REVIVAL THROUGH RECOLLECTION
Against dim light of a little window, in a black bathhouse, on a bench along a sooty wall were sitting colossi; I was not able to recognize any of them, though I knew they were close people: mother and neighbourhood women. Their forms were incredibly solid, awe-inspiring, intimidating, beautiful and expressive (monumental, as I define it today).
Subsequently, in my works I strived to create similar awe-inspiring figures. Finally, I got a chance to demonstrate my skills in public ― the art department of the republic ordered a road-sign poster for a motorists’ rest area. Luckily, for the same money, the customer willingly agreed to a wooden sculptural composition instead of a poster. Wood was delivered to the scene immediately, we installed the stumps upright, and the six-year-long work began. In each figure of the composition, I attempted to engrave the childhood episode in the bathhouse. The size of log commanded a strict volume of the figure and certain emergence of the form into space. Under definite confining circumstances, I had to convey motion, keep the proportions and prevent any distortion.
After prolonged reflection and research, I was finally able to attain some satisfactory result, although I had to resort to some contrivances imperceptible to the spectator. The fact that I cut the figures in the open air helped me define the level of consolidation: find balanced size for figures, make them fit in that particular landscape, instill them harmoniously into the medium. Indeed, this varies depending on whether the work is performed indoors or outdoors. When working indoors one might find himself carried away by minor elements, which results in excessive detailing of the form; it makes the piece look like a moulage rather than a sculpture. The difference between the two is that the moulage copies external forms whereas a sculpture structuralizes the piece from within. It copies the real life directly, whereas sculpture raises life to power by means of structuralizing and consolidating internally.
I did not notice six years pass while working hard day and night, without days-off or holidays, trying to define that difference and resolve it in practice. I was working on the outskirts of town, where often I had no one but myself to talk to ― perfect conditions for analysis. Technically those seventeen figures were a static construction; however, I strived to resolve better than that ― to convey dynamics through the confining volume of a log.
In the guesthouse Iljinski, I took up a seven-piece monumental-decorative composition, the Round Dance. Seven figures of round dancing girls would symbolize seven epochs of
Nevertheless, the black bathhouse,
At last, I was given by authorities an opportunity to reach those heights. I thought of composing a cavalry. The sculpture would consist of five riders. I am sure that equestrians made of logs are something unknown to the history of sculpture. I processed and joined with rust-resisting bolts three oak stumps as wide as one meter in diameter to make one rider. The three elements were: 1st log - the front of the horse, 2nd – the horseman, 3rd ― the rear of the horse. The whole composition with the base would emerge as high as 7 meters. There would be no pedestal as such: thick iron rings of metal pipes would emerge from under the ground and continue in the bodies of the riders.
Such a unique solution made the composition resemble a pipe organ in open 3D space; the awe-inspiring expression of it still gives no peace to some local residents, politics and their accomplices, and connoisseurs of art.
In my quest, I strived to break free from pedestals, because those assume earth’s surface and gravity. All the naturalistic sculpture of our era is somehow connected to the forces of gravity. Many examples of Ancient Greek, Roman, European sculpture would serve as a clear evidence of this principle. For ages, the attachment to gravity would strangle development of sculpture as an art. Therefore, the disappointment in anthropomorphic sculpture in present time and its replacement by compilation of real objects is not surprising. When the mind is deadlocked the work wrecks. Understanding, or rather feeling it, I have always tried to avoid composing sculpture according to the principle of dolmen ― when two upright stones support the third. I opposed to it with a type of sculpture constructed around some energy point within. Such an approach does not assume necessity of a pedestal to meet the necessary plasticity of sculpture. If there is no pedestal, there is no bottom or top, front or rear, i.e. the sculpture attains three-dimensional volume. We understand it perfectly now after astronauts’ experience proved that beyond the influence of Earth there is no top, no bottom; thus, this approach establishes conformity of artistic and technical experiences of a person, which is an important factor in balancing the perception of the universe.
