ST.PETERSBURG FINE ART PAPERS,

 Edition 31, Saint-Petersburg, 2014, page 7-10

 

 

Anna Shamankova

 

 

  

 

LEGEND TRANSFORMATION:

 

   works of Vasiliy Makhnovich

 

 Vasiliy Makhnovich (born in 1976) is a talanted artist, who lives and works in Moscow. The world of his images is many-sided, the language is figurative. The works are “multilevel” and allegorical. The way of their making up is long and difficult because each element is carefully adjusted filling and forming the entire sphere of the works.

 V. Makhnovich acquired the basis of art handicraft in Abramtsevo (1) and got a unique specialization as a “calker- printmaker-jeweler”. Experience getting in college formed that firm foundation of his skill with the help of which his own script was chiseled like from a granite cliff or a lump of marble. And gradually his own predilections were formed. Choosing motives or scenes of myths, folk tales as a starting point the artist transforms the existing ideas about them, creates his picture of that legendary world - fantastic but not flimsy like mirage, on the contrary weighty, surely existing somewhere in the Universe, in one of its various worlds where forms are firm and events are global.

Emotions and feelings of heroes and gods, people and celestials become a leitmotif of V. Makhnovich’s creative work. It is not infrequent that they are revealed in the scenes of a struggle – in the conflict between two powerful forces, in their cohesion and connection into united knot of tension. Besides plots from epic and history reecho, the artist is equally interested in the battle of Theseus and Minotaur, St. George’s fight with the dragon, the struggle of Peresvet and Chelubei. And the artist’s task - to transmit the resistance, the incandescence of passion, the entire rush – is the main and decisive here. He sees love as a kind of resistance (in all range of its expressions) accompanying with Passion and Jealousy.

 One of the most significant multi-figure canvases of Makhnovich where history and tale, true story and myth are connected has become his “Legend” (2003) (2). In the space of a picture, in the perspective of a fervent feast brave knights and their sophisticated ladies, peasants and beautiful contrywomen – fragility, “shortness” of characters helps to catch the rhythm of melody. Completeness of forms, accuracy of picture, some toughness and directness, graphity of picturesque manner, moderation of colour approaching to monochromaticism turn poetic, romantic world of Middle Age into reality, fantasy – into true. Each detail is worked out carefully; in accordance with graphic tradition of miniaturists the city is outlined conditionally and in relief. This canvas - a detailed, comprehensive story filled with love. The story is about the gold of setting sun, its beams transpiercing the amber of grapes, harvest festival. A gold legend about a flourish of Middle Age, about heroes-memories, memories of soul about one of the past lives.

 The image of Middle Age is revealed in many Makhnovich’s works which show triumphant processions and tilting matches. However if we consider the artist’s creation as a whole it is not difficult to notice that two become characters of his canvases or graphic compositions in some cases. Two involve a whole world in themselves, universum, their relations contain a meaning of eternal themes and plots.” For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). It is no coincidence that a major exhibition was devoted to this theme which had taken place in the Russian Museum in 2003 (3). The love story – a knight and his lady, Centaur and Nymth- becomes a prototype and imperishable plot in a talk about eternity for V. Makhnovich. Fragility, purity, sophistication of a naked woman’s body are always opposed to strength and manly warrior.

   The space of a canvas “Whisper of the Sun” (2003) is intensive. Generous Sun presents sonority to colour and density, “viscosity” to shade. Its beams caress, softly wrap all the objects of distant world, and – suddenly pierce, sting, turn sunflowers’ inflorescences into relentless mirrors. Tender leaves of plants fall down giving way to sharply defined, rhythmical ornaments. Moments freeze, time stops. Something intangible passes through the Centaur and his sweetheart, penetrates their blood, consciousness. And there can be heard whisper of the Sun on their lips revealing deep essence of things and events.

Developing the story about Centaur and Nymph in a canvas “Old gusli” (2008) a gold dust becomes a dramatis personae which strews all around, penetrates in everything creating space. Shapes of beloved are enweaved from it as well as their conditions – to wish one thing and contemplate, speculate another. Wind sorts the chords of old instrument, brings the ideas of possible happiness. Lift up, wavelike stalks-lines of poppies echoes the strings, their bolls swing in unhasting way, wrapping into gold dust.

