(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.     Berlin                                                  


      (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s • No.115 >>

Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection • (E-E) Evgenij KozlovHarvard University

USA-CCCP. Points of Contact.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov – Catherine Mannick
Correspondence 1979 – 1990

The River of Forgetfulness

In 1988, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov experimented with large formats and new techniques. Among these works is The River of Forgetfulness (Река забвения / Reka zabveniia), an allegory of temporality and timelessness and Kozlov’s largest gift to Catherine Mannick.[1] The composition belongs to a group of paintings Kozlov carried out on the reverse of a – potentially infinite – roll of wallpaper, which enabled him to unfold an idea without worrying about the length of the medium.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  Река забвения / The River of Forgetfulness Oil, ink, and alcohol-based on paper, 102 x 247 cm, 1988 The Wende Museum Collection, California. Presented by Catherine Mannick in 2023. Photo C. Mannick  E-E archival number: E-E-188017

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Река забвения / The River of Forgetfulness
Oil, ink, and alcohol-based ink on paper, 102 x 247 cm, 1988
The Wende Museum Collection, California. Presented by Catherine Mannick in 2023. Photo C. Mannick

E-E archival number: E-E-188017




The bright, luminous painting, executed in a 102 x 247 cm “cinemascope” format, is an interpretation of the mythological subject of Lethe (Λήθη), the river of forgetfulness or oblivion. According to Greek mythology, humans drink from the waters of forgetfulness when they depart from their earthly existence and travel from the transient world to the eternal world – only that in Kozlov’s painting, the eternal world is not Hades, the underworld, but Olympus, the realm of gods above.

The figurative-abstract composition sees Lethe as a violet, almost black meandering shape with a shining brown extension, dividing the image diagonally into the transient world below and the eternal world above. The dominating element, a lying couple embracing each other, is a reference to the biblical image of Adam and Eve – after their descent from paradise, with the man’s skull, as well as the bones shining through his flesh, being symbols of vanitas, temporality. To their right, another couple, much smaller in size, is engrossed in a conversation. Above, set against a celestial dark blue background, a group of gods and goddesses is engaged in their own, unknowable activities – they illustrate timelessness. Some are resting, while others are depicted with dynamic movements, but none of them is subject to the gravitational forces pulling the enamoured couple towards the earth. Just as weight is an attribute of time, weightlessness is an attribute of timelessness.

This concise description might suggest that the artist pursued a strict thematic concept from the very outset, yet this wasn’t the case. His technical approach, based on controlled-uncontrolled liquid painting, relied on chance outcome, which allowed him to intensify the composition’s aesthetic expressiveness with irregular, seemingly accidental features. This concerns Lethe in the first place, which is pure colour – without knowing the title of the painting, it would be difficult to identify its function. Kozlov himself did so subsequently and insists that as a rule, the titles of his works appear while he is creating them, and sometimes at the very end. 

What is more, a look at the reverse of the composition reveals that an important conceptual change occurred during the creative process, making its message more complex and less determined. It therefore makes sense to start with a description of the work’s technical properties before interpreting its intention – form imparts meaning.

View of the artist’s studio “Galaxy Gallery” at Peterhof (Petrodvorets, Leningrad / St. Petersburg) with The River of Forgetfulness hanging vertically. Top left: Джоконда / Mona Lisa, from the USA-CCCP cycle, 1988.  Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, 1988  E-E archival number: E-E-pho-CW15

View of the artist’s studio “Galaxy Gallery” at Peterhof (Petrodvorets, Leningrad / St. Petersburg) with The River of Forgetfulness hanging vertically.
Top left: Джоконда / Mona Lisa, from the USA-CCCP cycle, 1988.

Photo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, 1988

E-E archival number: E-E-pho-CW15



CHAOSE ART

Although the meaning of The River of Forgetfulness lies in the figurative elements and the way they interact with each other, the abundance of non-figurative coloured forms, patches, and strips gives the composition the appeal of an abstract painting. These abstract shapes are irregular not only with respect to their contours, but to colouring, which varies from higher to lower saturation, like clouds showing different grades of transparency. Kozlov combined shiny ink with pastose oil paint. Dominating colours are violet, brown, purple, blue, yellow, and white, as well as black for contours. Inks and oil paints almost completely conceal the original off-white colour of the paper, yet the shiny inks and the yellow and white oil paints make the composition appear translucent like a stained glass window. The black contours of figures and objects, joining the pieces like the lead cames, reinforce this impression.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  Любофь / Lofe. Ink on canvas, 106 x 107 cm, 1987  E-E archival number: E-E-187024. Photo Andrey Kuznetsov  When ink is applied to an unprimed canvas, the colouring acquires a velvety touch

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Любофь / Lofe. Ink on canvas, 106 x 107 cm, 1987

E-E archival number: E-E-187024. Photo Andrey Kuznetsov

When ink is applied to an unprimed canvas, the colouring acquires a velvety touch



Kozlov had been using inks on canvas and paper for some time before he started to employ them for controlled-uncontrolled liquid painting. Instead of using a brush, he poured the ink onto the paper directly from the bottle with rapid movements, sometimes not even touching the paper itself. Their chaotic appearance notwithstanding, these shapes are not placed at random. The flow of liquid paint can be guided to some extent by the swiftness of movements and by controlling the amount of paint poured from the bottle.

Pouring larger quantities of ink leads to a less predictable outcome, since ink spreads easily on the coated paper. In the case of an extra large portion of ink, Kozlov lifted the wallpaper up on one side to make the liquid run down towards the other side, moving the paper. Leaving well-defined windings when connecting with the paper, the ink thus created its own riverbed 

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  The River of Forgetfulness, 1988. Detail with Lethe.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

The River of Forgetfulness, 1988. Detail with Lethe.



