Художники из Ст. Петербурга / Аrtists from St. Petersburg. Works on Paper

Exhibtion and catalogue The blown kiss • Воздушный поцелуй • Berlin, 1994

The artists

Artists Die Künstler Художники
Exhibition Die Ausstellung Концепция выставки
Catalogue Katalog каталог

The Artists.

The work we are presenting comes from internationally renowned St. Petersburg artists. They represent the generation born in the 50's and early 60's, who, with self-assurance, vitality and audacity revolutionized the encrusted cultural terrain of the 1980's Leningrad. [The Style of the Leningrad 80es >>]

Let us recreate the atmosphere of this period. We have, on the one hand, the precarious legal situation of the unofficial artist. Lacking recognition from the State Artist's Union, these artists were forced to work without official professional license. Consequently, exhibition opportunities were severely restricted and, if their employment books could not show “gainful“ employment, the artists were threatened with imprisonment. Also, many young artists moved to the city without a residence permit, thus becoming illegal aliens in their own country.

On the other hand, a fresh, revitalized atmosphere was breaking forth: one could sense the wavering of ideological rule. The unofficial artists could no longer tolerate concealing their artistic existence by working as night-watchmen, heating repair-men or museum attendants.

Andrei Medvedev, 1991.  Photo by Hannelore Fobo

Andrei Medvedev, 1991.

Photo by Hannelore Fobo
Many artist groups that came into life during this period besides sharing similar approaches (the basis for more or less close relations and many collaborative works), had a strong social component. Due to the shortage of public spaces and bars, they would meet in the studios of certain artists. Within this setting information could circulate about the newest international trends, where on weekends, techno-parties would provide a chance to cultivate one's personal fashion and image.

Of course, the scene (Tusovka) included not only painters but musicians, film-makers, fashion designers, disco dancers, art-critics and hallucinogen experts, though no one subscribed to any particular self-designation. Here, the lack of financial ressources was counterbalanced by an abundance of creativity. In a sense, it was an “anti-bourgeois" movement and not an expression of political protest.

The most significant avant-garde group was known as the "New-Artists">> formed in 1982. The founder of the group was Timur Novikov. Of the exhibited artists, Oleg Kotelnikov, Ivan Sotnikov, Evgenij Kozlov, Vadim Ovchinnikov and Andrei Medvedev were members. The key element was mutual acceptance of each others' work without emphasizing a theoretical agenda. The aim was to become recognized as a group and to push through their collective exhibitions. Their art bears certain affinities to the early Russian avant-garde. Its expressive narrative content accentuated through contrasting colors captivates the viewer.

Their path into the public eye was also characteristic of the eighties: beginning with exhibitions in private rooms, regularly broken by the KGB, to movie theatres, workers' clubs and youth palaces (praticing self-censorship). Later, after Perestoika and the visits of western art experts, the year 1988 marked the beginning of a rapid succession of exhibitions in the U.S.A. and Western Europe. Then in 1990 at the height of their fame, their collective exhibitioning was brought to an end. This was due to a number of reasons.

from left to right: Oleg Zaika, Viktor Kuznetsov, Oleg Maslov, painting by Oleg Maslov. "Les Allumées", Nantes, France, 1991 photo by Hannelore Fobo

from left to right: Oleg Zaika, Viktor Kuznetsov, Oleg Maslov, painting by Oleg Maslov.
"Les Allumées", Nantes, France, 1991
photo by Hannelore Fobo

Probably the most important reason was that the group had satisfied its role as protectorate and as a vehicle for identification. Today, many of the artists have begun individual projects. Evgenij Kozlov, for example, is collecting work by St. Peterburg artists in a 2 x 3 meter format for a touring exhibition [collection 2 x 3 m >>]. Inal Savchenkov and Frants Rodwalt founded the “School of Engineers of Art" where they work together with younger artists. Because of their international fame, they have access to larger exhibition halls in St. Petersburg: the Manege, the Museum of Ethnography and the Russian Museum. Today more than ever, they play an outstanding role in the artistic life of the city.

Other artists of this generation have experienced similar developments. Oleg Maslov and Oleg Zaika, formerly working together in a surrealistic vain, now work separately. Maslov, along with the former "New Artist" Andrei Medvedev, joined the Neoacademics. Meanwhile, the Necrorealist Valery Morozov now manifests signs of a new direction. Viktor Kuznetsov (a.k.a. Gipper Puper), though still sympathizing with his group "Svoi," increasingly exhibits solo. And Vadim Sadovnikov has experienced a reorientation in his music from rock to choral.

Each artist follows their own artistic path with fervor and conviction. It is worth our while to accompany them along the way.

H. F., 1994