 A canvas “Jealousy” (2009) narrates about eternal love varieties, collision of feelings, fatal and destroying feeling of emotions. Blind eyes of a knight are full of impenetrable mat veil. Stopped fish eyes don’t allow to feel the power of love and devotion of a woman having waited for her hero and surrendering herself. Steel hoop of jealousy rejects like a shield all the purity and clearness of consciousness, absolute submission, assurness of yourself and him. Tenderness of touches breaks up on rude surface like a thick substance of mistrust, edges of big stones. Thin transparent skin dissolving day light in itself, femininity, tremor of secret does not already attract gloom look…

 Basing on a strong academic painting and excellent knowledge of anatomy Makhnovich’s works are informative rich, the artist admires each detail in them. Light-and-shade of bodies and decorative elements of surrounding filling a ground compose a complex ornamental script. Fluent and fluid lines are wrenched open at joints suddenly, turned into sharp and angular forms reminding of modern plastic. And the language of texture is ingenious and multiplicate. Every time he offers to appeal to inner side, cover from the outer. From a surface – go into the depth, learn the origin of developing events.

  A carefully worked picture, enormous global composition as a rule by a lead pencil on a ground paper preface each canvas of the artist. These preparative cardboard sheets become independent graphic creations and deserve a separate consideration. On one of them we can see a historical struggle «Struggle of Peresvet and Chelubei» (2000), collision of two powerful forces, equal to each other enemies. His opposition, confrontation, fighting are intense. As if two sides of one essence they met: two equally distant poles of one world which are coming to each other, two opposite vectors, two equally in force but differently directed energies – creation and destruction, light and darkness, good and evil. Piercing each other by spears of death, heroes become an organic unity. The hug of death gives them peace, forgiveness to each other and equals to null the result of struggle by this, , returns world to initial harmony. Or on the contrary summarizes forces for new and more powerful explosion.

 A well-known plot is also in one of a graphic composition - «Europa abduction» (another title – «Abbussus Incognita», 2004) it looks like the artist catches the birth of some metaphysical power from abstract beginning. It has been forming for centuries like Space from Chaos and in a split second it spires from the bottom of ocean like a whirl leaving the traces of flying fish behind. As if from the depth of subconsciousness it takes away with a stream of celestial energies dressing idea in a cover of specified forms. Embodies in Virgin who sits on dignified Bull, in Europa of urbanistic century abducted by bull of anthropogenic era. Based on a plot from Greek mythology it contains problematic of further time and special layers, sections, levels. Refracted in a prism of modern world myth appears in an absolutely new angle, turns into phantasmagoria. Crystallizes a deep essence of things and events, appears their hidden meaning. And we fell involved into that world where skill and self-sufficiency of «Amazon» Diana («Diana», 2004), brave and ingenuity of Heracles («The Apples of the Hesperides», 2005), we feel protection and patronage of saint warrior («Miracle of Saint George about serpent», 2004), in a world where dreams and reality are interspersed and dreams get visible particular lines and clothed in full-weight forms.

The artist’s thoughts about power of feelings, about contradictory of human relations and rationality of world order find reflexion in a work «Natural clay» (2004). Strange as it may seem but it looks like that from one substance is whomped up, from one material is weaved – a blind destiny submission, fatality, and faith in celestial predetermination, and believe in your own possibilities. Energies dwelling on three life plans – in celestial world (high), earth (middle) and underground (low), do not recognize borders and easily transmit from one level to another; only voice of universe hypnotizes them sometimes sounding from sea shell. Life passes fast (that probably symbolizes passing herd of horses), dreams’ stream is fast moving. Something (time, space?) pierces you living «here and now», and then emanates with categorical decision to change yourself and all around or – a feeling of hopelessness and complete humility. Strength of will or weakness and helplessness are shown; a wish and possibility to oppose or – extinction of courage, subjected to submission, absence of will. A complex puzzle is composed, a unite sphere appears or – at absence of one element – falls into pieces. Surfaces of fracture are linked up closely or – do not correspond. Something passes by, «ground», something stops, stands still, gets a new embodiment but something – «sink» in a clay…

If well known legends which were reconceived by V. Makhnovich get a new interpretation (and each time a new key for its reading is melted, forged) then each thoroughly chased picture seen in a world of ideas turns to be a plot of a new epos.