Pouring larger quantities of ink leads to a less predictable outcome, since ink spreads easily on the coated paper. In the case of an extra large portion of ink, Kozlov lifted the wallpaper up on one side to make the liquid run down towards the other side, moving the paper. Leaving well-defined windings when connecting with the paper, the ink thus created its own riverbed.  

Радуга -2 чернила красные / Raduga-2 red ink Ink for fountain pens, produced in the USSR, 1980s Ink bottle from E-E Kozlov's archive, signed E.K. on top. Радуга -2 чернила красные / Raduga-2 red ink. Ink for fountain pens produced by ПО «Мосбытхим» / PO Mosbytkhim, one of many Soviet factories producing the Raduga brand.

Радуга -2 чернила красные / Raduga-2 red ink
Ink for fountain pens, produced in the USSR, 1980s
Ink bottle from E-E Kozlov's archive, signed E.K. on top.
Радуга -2 чернила красные / Raduga-2 red ink.
Ink for fountain pens produced by ПО «Мосбытхим» / PO Mosbytkhim, one of many Soviet factories producing the Raduga brand.



As a mass consumer good for schools and offices, ink was inexpensive and available at local stationaries. It came in different qualities[2], each with its own palette of colours, all of them quite beautiful. Yet it seems that Kozlov was the only one in his artistic circle who employed ink systematically. The most popular type was the Raduga (“Rainbow”) brand for fountain pens. Since cartridge pens were not produced in the Soviet Union, it came in small bottles, which was just perfect for artists.[3]  Generations of Soviet schoolchildren remember the small glass, and later plastic Raduga 2 bottles; in the seventies, the label adapted a stylish pop design.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  Портрет В. Лабутова с тушканчиками / Portrait of Viktor Labutov with Kangaroo Mouses Mixed media on canvas, 93,5 x 83 cm, 1987  E-E archival number: E-E-187029. Photo Andrey Kuznetsov  On a primed canvas, (alcohol-based) ink produces successive layers with shiny translucent textures.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Портрет В. Лабутова с тушканчиками / Portrait of Viktor Labutov with Kangaroo Mouses
Mixed media on canvas, 93,5 x 83 cm, 1987

E-E archival number: E-E-187029. Photo Andrey Kuznetsov

On a primed canvas, (alcohol-based) ink produces successive layers with shiny translucent textures.



Kozlov used Raduga inks, too, but combined them with alcohol-based inks produced for draft and design markers.[4] To refill markers, the rectangular bottles had a (removable) nozzle Kozlov could use to draw fine continuous lines. But the main point was that alcohol based ink dries fast and is waterproof. This is especially important with respect to non-soaking surfaces like the coated wallpaper – to achieve transparency gradations, successive layers of ink can be added quickly without mixing the liquids.[5] On this type of surfaces, ink layers dry with slightly darker contours, which give their shapes a delicate lacy appeal. Such contours can be noted, for instance, in Eve’s purple hair, where they resonate with the calligraphic curls drawn with fine black brushstrokes.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  The River of Forgetfulness, 1988, detail

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

The River of Forgetfulness, 1988, detail



In the painting, brushes (alternatively: “ ink nozzles”) and liquid painting complement each other. Brushes were needed to add finer details, but they were also ideal to distribute ink puddles in smaller areas, more precisely, to colour the spaces outlined by specific contours, for instance, the spaces between the gods and goddesses.

Liquid painting from bottles is a passive-active process; it means expecting the unexpected and developing it further. In this, it reflects the principle of creation, as seen from a human’s point of view. Put differently, with this technique, the starting point for a picture is not a general concept or theme to be realised in one way or another – the classical approach to art. Rather, its concept emerges step by step, as the result of the artist being in permanent communication with what arises by chance. Chance outcome is the creator‘s partner, in a manner of speaking. In 2009, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov coined the term CHAOSE ART for this approach, the “e” in chaose being a reference to his artist name E-E. According to Kozlov, CHAOSE ART is one of three universal trends in modern art, next to conceptual art and abstract art, with which it partly overlaps.[6] It denotes compositions that a) evolve without a (fully) premeditated concept and in a seemingly chaotic way, and b) nevertheless establish, in the course of their genesis, “not only formal, but also semantic relations between single elements of the picture.”[7]

The statement concerning semantic relations clearly applies to The River of Forgetfulness, more precisely, to the shape defined as Lethe, and, accordingly, to what is below and what is above Lethe (see next chapter). In essence, The River of Forgetfulness illustrates Kozlov’s concept of CHAOSE ART, even though the work itself anticipates his theory by more than twenty years.

The desired effect of fortuitousness has always inspired artists, a well-known example being Jackson Pollock’s drip painting. Chance painting allows artists to achieve what they cannot achieve intentionally. Strictly speaking, the result is predetermined by the laws of physics, like in a game of snooker, although unlike in a game of snooker, artists always win, as Kozlov noted down in 2015:

    Being of the opinion (knowing) that nothing in this world happens by chance – which is what comes out of mathematics, physics and chemistry, etc. – I thereby infer that any microscopic speck within my work of art has not come to be there by chance, even if from the perspective of the viewer it should seem to have arisen as a result of chaos (chaos being the highest expression of harmony) .[8]

To (partly) relinquish control over a work, Kozlov experimented with many different techniques. Thus, the same year, 1988, he created a series of erotic drawings with a felt pen attached to a string, manipulating the string instead of the felt pen. Yet in parallel, he was also pursuing a contrary approach, creating templates for figurative compositions.[9] In art, as in life, the spectrum reaching from the totally unplanned to the entirely ordered, from chaos to cosmos, is very wide.    