In the quest for plastic solutions in fine art, I came to conclusion that forms develop differently beyond the forces of gravity. Everything begins with an idea, which serves as an energy point; the form builds itself around it and evolves into space along the power axes, while the medium resists the process. In order to preserve itself the idea is struggling, as a result new shapes loom in space; they may be quite fantastic, but the will of the human changes their course and forces anthropomorphic solutions. In that respect the human likens to Creator. Hence, I can compare Sculptor with Creator, can’t I?
Through crevices in the wall of the collective farm forge you can see a yard. In the yard, children of your age are running barefoot on green spring grass. There the world is lively, joy, ringing, colourful; it is only perceived that beautifully when within the walls of the smithy, standing at the forge day and night, pulling handles of the ash-box bellows. You are placed here not to make money, but simply for a peasant principle that says, “Children must be put to work from an early age”; 200 grams of grain for one working day is not a big revenue for household. Nevertheless, that was the psychology of a kulak man, or rather, a dispossessed kulak, who once exiled to the hell of communism Belomorkanal managed to return to his native village, already the socialist hell. The middle zone of Russia is not subtropics by climate; you have to work in order to survive, more than that, everybody has to work, the old or the young from birth to death. This simple axiom was evident to my father and he would try to instill it in us. People would often work just for the sake of work, which formed authentic principles of Folk Faith, which is still followed by the
The work of a sculptor is akin to the labour of a peasant: plough badly, sow badly ― get bad crops. Similarly in sculpture everything from framing to shaping and moulding must be made thoroughly, especially if it is a wooden sculpture. Generally, people think a sculpture made of wood is trivial, but the truth is, it is within a wooden sculpture that the precise reciprocal embodiment of the artist and his creation takes place, because nothing is to stand between them.
A tree that stands alone has a sacral meaning to a follower of the Folk Faith; it represents the axis of the universe, which links the Terrestrial World and the Afterworld with the Celestial World. The prayers uttered by this tree reach all the Worlds. There the
Throughout my long practice in wooden sculpture (I processed 96 stumps), many times I came to one conclusion: you cannot shape wood without feeling as if it is your own body. Only then, you feel the bodily pain of every mistake, which will not let you deviate from the original idea. Certainly, one may ignore the essence of wood, kill it, and process it with machine tools, but such “creation” will not breathe any blessed warmness, but dead coldness.
Not long ago on my way to Shămărshă, I parked in the rest area, where the composition of 17 wooden sculptures was installed by me in 70s. Worn-out and unattended like old labourers they still radiate heartily warmness. Unfortunately, in 36 years, we only managed to recondition them once, and we have not had funds for a thorough restoration. By the way, for over decades the composition Round Dance stays abandoned in the area of Resort Iljinski. The work of art has never been repaired and has never been analysed by art-critics.
There are art-critics in the republic, with the degree, twice or trice honoured with state prizes, but there is no Art-criticism; it is replaced by absolute profanation of the discipline. Because there is no scientific analysis and social evaluation of the pieces of art any political wimp may do whatever he wants with the creation of an artist. The works of art are designed and installed in certain places not by random choice ― in first place, but it is the challenge of times. It is the challenge to balance the powers of the Universal order, like the Pyramids in Egypt, Eiffel Tower in France, Statue of Liberty in America and many other monuments little-known, but significant for that area.
