta Garbo
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
God and Bacchantes Accompanying Him
Marker on paper, 29 x 41 cm, 1991
Detail with god and bacchante




(E-E) EVGENIJ KOZLOV • E-E-Drafts • Panel 18 – 34.8 x 51 cm

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
E-E-Drafts • Panel 18 – 34.8 x 51 cm

Top left: Ramón Novarro and Greta Garbo in Mata Hari (1931)




While a number of images from panel 18 present the protagonists in a moment of passionate or tender love, some others show tension or even anxiety, like that of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in Hitchcock’s “to Catch a Thief” (1955), or, quite the contrary, a flirting atmosphere. An exception is rather strange “couple” of a man and a child, the man securing the child’s legs while the child is doing a handstand. Kozlov wrote “A. Warhol” next to the man’s head, as this gentleman indeed resembles the American artist.

The image from Mata Hari is the largest on this panel. We see Garbo on a sofa or chaise longue, in a half-sitting and half lying position, looking up to Novarro who, slightly bent forward, is looking down to her. In Kozlov’s body of works, such a diagonal arrangement of two figures already appears in 1985, in his painting Шик-Шок-Шоу / Shick-Shock-Show. This painting might have been inspired by “The Golden Blade" (1953) with Rock Hudson and Piper Laurie, only that, contrary to the Hollywood image, it reverses the roles: it is the woman who is looking down to the man.  (Addentum 2023: In a letter from 1986, Kozlov calls this painting Кино / Cinema more>>.)




(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov E-E-Drafts • Panel 18, detail (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Шик-Шок-Шоу / Shick-Shock-Show, 1985

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
E-E-Drafts • Panel 18, detail
Still from “The Golden Blade" (1953) with Rock Hudson and Piper Laurie.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Шик-Шок-Шоу / Shick-Shock-Show, 1985 more>>

E-E Kozlov at his studio and apartement Galaxy Gallery, approx. 1985 Top left: Солнышко на Севере / Sunshine in the North, 1982 Top right: Шик-Шок-Шоу / Shick-Shock-Show, 1985

E-E Kozlov at his studio and apartement Galaxy Gallery, approx. 1985
Top left: Солнышко на Севере / Sunshine in the North, 1982
Top right: Шик-Шок-Шоу / Shick-Shock-Show, 1985




Yet bacchante's hair and dress, and also the fact that she is seen in half profile, reveals another source from Panle 18 – a still from “The Walking Dead" (1936) with Boris Karloff and Marguerite Churchill. In his drawing, Kozlov shifted bacchante's head backwards, thus separating the heads of “Boris Karloff / god” and “Marguerite Churchill / bacchante” a little further so that the communication between both figures is now less dramatic and tense.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov E-E-Drafts • Panel 18, detail (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov God and Bacchantes Accompanying Him Marker on paper, 29 x 41 cm, 1991 Detail with god and bacchante

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
E-E-Drafts • Panel 18, detail
Still from “The Walking Dead" (1936) with Boris Karloff and Marguerite Churchill
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
God and Bacchantes Accompanying Him
Marker on paper, 29 x 41 cm, 1991
Detail with god and bacchante



The bodies he added are nevertheless quite unusual. A muscular “double” arm, extending from the right shoulder of “Boris Karloff / god”, metamorphoses into a woman’s buttocks and legs. It is an effect similar to those cognitive illusions where you see either one thing or another, depending on your focus, although the ambiguity isn’t as strong as that in the well-known young-old-woman-illusion from the 19th century, because the perception of a woman’s legs is nevertheless the dominating one.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Бог и Сопровождающие Его Вакхантки God and Bacchantes accompanying him Marker on paper, 29 x 41 cm, 1991

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Бог и Сопровождающие Его Вакхантки
God and Bacchantes Accompanying Him
Marker on paper, 29 x 41 cm, 1991
see Panel 20 for the detail with angels playing the violin and the harp, respectively >>




The lower part of the female figure’s body (of “Marguerite Churchill / bacchante”) is bent backward in a more than 90 degrees angle. (If we were to position her body on a clock face, the head would point to one o’clock and the feet to two o’clock.) From head to feet, her body follows a curved line, although the movement looks effortless, like that of a trained gymnast. This bacchante is somehow floating in the air, and her weightlessness, just as the winged head of the male figure – a Hermes – are a hint towards mythology, confirmed by the title of the drawing.[1]  God and bacchante are engaged in a deep conversation, concentrated on each other – and all the same absolutely relaxed. Two little putti, one playing the violin and the other one playing the harp, contribute to the serenity of the scene. Besides, the putti are from panel 20, perhaps reproductions of some baroque sculptures inspired by Caravaggio’s Victorious Cupid (Amor Vincit Omnia).

It is very likely that the white strip in Boris Karloff's hair – the “strange” element that inspired Kozlov to add a pair of wings – sparked off the picture's metamorphosis from a film scene to a mythological subject, and from the couple’s tense pose to a floating movement. The example of God and Bacchantes Accompanying Him illustrates that Kozlov uses emotive formulas to change the very emotion of a formula, and this is different from Warburg’s description of emotive formulas in his lecture Italian Art and International Astrology in the Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara:

    In Florence, some twenty years ago, I realized that the influence of antiquity manifested itself in Quattrocento secular painting  – and specifically in that of Botticelli and Filippino Lippi through a change in the depiction of human figures – an increased mobility of the body and of its draperies, inspired by antique extremes of gesture were present as a stylizing influence in the muscle-rhetoric of Pollaiuolo; and above all, that even the mythological world of the young Dürer (from Death of Orpheus to the Large Jealousy) owed its dramatic force of expression to the surviving – and inherently Greek – “emotive formulas” that had reached him by the way of Northern Italy.