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  „д“ / d Felt-tip pen and metallic paint on paper, 42 x 29.6 cm, 1988  Drawn with a felt pen attached to a string.  E-E archival number: E-E-198075 (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  Вечный Старт №2 / The Eternal Start No 2 Mixed media on paper, 58 x 41 cm, 1988  Design created with templates. See footnote 9  E-E archival number: E-E-188029

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

„д“ / d
Felt-tip pen and metallic paint on paper, 42 x 29.6 cm, 1988

Drawn with a felt pen attached to a string.

E-E archival number: E-E-198075
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Вечный Старт №2 / The Eternal Start No 2
Mixed media on paper, 58 x 41 cm, 1988

Design created with templates. See footnote 9

E-E archival number: E-E-188029




In the paintings on wallpaper, Kozlov employed yet another controlled-uncontrolled method, combining liquid painting with the principle of silkscreen printing. Using cotton gauze as an additional layer (“silkscreen”) placed on top of the paper, he drew the composition’s main features onto the gauze with ink. Once having removed the gauze, he continued painting with ink – as described above – and other paints directly on the paper.[10] He first applied this technique in 1987 with “America”, his wedding gift to Joanna Stingray and Yuri Kasparyan, a composition created with single strokes, like a large pictogram.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  Америка / America. Ink on paper, approx 70 x 100 cm, 1987.   E-E archival number: E-E-187170. Photo from Joanna Stingray's archive.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Америка / America. Ink on paper, approx 70 x 100 cm, 1987.

E-E archival number: E-E-187170. Photo from Joanna Stingray's archive.



The gauze and the corresponding work on paper constitute a pair, with the gauze fixing an intermediate state of the composition. One such pair has been preserved in Kozlov’s own collection: “She Closed Her Eyes, Leaned Against Him, and So They Sat Cheek to Cheek.”[11] Comparing the gauze and the paper helps understanding how the artist combined controlled-uncontrolled painting to achieve certain printing effects. The gauze displays the black contours of figures and objects, most likely applied with the nozzle of the ink bottle, as well as large poured patches of red, brown, and blue colours, partly overlapping. As the textile layer easily absorbs the liquid, holding back some of it, the work on paper shows these patches with a velvety appeal.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Она закрыла глаза и … / She Closed Her Eyes and ... Ink on paper, 89 x 144 cm, 1988 The artist began by drawing the composition through a piece of gauze which partly absorbed the ink (see below). He then removed the gauze and continued painting directly on the paper. E-E archival number: E-E-188023

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Она закрыла глаза и … / She Closed Her Eyes and ...
Ink on paper, 89 x 144 cm, 1988

The artist began by drawing the composition through a piece of gauze which partly absorbed the ink (see below). He then removed the gauze and continued painting directly on the paper.

E-E archival number: E-E-188023

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Она закрыла глаза и … / She Closed Her Eyes and ... Ink on gauze, 77 x 130 cm, 1988 E-E archival number: E-E-188024

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
Она закрыла глаза и … / She Closed Her Eyes and ...
Ink on gauze, 77 x 130 cm, 1988

E-E archival number: E-E-188024



The paper also shows the patches with their originally contours, as designed by the artist, while the gauze makes them considerable larger – on the cotton, ink quickly runs to the sides. This effect corresponds to the primary purpose of cotton gauze – to dress wounds, and this is why it absorbs liquids immediately.[12] As a matter of fact, this technique plays a trick on its creator, because when strokes are placed close to each other on the gauze, as in the case of faces or ornaments, they merge into one continuous area. The artist can no longer visualise the structure below the gauze and must rely on his manual skills instead. He is painting “blind”.

The printing effect can, however, best be seen in the black ink strokes. It appears that the black ink has a higher density and viscosity, since it doesn’t run that much; instead, it peters out at the end of a stroke and also towards the edges. The gauze, withholding some of the ink, adds to the loss of saturation. In these areas, the paper reproduces the loose weave of the gauze as small hatchings and frayed pixels. In this way, Kozlov achieved a pattern similar to that of a raster structure in offset printing, while still rendering the spontaneity of the brush’s movement. Andy Warhol’s silkscreen prints display such “feathery” raster print properties, for instance in the black shades of Marilyn Monroe’s curls in “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn”. These black shades originate, though, from a photomechanical reproduction of the pixel dots in the original newspaper photograph. Contrary to the gauze, silkscreen is a tightly woven fabric that produces no pixels by itself.[13]


(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

The River of Forgetfulness, 1988, detail with "pixel" dots produced by the loose weave of the gauze.



The gauze for The River of Forgetfulness no longer exists, and therefore only a close study of the painting can tell whether any of the coloured patches were actually painted through the gauze.[14] But the appealing manual printing effect can indeed be noted in the black contours of figures and objects, especially in the black hatching along the right and lower borders. These parallel lines have a structuring effect that is enhanced by other geometrical forms, some of which represent everyday objects – a trapezoidal prism for a chest or cupboard, a TV with the shape of a dodecahedron, and a couch made of two rectangular cuboids. They give the composition a rhythmical flow and counterbalance the beautiful, but seemingly chaotic orchestral sound of the colour arrangement.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  The River of Forgetfulness, 1988, detail with geometrical forms

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

The River of Forgetfulness, 1988, detail with geometrical forms



Geometricity extends to some figurative elements, as well – to the couple in conversation, but in the first place, to the circular skull and rectangular limbs of “Adam”. A grid of fine white lines over parts of the ink areas, possibly engraved with the wooden end of a brush, serves the same structuring purpose. Like an architect’s freehand draft, Kozlov’s geometrical designs imply knowledge of ratio and proportion – cosmos – without being submitted to a formal system of rules.