While my Cavalry was standing in open air at the location it belong to, facing west, the waves of mass discontent and natural disaster passed over it; like lightning conductor, it would ward off all the negativity. As soon as they moved Cavalry behind some bathhouse and placed it against a Ferris wheel facing two factory stacks, not even caring to wash off the soot, it become quite clear to everyone that something is desperately wrong in Chuvashia. Unploughed and unsown fields, factories and plants made into markets for foreign trade, drug addiction, alcoholism, unemployment ― all that would stand in sharp contrast with unprecedented self-aggrandizing of the authorities. Everywhere would rise architectural monsters with golden domes, not only sucking all public money, but paltry pensions of retired people as well, cross-like monstrous monuments, reminding of Stalin times ― this has become reality in Chuvash Republic. It may be tolerable, but it goes way beyond that ― such a regime creates many dwarf tricksters, omnipresent they enter every active sphere of society and “skilfully” degrade it. The same faces seen as sponsors, as connoisseurs or representatives form society penetrate every initiative, pervert ideas, rob funds, and withdraw. This kind of scheme debased the idea of creating an ethno park in
The idea of a monument to militiamen who gave their lives for peace turned into absurdity. Originally, a fountain was designed to symbolize peaceful life on Earth, guarding which the militiamen lost their lives. All of a sudden after some time, there in that place appears something frightening, threatening all living beings ― a hand with a chastising sword. The authors of this group “monument”, which resembles Stalin’s kiosks of rolls of honour; they actually replaced the idea of Guarding with the idea of Revenge. I believe, militia is not an office of punishment, but a guarantee of safe life; a militiaman goes into street to protect peaceful civilians. This controversial replacement turned once cosy nook of the town, a favourite spot for mothers with children to recreate into a smoking area for the students of a tourism institute nearby. It is none of sculptor’s business to criticise anybody, but I feel like it is my time, part of my life, therefore I hold responsibility for what is going on in society.
The most important conversation of a master with his ideas takes place in his kitchen, i.e. his workshop. Before you start a conversation, you have to brace yourself, establish control over emotions, abstract from daily routine and then set to work on a new creation. Work done under such conditions is related to the soul of the master, the creator, it is therefore very painful for the sculptor to part with his creation. I do not rush to part with my creations, only few exceptions now belong to Tretyakov Gallery,
Not any creation is accepted in my family. If one is a bad character, I will try to fix it, but if it still does not come out well I destroy it, therefore I only have good characters, well-wishers in my family. A well-wisher has a positive magnetism, is a donor. A creation with such spirit is not easy to make. First, scrupulous work on structuralizing is performed. Then, I animate it with part of my soul, the Chun.
According to concepts of the
I had no problem choosing themes for work. I have ideas for 300 years ahead, however as I am not granted such longevity I take up the most urgent, ultimately conceptual themes. I think what characterizes my works best in this regard are the series Involution, which includes Creator, Thunderer, Aştaha (the lord of Underworld). The works Passion, Ikar, Tired Angel do not fall under the tradiotional concept of having front, rear, top or bottom; every side and detail of them manifest an idea, one will not have any problem placing, putting, and hanging them when demonstrating.
Now I am free and I do what I want and how I want on any topic. By the way, I think, my works do not stick to certain themes; a theme would assume a plot that demands theatricality. In fine arts, they are not substantial. In my creative work, they are replaced by events: in my work I do not play the situation, but bring it into world. You can bring out any notion; there is room for “realism without borders” as said by Roger Garaudy. The impressionists worked in that manner in the beginning of last century, but that movement did not affect sculpture. Attempts to create something expressive, different only resulted in destruction of the school of sculpture. As a result, sculpture degraded into a state of fetishism and manipulations with natural objects. In painting, the impressionistic experiments were justified by fresh ideas of colour perception, whereas in sculpture such ideas had not yet ripened. Soon, space flights, knowledge of weightlessness suggested a completely different vision of shape forming ― without the effect of gravitation. This, of course, is the greatest mind-set discovery after mastering of fire and invention of the wheel.
SCENE THREE, ETERNAL
It is early in the morning; the sun is high; nature is blossoming all around. By sweat on his brow, a man is working on the soil: he needs to plough, prepare the grain, harrow the field, faultlessly sow, cover the grain, roll the arable from excessive evaporation – there is nothing to be neglected in this process, the future crop depends on thoroughness of each operation. Such is the work of a cultivator, so is the work of a sculptor as well, there are no trifles in their work, all is serious, all is significant, sacredly pure.
In 1992 at the height of perestroika in the country, on one hectare of land near the place I was born on a wood margin of settlement Baskaki in Shămărshă district I started a farm, manually processed the ground, sown buckwheat, which, unfortunately, froze. Unluckily there and then from the district office I received the penalty bill signed by the district’s public prosecutor for untimely submission of the reporting. I did not have money to pay the penalty, so I had to resign from farmer business. So disgracefully, my farmer business ended.