    The intrusion of this Italian and antique style of mobility into Northern European art does not mean that the North entirely lacked first-hand knowledge of pagan and antique subject matter. On the contrary, as I studied mid-fifteenth inventories of secular art, it became clear to me that Flemish tapestries and “painted cloths” [panni dipinti] had brought characters from pagan antiquity in realistic contemporary costume – alla franzese – even onto the walls of Italian palaces.

    A closer look at pagan iconography in Northern European book illustration, taking text and pictures together, convince me that these unclassical trappings – so distracting to us – did not in the least divert a contemporary eye from its primary concern: the earnest, all-too-literal-minded pursuit of an authentic visualization of antiquity.

    So deep was this idiosyncratic Northern interest in classical learning that, even in the early Middle Ages, illustrated mythological manuals of a sort were compiled for the two groups of readers who needed them most: painters and astrologers.[2]

If we interpret “formula” as an operation procedure employing its variables from illustrated manuals, then the example of God and Bacchantes Accompanying Him demonstrates that Kozlov doesn't follow a formula. Formulas lead to allegories, and Kozlov’s compositions display neither antique characters in contemporary costume nor contemporary characters in antique costume – although, as we have seen, mythology reappears after having taken a “profane” diversion, via a Hollywood movie. Yet, to the artist, such a diversion doesn’t mean making a detour, because, as he insists, time has no relevance when you are in the process of creation. Indeed, through his composition, Kozlov conveys a feeling of he himself being engaged in a deep and relaxed conversation with those divine eternal forces – of being naturally close to them. Having said that, we may still look at the figures of god and bacchante as metaphors if we wish, and it is certainly rewarding to trace their history to any source images, as we have done. I should add that speculating about sources is especially intriguing in the case of mythological subjects that are not inspired by a particular image, which goes for many of Kozlov’s works. The centaur from his painting 777 (2007) is an example.




(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov 777 Mixed media on paper, 100 x 70 cm, 2007

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
777
Mixed media on paper, 100 x 70 cm, 2007




But establishing the figures’ genealogy is not essential to enjoy their presence in a drawing or painting because here, they speak for themselves and not as witnesses of the afterlife of pagan symbolism, through a collection of attributes – nor of the afterlife of any other symbolism, for that matter.

Therefore, the point isn’t that Kozlov’s develops his own cosmogony from certain images, which he does frequently. This common practice: artists develop their “private” cosmos from some kind of source, and some, like Gerhard Richter, actually call it an “atlas” (see chapter 6).

The point is the vastly nuanced opulence of Kozlov’s cosmogony, the astonishing variety of figures and objects, each awarded their own distinctive personality as they are “migrating” through the artist’s body of works in a process of transformation. We may call this an internal migration of images as opposed to what Warburg, in his abovementioned essay, called internationally migrating images (“internationale Bilderwanderung”) with respect to pagan culture in the age of Renaissance.[3]

Thus, Warburg describes the Wanderstraßen, or travelling routes, of astrological and mythological images found in Renaissance art that are leading around the Mediterranean, e.g. the route Asia Minor-Egypt-India-Persia-Arabia-Spain-France.[4] In the same way, we can follow the internal migration of images through Kozlov’s works – and will now do so with the pair of strawberries from panel 20 mentioned above, creating a sort of travelogue demonstrating the impact of these travels.


[1] Still, the title doesn't solve the puzzle completely, because it speaks of bacchantes in the plural, so there must be two, at the least. In all likelihood, the other bacchante is the one of which there is only the lower half, emerging from god’s arm. Bearing in mind that in mythologies, gods metamorphose with ease – Zeus procreated Perseus with Danaë in the form of golden rain – such a metamorphosis of a divine limb shouldn’t surprise us too much.

[2] Warburg, Renewal, pp 563-564

[3] Ibid., p. 586

[4] Ibid. pp 566-567




next page: Chapter 3. Тhe travelogue of a pair of strawberries

Introduction:
E-E Kozlov’s photo archive as part of the his Atlas of Ontology
Part 1. The Atlas of Ontology - collages
Chapter 1. Aby Warburg's cosmography and E-E Kozlov's cosmogony
Chapter 2. From movie to mythology: changing emotive formulas
Chapter 3. The travelogue of a pair of strawberries

Part 2. The Atlas of Ontology - photographs

Chapter 4. From picture to painting: portraits of Timur Novikov and other New Artists
Chapter 5. An image not based on likeness: Shark
Chapter 6. Seeing colours in a black and white picture (forthcoming)
Chapter 7: Working with pictures: Kozlov, Richter, and Sherman
Chapter 8. Transformation and transfiguration
Chapter 9. From Abbild to Urbild (forthcoming)



Research / text / layout: Hannelore Fobo, January / February 2021.

Uploaded 15 February 2021
Last updated 18 May 2024