Last but not least, a generous border, applied with a paint roller and surrounded by yet another, very small light border, adds to the internal coherence of the composition. Similar to that of icons, this double frame takes on the function of a window to the other world and is a recurrent feature in Kozlov’s paintings.

Mythologies

State Hermitage Museum – Gallery of the History of Ancient Painting / Галерея истории древней живописи (room 241), designed by Leo von Klenze Left: three statues by Antonio Canova: Hebe • Dancer • Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss  Valentin Kozlov took this picture around 1960 during one of his museums visits with his son Evgenij.

State Hermitage Museum – Gallery of the History of Ancient Painting / Галерея истории древней живописи (room 241), designed by Leo von Klenze
Left: three statues by Antonio Canova: Hebe • Dancer • Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss

Valentin Kozlov took this picture around 1960 during one of his museums visits with his son Evgenij.



In his childhood and youth, Evgenij Kozlov was a regular visitor to the Hermitage and Russian Museum, first with his father, who loved taking his son to art museums, and then, having become addicted to art, on his own. In this way, he became familiar with the canons of antique and Western European art and Russian icons.

 Evgenij at home, drawing. Photo: Valentin Kozlov. Leningrad, approx. 1960


Evgenij at home, drawing.
Photo: Valentin Kozlov. Leningrad, approx. 1960



One of his favourite places was a room in the Hermitage displaying delicate drawings covered with pieces of fabric to protect them from daylight. He remembers Jacob Jordaens’ “The Rape of Europa”, depicting a pleasurable day out rather than an abduction External link >>, and Hermann Weyer’s charming Orpheus and Eurydice, both from the seventeenth century External link >>. For a little boy, to lift the curtain from these erotic scenes was an irresistible temptation, and the best thing about it was that as works of art, they were considered suitable even for children.

(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

E-E archival number: E-E-191029



Kozlov’s inclination for Eros in art goes back to those times and extends to mythological subject matters and religious scenes. They first appear in his works between 1980 and 1982 and have continued playing an important role ever since. Antique and Christian symbols often stand side by side. Thus, in the drawing God and Bacchantes Accompanying Him from 1991, two angels, one playing the violin and the other one playing the harp, have joined the company of the pagan deities.[15]  Instead of illustrating classical tales, Kozlov invents his own cosmogony.[16]

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  Река забвения / The River of Forgetfulness Oil, ink, and alcohol-based ink on paper, 102 x 247 cm, 1988 The Wende Museum Collection, California. Presented by Catherine Mannick in 2023. Slide reproduction from 1989  E-E archival number: E-E-188017

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Река забвения / The River of Forgetfulness
Oil, ink, and alcohol-based ink on paper, 102 x 247 cm, 1988
The Wende Museum Collection, California. Presented by Catherine Mannick in 2023. Slide reproduction from 1989

E-E archival number: E-E-188017



The River of Forgetfulness presents both a mythological and a biblical topic, diagonally divided by the waters of Lethe. Above Lethe are the gods and goddesses of the Olympus, enjoying each other’s company. Like ceiling paintings in a grand palace, the intricate figural scene reveals a view of the sky and plays with perspective, with some foreshortened figures and a vanishing point at the top centre. Kozlov painted them as nudes, just sketching their contours. The figures’ movements and dynamic interactions recall illustrations of a feast of gods and other mythological scenes, especially from the baroque period with its sense of motion.

Below Lethe, a man and woman hold each other in a tight embrace. In the artist’s own words, they epitomise Adam and Eve after their descent to earth. Hence, he depicted them not standing next to each other, with their canonical attributes of the apple and snake, but in a lying position, with their bodies intimately entwined.[17]

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  The River of Forgetfulness, 1988, detail with heads of Adam and Eve

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

The River of Forgetfulness, 1988, detail with heads of Adam and Eve



An unusual detail, and in fact the composition’s most salient feature, is Adam’s sculpted-looking skull, the relief of bones and teeth meticulously worked out with pastose layers of beige and yellow. The skull calls to mind Golgotha, literally “a place of a skull”,[18] the place where Jesus Christ was crucified and said to be Adam’s burial place. The vigorous, almost physical presence of Adam’s skull stands in striking contrast to the softness of Eve’s beautiful face, slightly turned away from Adam’s. Her eyes are closed in a dream-like expression, and the flattened facial shape enhances the effect of her being removed from reality.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  The River of Forgetfulness, 1988, detail of reverse with heads of Adam and Eve (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  The River of Forgetfulness, 1988, detail detail of front with heads of Adam and Eve

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

The River of Forgetfulness, 1988, detail of reverse with heads of Adam and Eve
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

The River of Forgetfulness, 1988, detail detail of front with heads of Adam and Eve



To express the feeling that binds Adam and Eve together on earth – love – Kozlov originally chose a different image. The reverse of the painting – the “proper” side of the wallpaper, displaying a wood panel pattern – retains the original ink design of both heads unaltered, because the liquid, once having connected with the paper, transferred itself to the other side, while the black ink contours and the oil paints left no traces on the back. Here, Adam’s facial features – eye, nose lips and ear, drawn with purple ink – are clearly distinguishable, and fragments of purple can still be seen on the front side around the skull’s teeth. Eve, for her part, is not sleeping: On the reverse, she has her eyes open, looking up to Adam. They are bound together in a moment of intimacy and desire before the (first) kiss. It is an image established through Hollywood movies in the first half of the twentieth century that replaces the older symbol of Adam and Eve. The old image illustrated seduction to gain knowledge. Hollywood’s image illustrates passion and romantic surrender.

In Kozlov’s archive, there are sixty-three collages from the 1980s and early 1990s made with paper clippings collected from newspapers and magazines. He arranged them by subjects and aesthetic or expressive nature and used them to draw inspiration for future works – E-E Drafts.