What was I to do? I was blocked all around by reigning power for being a follower of Folk Faith, hence a dissident. Monotheists miscalled pagans were persecuted in the republic. The inquisitional mission was lead by the same members of nomenklatura.
Years would pass by… While still capable I started erecting monuments independently: sculptural composition Pirosmani near
It is useless to sue them. The judicial system of Chuvashia is well known for its set tendency. I became especially convinced when the court on behalf of
Unfortunately, other people found themselves in a similar situation. Regular non-payments to agriculturists turned them away from agriculture; many fields are not ploughed, are not sown, not harvested. There are deputies, but there is neither agricultural nor cultural policy.
The people yield the values of its Folk Faith, and degrade turning into a mob without history, dignity, or conscience. The language of the people is being launched offensive against, year after year domains of its use narrow; in fact, the educational policy in Russia is of pronounced chauvinistic character― while Russians think 40% quota for Russian language in schools of Baltic States scarce, 3-4% quota for native languages of inorodets’ in schools of Russia seems too much to them.
It is ethnic environment that is wholesome for creativity. Therefore, it is especially painful for me to see the thousand-year traditions of the Folk Faith ravaged for the sake of insatiable ambitions of Russian Orthodox Church. I cannot keep silent on this issue because the Folk Faith and the language associated with it are sources of my inspiration, my creative life.
SCENE FOUR, Connecting to the Immemorial
When I was young, collective farms had to supply the state not only with grains, potatoes, vegetables, eggs, meat, butter, honey, but also with foals for Red Army Cavalry. The backs of army stallions must not be bent; therefore, they would hire agile children as grooms. Quite often, we would set up races on our horses. At one of such competitions, my stallion little by little started pushing forward, the partner, seeing it, whipped my horse at the head. Dismayed, the stallion jumped aside. I was falling into abyss... I was in dark blue skies, at ease, pure; below there the dust raised by my fall was gradually bedding down. The dust was slowly dissipating and through its veil I saw myself, lying with the arms spread on the ground. Some time passed. From above I was looking at myself lying on the road. I was seeing it all, I understood it all; amazing pure blue sky was shining through the dust. I wanted to breathe, but I could not. Suddenly from beyond the dusty veil there appeared my stallion and touched my face with its wet lips. Bliss! I breathed again! I was one again, I felt good and calm.
Now I know that two halves of “I” may exist separately: one is incorporeal and light, while the other is heavy and motionless. Often, very often at various exhibitions you can see only the heavy, motionless half, while the light and sensual half is not present. A sculptor may not have found the second half or ways to enliven it in heavy weight. As a result, the sculpture remains dead, lifeless. I believe, it is the sculptor’s own lively "I" that passes over into his artwork, therefore truly successful works are extremely seldom (in my opinion, of all artworks in the world only 2-3% may meet the criteria). Such works, as a rule, have peculiar aura and each of them is a source of energy, which is analogous to the energy of the sculptor-creator. The fertile creative power of the sculptor and a skilfully designed sculpture create a two-in-one creature, unique, figurative. That master who manages to embody two substances in one is truly happy.
The sculptor, working long and scrupulously on the form, “weaves” its soul at the same time. This process is similar to a mystical meditation, during which a mystery is conceived.
Portraying celestial creatures brings one closer to the worldly life of humankind. This is how the Celestial House of Gods and the Terrestrial House of people penetrate each other. Gods and people are friendly neighbours; it was so before the separation of Heaven from Earth.
The corporate world of gods and humanity was lost for human’s misbehaviour; however, the followers of the Folk Faith through prayers, sacrifice and callings to the spirits of ancestors and gods (netĕr) achieve sense of unity of the two worlds. As an organizer of such rituals, many time I felt the rapture of such communications. Delight causes desire to create. It is very likely that the passion to create is achieved on such prayers.