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov E-E-Drafts • Panel 18 – Movie couples. 34.8 x 51 cm, assembled ca. 1993 Notes: БЕЛЫЕ ГЛАЗА (White Eyes); A. Warhol

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
E-E-Drafts • Panel 18 – Movie couples. 34.8 x 51 cm, assembled ca. 1993
Notes: БЕЛЫЕ ГЛАЗА (White Eyes); A. Warhol

Pictures identified: 1. Ramón Novarro and Greta Garbo in Mata Hari (George Fitzmaurice, 1931), 2. Rock Hudson and Piper Laurie in The Golden Blade (Nathan Jura, 1953), 3. Simone Signoret and Charles Vanel in Death in the Garden / Diamond Hunters (Luis Buñuel, 1956) 4. Valerie Hobson and Stewart Granger in Blanche Fury (Marc Allégret, 1948), 5. Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief, (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955), 6. Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman in Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945) 7. Boris Karloff and Marguerite Churchill in The Walking Dead (Michael Curtiz , 1936).

The collage also includes a picture with a man and a child entitled “A. Warhol”: The man is securing the child’s legs while the child is doing a handstand. Kozlov wrote Warhol’s name next to the man’s head, as this gentleman indeed resembles the American artist.

E-E archival number: E-E-Drafts-No-18




One of the sheets, No 18, displays twenty-five movie couples, mostly stills from Hollywood productions, collected at different times and assembled in 1993.[19] Among the female stars are Greta Garbo, Grace Kelly, Piper Laurie, and Ingrid Bergman, and among their male colleagues Gregory Peck, Stewart Granger, Rock Hudson and Cary Grant.[20] Kozlov selected them because of the way they exchange gazes, but one immediately notes the diagonal arrangement of heads in the majority of pictures, with the (taller) man looking down to the woman and the (smaller) woman looking up to him. Often, there is a further rotation with the man leaning forward and the woman leaning back, putting her arms around the man’s neck, which shifts the message from attraction to desire.[21]

The couple on the reverse of The River of Forgetfulness follows this arrangement, the man representing the Stewart Granger type and the woman the Greta Garbo type. Whether they are related to any specific image from E-E Drafts No.18 (from those images that, hypothetically, were available to the artist in 1988) is not so relevant. Taken together, these images constitute a “Pathosformel”, an “emotive formula”, a term coined by Aby Warburg, or, in Kozlov’s words, a matrix. Cinema, as in life, an anchor, to quote from the title of a collage from the 1990s.[22]

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov E-E-Drafts • Panel 18, detail (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  Шик-Шок-Шоу / Shick-Shock-Show Alternative title:  Cinema Nitro enamel and oil on canvas ?, approx. 90 x 120 cm, 1985 See exhibition Happy New Year and Letter I  E-E archival number: E-E-185002

(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
Alternative title: Cinema
Nitro enamel and oil on canvas ?, approx. 90 x 120 cm, 1985
See exhibition Happy New Year and Letter I

E-E archival number: E-E-185002



A matrix is not meant to produce copies, but stimulate interpretations. E-E Kozlov’s earliest interpretation of the movie subject matter is his comic art painting Шик-Шок-Шоу / Shick-Shock-Show from 1985, also entitled Cinema. Similar to that of Rock Hudson and Piper Laurie in The Golden Blade (1953) on E-E Drafts No 18, Kozlov’s composition exaggerates the couple’s passionate pose to the brink of parody, but reverses the roles of the man and the woman, the woman having become the dominant figure.[23]

Kozlov’s main principle with respect to an interpretation is to add “an element of strangeness” that changes not only the syntax of the visual content, but its semantics, too. Looking for sources that might inspire him, “chance painting” was one of his approaches, but he was also paying attention to unusual features in illustrations and in his own photographs.

(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 above-mentioned drawing God and Bacchantes Accompanying Him from 1991 gives another example. The composition is based on a still from The Walking Dead (1936), one of the cut-outs on E-E Drafts No 18. Kozlov noted an odd white horizontal strip in Boris Karloff’s hair, which he transformed into a pair of wings, thereby turning the actor into a Hermes and his companion Marguerite Churchill into a bacchante.[24]  

In The River of Forgetfulness, there are quite a number of “strange elements” – the river Lethe, in the first place, but also Eve’s skinny and frail arm, the globe or planet above Adam’s head, and the couple in conversation, to name just a few. However, in the context of the composition’s wider mythological concept, they might not have been strange enough. To depart from Hollywood’s romanticism, Kozlov opted for a radical change and introduced the symbol of death – the skull. Adam’s skull became what he once referred to as “the essential element, some kind of shock moment”.[25]

To be precise, it isn’t just the skull that is shocking, but its intimate contemplation of Eve, who might or might not know whom she is holding in her arms, who is meditating on her beauty. In 2002, Performer Marina Abramović produced a similar shock effect when she, lying down, placed a (reproduced) skeleton on top of her naked body, rhythmically moving its bones with her breath (“Nude with Skeleton”). Like in The River of Forgetfulness, Death lies on top of Life.

Yet in Kozlov’s painting, the assignment of death and life to Adam and Eve, respectively, isn’t all that obvious. With a semi-transparent body of geometrical volume that leaves his bones partly visible, Adam is not only death – he is also flesh. Eve, the sleeping beauty, is not only life – being tired means to feel the weight of one’s own body, to lay down and to give oneself over to temporary oblivion, to temporary loss of consciousness. The horizontal position of her body, enclosed by the waters of Lethe, is common to both Sleep and Death, Hypnos and Thanatos, as none possesses the life forces to overcome gravitation and keep the body upright. In Hans Holbein’s The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb from around 1520, one can feel how the body is pressed to the earth by its own weight.[26]

Perhaps one may say that here, Eve represents the spiritual aspect of earthly matters, not readily available to consciousness – Lethe literally means concealment. Every time she falls asleep, she travels across the River of Forgetfulness to reconnect with timelessness, forgetting about time. Every time she wakes up, she travels back to meet death and forgets about her belonging to that other realm, too. The River of Forgetfulness works both ways.