Rapture supplies energy. The origin of energy defines the resulting creation. The light reflected by moon provides a momentary effect, it is short-lived; the works created with this power are not rewarding, in fact, they absorb the energy of the spectators like a vampire. The energy of reflected light is apt to reveal miracles, such as weeping icons, icons crying blood, Holy Fire of
Some long-lived masters understood that, which I am convinced of oftentimes. In Soviet time the Union of Russian Federation Artists, on competitive basis, would gather together sculptors (I attended it 7 times) at dacha named after Kardovsky in Pereslavl-Zallessky. There, of course, would come together the most advance guard masters of the art. Among them, there were people with different educational backgrounds, some without education, but each possessed something that let them work there. When you find yourself in such a circle, involuntarily you start judging your own creations from a different point of view; strong and weak sides of the work become obvious. Interesting ideas and secrets of creativity would be shared at the dacha. When I look back, I realise how much I gained at those meetings, there I understood importance of being oneself. It is a pity sculptors of new generation do not have that opportunity.
SCENE FIVE, WEIGHTLESSNESS
Flying in your sleep is so easy, you only have to concentrate, collect your strength, bounce off the Earth and fly ― fly over houses, hi-voltage wires, fields, forests. I wonder why none else flies, I show them how, and it is so simple after all!
A human being is distinguished from an animal by his practical experience, when he having laid the third rock over two stones it was the first step of overcoming the gravity. In order to take the next step in that direction he had to cut million rocks, lay them up into a pyramid and install the symbol of life on top ― the Ben-Ben, marking the victory of reason over the force of gravity. The results of this struggle are these remarkable masterpieces of architecture:
While man benefits from weightlessness physically, he still is a slave of gravity mentally. The process of liberation from forces of gravity is observed in sculpture especially. Among the first to break the principle of dolmens was Phidias, then Auguste Rodin and Marino Marini.
Practice proves the higher mind, i.e. the idea, emerges independent of the magnetic field of gravity as a point in space. This point evolves along given axes of intuitive search in open space. A sculpture, formed with this principle is distinctly different from artworks made according to the principle of dolmens. It does not need a base, a block, it actually does not need any of the attributes of traditional sculpture, it may be suspended, or just thrown on the ground, but under no circumstance will it lose its meaning. This method of free forming of an object in space provides unlimited possibilities for form-shaping creativity; a man becomes a true creator free form taboo and canons. The method is a modern means of creativity.
My sculptures emerged as intuitive ideas, then they formed into three-dimensional medium independent of forces of gravity, and they have single meaning any way you look at them, any way you place them. Conventionally they rest against three points ― it happened on its own. Started form a grain they acquired most intricate shapes within the framework of the idea. The sculptor here performs as the demiurge, the programmer and the performer at the same time.
Observable today in sculpture, formalistic manipulations with routine objects and technical products blocks one’s outlook. Sculpture based on principles of gravity mismatches today’s outlook; collision of views leads business up a blind alley, as is observable in practice.
Modern outlook is marked with free creativity without appeals, urgings, preaching; creativity is in free flight, independent of forces of gravitation. Shaping phenomena into objects, instead of reflecting reality, creating in accordance with the laws of sculpture as science ― science of shape forming in open space ― is an unconfined task, it is as immense as universe, and is fascinating. In this sense, it is absolute and all-powerful.
SCENE SIX, APOTHEOSIS, PRELUDE, A COMMUNIST OF WRONG CATEGORY
I was sitting under a school desk with a penknife in my hand and cutting a pencil into a shape. I was forced to hide there for my asocial background, I guess. All of my classmates had just been accepted into Pioneer organization. We had long learnt how to salute, tie the pioneer-tie, and to march. Yes, I had too. They accepted everyone but me; they took me aside and said I had not been on the list. Since then I degraded from being one of the best students into being the worst. I had to attend high school not in our district school but 18 kilometres away in foreign republic, hoping they would not recognize my “asocial background”.
Then came the time everybody would join the Komsomol Party, there too my name did not appear on the list. However, they would make me pay the membership fees; obviously, members of Komsomol, too, thought, “money does not smell”.