Kozlov’s image is a long way from his earlier illustrations of skulls and skeletons, especially those of his graffiti art period (1985 to 1987), where he depicted them as scary and funny creatures mocking people. Standing somewhere in between hobgoblins and bogeymen, these images follow folk traditions, including the more extravagant variations like the Halloween pumpkin faces. Others are parodies of Soviet anti-American propaganda, with the skull as the symbol of atomic bomb destruction. In fact, in Kozlov’s later body of works, the “scary but funny” aspect of skulls and skeletons finds numerous modifications, for instance in the “skull face robots” and “stick figure skeletons” from 1998, which he texted, “When artists paint skeletons, then it’s either a foolproof issue or they’re awaiting death. To be continued.”[27]

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  Today in the LXXXI Century (Детская комната / Children's room) Mixed media on canvas, 2,10 x 10 m, 1998 The picture displays the artist in front of his painting. Photo: Hannelore Fobo.   E-E archival number: E-E-198069

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Today in the LXXXI Century (Детская комната / Children's room)
Mixed media on canvas, 2,10 x 10 m, 1998
The picture displays the artist in front of his painting. Photo: Hannelore Fobo.

E-E archival number: E-E-198069



Today, skulls and skeletons have indeed become elements of pop art and post pop art, where they continue the traditions of the danse macabre (from churches) and memento mori (in still lifes). Jean Michel Basquiat created superb images of skeletons and skulls. Andy Warhol’s painted silkscreen work “Skulls” from 1976 or Damien Hirst’s “diamond” skull from 2007 (“For the Love of God”) are other well-known examples. 

In The River of Forgetfulness, the traits of death acquire a more refined and at the same time more complex meaning. One such possible meaning is that Death, for the sake of love, remains in the realm of temporality – yet paradoxically, when Death joins transitoriness and dies, then humans become immortal. This is a purely Christian motif.

On 11.3.2016 Evgenij Kozlov entered the following remarks in his notebook:

    Life is a divine gift; so is death.
    God intimates: life is good. Death is good.
    Materialists and ignoramuses think the opposite.[28]

Everything on earth comes in pairs. Death comes with human life, and the bones are its symbol. Yet it is also true that it is the rigidity of bones that allows humans their earthly existence – Adam / Death unveils the body’s inner cohesion. Bones, joints, tendons, and muscles have since become a distinguishing feature of Kozlov’s figurative work. He doesn't strive to depict them anatomically correct – others, like Leonardo da Vinci, have solved this task before him. Rather, he transforms them into highly aesthetic, almost ornamental objects. In a second version of The River of Forgetfulness from 1993, painted in the same technique as the one from 1988, two skeletons lie on top of each other, the one above having its bones intertwined like a sophisticated piece of wickerwork, while the one below displays a spiky ribcage similar to a suit of armour. The viewer recognises different, and to some extent contradictory structures that support living organisms.

 (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  The River of Forgetfulness, 1993. Detail with skeletons

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

The River of Forgetfulness, 1993. Detail with skeletons

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  The River of Forgetfulness. Mixed media on paper, 102 x 420 cm, 1993 Exhibition view, Hannah Barry Gallery, London, 2015. Photo: Damien Griffiths  E-E archival number: E-E-1893026

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

The River of Forgetfulness. Mixed media on paper, 102 x 420 cm, 1993
Exhibition view, Hannah Barry Gallery, London, 2015 more >>. Photo: Damien Griffiths

E-E archival number: E-E-1893026

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  The River of Forgetfulness. Ink and acrylic paint? on gauze, approx, 80 x 380 cm, 1993. Photo: Hannelore Fobo  E-E archival number: E-E-1893026-gauze

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

The River of Forgetfulness. Ink and acrylic paint? on gauze, approx, 80 x 380 cm, 1993. Photo: Hannelore Fobo

E-E archival number: E-E-1893026-gauze



In essence, Kozlov follows Faust’s approach “to understand whatever binds the world’s innermost core together”.[29] Faust relies on magic lore, Kozlov’s magic is his imaginativeness which allows him to gain knowledge from both of Lethe’s shores. In his manifesto “Two Cosmic Systems” from 1991, he distinguished between a view on art “according to the laws of the Earth” and a view “of creation as a whole from the Cosmos, as if the artist had been born in space and had completed their complete path of development and formation solely in it.” If an artist is able to merge the two systems, this induces an alchemic process of transforming this side of Lethe into new images of life. Kozlov once spoke of a “spiritual metamorphosis.”[30]

The River of Forgetfulness exemplifies how artistic knowledge – imaginativeness combined with technical skills – is able to interrelate into a single narrative what would otherwise remain an undetermined cluster of coloured shapes and figures. This connects to the concept of CHAOSE ART: “There are works of art that accept chaos as it is and, at the same time, turn it into a higher order – they are CHAOSE ART.”[31]

This is the very “spiritual metamorphosis” of matter via an image – via an illusion that reveals the beauty of creation.

Hannelore Fobo, 29 May 2024

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov  Река забвения / The River of Forgetfulness, reverse Oil, ink, and alcohol-based ink on paper, 102 x 247 cm, 1988 The Wende Museum Collection, California. Presented by Catherine Mannick in 2023. Photo C. Mannick

(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Река забвения / The River of Forgetfulness, reverse
Oil, ink, and alcohol-based ink on paper, 102 x 247 cm, 1988
The Wende Museum Collection, California. Presented by Catherine Mannick in 2023. Photo C. Mannick

The “proper” side of the wallpayer displays ink prints, as well as Kozlov's signature and dedication “For Catherine Mannick” (bottom right) and a faded USSR exportation stamp in the lower left corner.

Kozlov dedicated the painting to Catherine Mannick next to the title and signature on the reverse and sent it to her in 1989 through an acquaintance. Faint marks of the Soviet exportation stamp can still be seen in the lower left corner of the backside. In 2023, Catherine Mannick donated the work to the Wende Museum, California.

E-E archival number: E-E-188017






[1] Kozlov dedicated the painting to Catherine Mannick next to the title and signature on the reverse and sent it to her in 1989 through an acquaintance. Faint marks of the Soviet exportation stamp can still be seen in the lower left corner of the backside. In 2023, Catherine Mannick donated the work to the Wende Museum, California.

[2] The catalogue Товары бытовой химии / Household Chemicals from 1986, published by МосВНИИхимпроект / MosVNIIkhimproekt, lists household inks produced in the USSR on pp. 196. External link >>

Kozlov also created his own liquid colours with the help of brush cleaners; as the solvent removes the residual ink, it gradually becomes darker. He selected different tones, from pale pink to anthracite grey and violet. 

[3]. The Russian Wikipedia article on ink refers to a curious fact – there existed two seasonal Raduga ink types, a “winter” and a “summer” type, “differing in the main modifier of viscosity, wettability and drying rate - winter with ethylene glycol as a modifier and summer with glycerine, but in fact winter versions of Raduga ink have not been produced in Russia since the 90s.” External link >>

[4] The technical description of this type of ink is “Чернила спиртовые для оформительских карандашей, ТУ 24-7-05-99—83.” 

[5] When adding different colours on top of each other, the transparent “layer” effect is comparable to that of placing coloured transparency sheets on top of each other.

[6]
    [As] the third artistic development of the 20th century and as the main trend of the 21st century, CHAOSE ART has retained the intellectual state of conceptual art without misusing artistic expression as a didactic means; it has adopted the freedom of the pure colour and form of abstractionism without becoming trivial with ornamentality.

CHAOSE ART. Hannelore Fobo, based upon the findings of Evgenij Kozlov (2009) more >>

[7] Ibid.

[8]

    Если считать (знать), что в мире не существует случайности, что следует из математики, физики, химии и т.д.
    Сделаю вывод — любая микроскопическая точка на моем произведении искусства не является случайной — даже если она с точки зрения зрителя и кажется хаотично возникшей (т.к. хаос — это гармония в её высшем понимании).

    See Hannelore Fobo. (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov. E-E WEIGHT. SLEEP, catalogue text, 2016 more >>

[9] The artist first created templates in 1983 for the painting SIT VENIA VERBO. Traditions of the Twentieth Century and an exhibition poster more >> more >> more >>. Templates became particularly important in 1987, when he started designing constructivist figures, which led to his New Classicals cycle from 1988-1990. For the six motifs of this cycle, Kozlov scrupulously worked out complex multifigure compositions he initially applied to bus-stop signs with the help of templates and then transferred to canvases of a two by three metre format more >>.

[10] The main difference between the silkscreen and the gauze printing techniques is that unlike gauze, a silkscreen layer is normally used as a template, since non-printing areas are covered with hardened emulsions. In this way, the same pattern can be printed several hundreds of times. Put differently, without making use of a template, shapes cannot be reproduced, and this is one of the reasons why painting through gauze produces monotypes.

[11] This is the smallest work from the group paintings on wallpaper; its dimensions are 89 x 144 cm for the work on paper and 77 x 130 for the textile piece. Four more works have been documented in part, but their whereabouts remain unknown: “Lening-rad” (black and white reproduction, gauze preserved), “Headhunters” (black and white reproduction, gauze preserved), “Three Stars” (black and white reproduction, no gauze), and “New York” (no image, no gauze). Two more pieces of gauze in the artist’s collection cannot be related to any of these works See works 1988 >>.


(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Gauze for Охотники за черепами / Headhunters. Ink on gauze, 90 x 230 cm, 1988

E-E archival number: E-E-188021

[12] Gauze sold in pharmacies on large rolls. Hobby tailors also used gauze as interlining to reinforce the fabric.

[13] In 2015, E-E Kozlov began painting with ink on the back of coated canvas, a technique providing the motifs with soft “feathery” pixel contours on the front. See: Hannelore Fobo. (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov. E-E WEIGHT. SLEEP, catalogue text, 2016 more >>

[14] The pixels along the borders can be very small and are not easily detectable on the photographic reproductions on which this text is based.

[15] There are, however, exceptions, for instance several interpretations of the gigantomachy from the Pergamon frieze (1994) and the Ludovisi Gaul (2006).  Christian topics are, in the main, the Crucifixion, Madonna and Child, and The Last Supper.  


(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov

Untitled (after the Ludovisi Gaul sculpture)
Mixedmedia on canvas, 80 x 60 cm 2006

E-E archival number: E-E-206022

[16] A series from 1982, The Peterhof Book of Hours, gives examples of sumptuous narrations. Created with pages from a book of hours from the 19th century, the colourful miniatures leave the printed text, written in Church Slavonic, partly visible, and are thus reminiscent of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Although Kozlov’s figures cannot readily be identified with Christian saints or heroes, concerning style and compositional features, the illustrations resemble The Homilies of Gregory from the late ninth century. more >>

[17] In modern art, there exist, in fact, variations of the traditional portrayal of the biblical couple, for instance, with Salvador Dalí’s sculpture Adam and Eve from 1968/1984.

[18] Kρανίου Τόπος, kraniou topos, according to the Evangelists.