After one and a half years of ordeal, they finally accepted me in the Party. So eager I was to learn what sort of people they were. My father ― who was a man crippled by millstone, dispossessed and exiled to Belomorkanal, then injured when Defence of Moscow in World War II, who was contused but survived ― used to say that they were a kind of people, who would be forgiven any idiotic decision they make.
However, I could not learn where and how they took decisions, but soon I realized I was not the right communist:
When installing the composition Cavalry I broke my back and my legs gave away. With much effort, I crept to the party’s medical office across the street; I asked for medical help. A strict medical assistant told me they would only treat communists there. I said I was one, the very communist. She got a thick book out, looked in and said “You are not in; it means you’re a communist of different category”. I had to crawl away without help. After that, I was in bed one and a half year, never examined by communist medical service.
May be I was the wrong person. Meanwhile, my Folk Faith helped me understand my
I was even honoured and awarded some local prize, but I was happier to learn that my works were recognized by progressive museums of the country. Once, an employee of a local museum gave a swift look around and presented me a reference of ratings of Russian artists for 300 years, my name was there too.
However, the Apotheosis came with the letter from American Biographical Institute, notifying I was included in the list of fifty outstanding people of the Earth to be awarded The World Medal of Freedom. I concluded that there was something in the world, besides Christian God, that would take notice of a man’s hard work. Instantaneously, thinking it was some mistake, I sent a notice telling I had never applied for any award anywhere. It turned out, there was no mistake, and soon I received the World Medal of Freedom, #43 of 50.
I like the meaning of the medal; I come to understand it as “freedom from stupidity and abomination often performed by humankind, disguised with false ideas”. Well then, long live World Freedom!
In this autobiographical essay, I did not attempt to criticize anybody or express anger, but on the other hand, I cannot go against truth. Life is the way it is, with all its contradictions.
Sometimes I want to see the world through rose-colored spectacles and be pleasing to everyone, but that would at once make me a two-faced hypocrite. I believe two-facedness and irresponsibility are major sources of evil in modern world. We have seen too many deceitful high-ranked civil servants, and we cannot ignore it.
You cannot disguise dishonesty in creative work too ― if one piece of that kind appears it is perceived as something repugnant; people would intuitively recognize it. I have not produced any work in order to please anybody; knowing that gives me strength and assurance that my work is right. I have met many beginners, who would go against their consciousness, yet not corrupted, and created works pleasing the momentary political agenda, hoping they would thus improve their living conditions: offered an apartment, a studio, granted membership of artistic union, honoured titles and awards. The life of that person would then turn into an endless race for more comfort, which he can only achieve if he pleased those who he had depended on. He loses control over his artistic identity, becomes a brute villain. A senior, covered by numerous awards, with few insignificant works, empty-hearted, uninteresting, he would near the abyss, and there...
It does not matter how hard religious adepts try to sell stories about after death resurrection (could one imagine any activity as repugnant as that), or about various reincarnations in bodies of other creatures (which is similarly repugnant). It is true, that a man is not given another chance to live under the Sun and sins he commits during his life are not forgiven, neither in this world nor in the afterworld. A person should live in this world weighing his every step, treasuring every hour of the day. I am not attempting to preach, I am saying it to myself, for myself. One should choose what pleases him; it is the matter of choice.
With respect for all,
 In Chuvashia, “hura munca” is bathhouse with a stove but without chimney.
 Belomorsko-Baltiyskiy Kanal "White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal" is a ship canal that joins the
 A Finno-Ugric nation of the
 In the Mari language, the word “mari” means a human.
 Finno-Ugric nations of the
 A town in Chuvashia
 The nomenklatura were a small, élite subset of the general population in the Soviet Union who held various key administrative positions in all spheres of the Soviet Union: in government, industry, agriculture, education, etc. Without exception, they were members of the Communist Party.
 Linguist, author of Linguae Chuvashorum, a dictionary of
 the term used by Russians when referring to diverse ethnicities of the Volga Region, mostly in Pre-Soviet Russia