[19] Other subjects include groups of people, children, heads, hand gestures, human anatomy, animals, folklore and ethnology, history, sports, musical instruments, architecture and constructions, space rockets, cosmonauts, doctors and researchers, soldiers and military parades, ships, etc. 

See: Hannelore Fobo. E-E KOZLOV. The Atlas of Ontology, 2021. more >>

[20] Films stills identified show Ramón Novarro and Greta Garbo in Mata Hari (George Fitzmaurice, 1931), Boris Karloff and Marguerite Churchill in The Walking Dead (Michael Curtiz , 1936), Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman in Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945), Valerie Hobson and Stewart Granger in Blanche Fury (Marc Allégret, 1948), Rock Hudson and Piper Laurie in The Golden Blade (Nathan Jura, 1953), Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief, (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955), and Simone Signoret and Charles Vanel in Death in the Garden / Diamond Hunters (Luis Buñuel, 1956). The collage also includes a picture with a man and a child entitled “A. Warhol”: The man is securing the child’s legs while the child is doing a handstand. Kozlov wrote Warhol’s name next to the man’s head, as this gentleman indeed resembles the American artist.

[21] Soviet cinematography featured such poses only occasionally. It can be seen, for instance, in one of the film posters for “Springtime”, a 1947 Mosfilm musical comedy with opulent dancing scenes, starring Nikolay Cherkasov and Lyubov Orlova, a glamorous Soviet superstar. The design of this poster might, in fact, have been adapted from Hollywood movies. In the early 1930s, Grigory Alexandrov, the director of this and other highly successful movies with Orlova, had worked some time in Hollywood (together with Sergey Eisenstein) and is said to have created Orlova’s image as the Soviet Union’s answer to Marlene Dietrich. External link >>

[22] The exact title of the collage is Кино, как в жизни, якорь. (Гёте против Нострадамуса) / Cinema, as in life, an anchor. (Goethe vs. Nostradamus). In the collage, all words are applied as cut-outs from magazines, with the exception of “anchor”, rendered as an image.

[23] Soviet iconography has a grotesque example of a passionate couple, though not in the field of cinema, but military propaganda. Viktor Koretsky’s poster celebrates the annexation of Western Byelorussia in 1939 (following the secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) with a strong homoerotic component. A Byelorussian peasant and a Soviet soldier embrace each other fiercely, vehemently kissing each other on the mouth. The peasant, slightly leaning back, takes over the role of the woman, while the Soviet (Russian) soldier presents his rifle like a huge phallus. The heading on the poster quotes Stalin: “Our army is the army of liberation of workers”.

[24] For a discussion of uncommon and striking features that trigger strangeness see: Hannelore Fobo. (E-E) EVGENIJ KOZLOV. E-E DRAFTS, 2020, Page 3: The Atlas of Ontology, more >>

[25] In his letter to Catherine Mannick from 1986, concerning his painting “CCCP-USA” (Letter J more >>).

[26] For a detailed discussion of “sleep” and “weight” in Kozlov’s works see: Hannelore Fobo. (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov. E-E WEIGHT. SLEEP, catalogue text, 2016 more >>

[27] The Russian text reduplicates some of the “e” vowels: 

еесли художник рисует скелееты то либо это беспроигрышная тема, либо он ждёт смерти. продолжениее следуеет.

[28] Жизнь Божественный подарок. Смерть тоже.

Бог: Жизнь — хорошо. Смерть — хорошо.

Наоборот считают материалисты и незнайки.

Ibid.

[29] Goethe, Faust, lines 382–3 External link >>

[30] In an interview given to Art Chronika in 2010, Kozlov stated about his emblematic Portrait of Timur Novikov with Arms Consisting of Bones from 1988:

    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.” more >>

Art-historian Andrey Erofeev chose this painting to represent his lecture “Russian avant-garde art of the late twentieth century” given at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art in 2011. more >>

[31] CHAOSE ART. Hannelore Fobo, based upon the findings of Evgenij Kozlov (2009) more >>




USA-CCCP. Points of Contact.
Part 1: Introduction
Synopsis • Preliminary Remarks
1. From Leningrad to Boston and Back
2. Let’s Talk About Art. New Wave, New Artists, and B(L)ack art.
3. Perestroika Emissaries
4. The End of Censorship
5. “It Seems I Need a Manager.” The Impact of Getting Popular
6. Leningrad Artists and Musicians in E-E Kozlov's Pictures
— The River of Forgetfulness, 1988 —
Part 2: Letters
Letter A (1979) – Halloween
Letter B (1980) – To Be at Peace with Yourself
Letter C (1980) – Harlequin
Pictures 1981 – Flat Exhibitions / Letopis ("Chronicle”)
Letter D (1982) – The Sea and the Countryside
Letter E (1983) – Saigon
Letter F (1983) – Moscow
Letter G (1984) – New Wave
Letter H (1985) – New Composers
Letter I (1986) – Happy New Year at the Leningrad Rock Club
Letter J (1986) – CCCP-USA
Letter K (1986) – The Price of Art
Letter L (1986) – B (L)ack art • PoPs from the USSSR
Letter M (1986) – A Taste for Colours
Letter N (1987) – Part 1: Changes and Challenges
Letter N (1987) – Part 2: ASSA
Letter O (1988) – Joanna Stingray's Wedding
Letter P (1989) – Perestroika Hot News
Letter Q (1989) – Russkoee Polee • The Russian Field
Letter R (1990) – New Classicals
Epilogue: USA-CCCP. Points of Contact (Forthcoming)

see also
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Catherine Mannick, and Hannelore Fobo papers, 1979-2022 (inclusive)
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Special Collection Harvard University >>

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Published 7 June 2024
Last updated 9 July 2024