 All compositions of the artist are complex, the chosen language of its narration is ornamentally difficult. It is impossible to indicate them as up to date in those meaning of the word which we are properly accustomed to in XXI century. However Makhnovich’s works become timeless revealing eternal plots and appealing to think about main things. A sharp pain, tear, blind destroying fury coexist with indiscriminate forgiveness, moving sensitivity which heal disabled souls and with creation. Exactly that’s why they remain up to date – in those first eternal meaning.

 

  Notes 

 (1) Abramtsev Arts and Crafts College named after Vasnetsov M.V..  

(2) Works of V. Makhnovich are reproduced in publication.: Vasiliy Makhnovich. Catalogue. Painting. Graphics. 1993–2005 years/ Edition. . I. Makhnovich; insert. art.: -W. – Chelyabinsk: JSC «Chelyabinsk Press House», 2006. – 112 pages.; also – published on a personal web-site of the artist:  www.mahnovich.ru  (the date of last access – 10.01.2014).

 (3) See.: Two. [Exhibition catalogue: State Russian museum] / Article author V. Lenyashin, G. Goldovskiy, E. Evseev and others – S.-Petersburg: Palace Editions, 2002. – 284 pages.

 

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Nowadays it is easy to hear the statement that painting died. On the one hand photography predominated painting in precise fixation of the world around, besides photographers learnt to extract an artistic impression from a theme and appeal to a viewer’s aesthetic feelings. On the other hand various modernistic streams of XX century destroyed mimetic imagery and logic of form and washing away artistic process came to intellectual interpretation of any material reflection of reality. However fortunately works of the most talented modern masters, to whom without doubt Vasiliy Makhnovich belongs to, cogently prove that sceptics’ opinion is mistaken.
Painting is alive, a great tradition didn’t die and has got worthy successors. V.Makhnovich possesses a gift of a monumental painter. His compositions is circumspectly created and adjusted so that not only large-scale works have features necessary for murals which are intended to view from a considerable distance but also comparatively small paintings have got such features too. This artist is inspired by medieval history, ancient myths and legends: Peresvet and Chelubei bogatyrs came across a mortal fighting in the midst of almost a space landscape (“Struggle”); powerful Heracles supporting celestial sphere as Atlas steps on a branch of a wonderful tree and magic berries fall at his feet (“Apples of Hesperides”); A serpent wriggled under hooves of a knight is ready to affect equestrian with a tail sharp as a glave (“Miracle of Saint George and a serpent”).
V.Makhnovich artistically possesses a skill of painting. He handily varies thickness of lines, depth of tone, applies tonal contrasts, unexpected perspectives and achieves remarkable artistic effects. In this regard “Abussus Incognita” (Rape of Europa) is meant to make an example. This composition is vertically divided into two equal parts. At the bottom in a sea abysm a shoal of wondrous fish moves, a sea serpent hides. At the top a giant bull swims right on us whose body drastically reduces in perspective, that’s why stature of Europa seems slight and small. The most part of a bull’s body is under water and we passing surface of water also dip into water depth where visual distortion takes force. Huge hooves of this animal is about to touch us. The artist achieves illusion of inevitable meeting reality with reborn divinity.
In most cases the artist not only interprets Greek myths in a new manner putting ideas in them which are emotional for modern people but also creates his own mythology which fascinates by tragedy of its sounding, power and refined beauty of images: majestic Centaurs whose faces reflect nonearthly sorrow of omniscience, carry immersed-in-day-dreams women on themselves; Falling-from-the-sky Icarus meets flying-on-coverlet Virgins in the sky under the north city. Mysterious symbolism of canvases causes viewers to wish to penetrate into their secret. (“Whisper of the Sun”, “Tangled in a coverlet”, “Old gusli”, “Spring”, “Winner”). 
Vasiliy Makhnovich was born in Chelyabinsk. He graduated from Abramtsev Arts and Crafts College named after Vasnetsov M.V.Specialization: “chiseler- graver”. Then he studied in Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture named after Repin I.E.under Academy of Arts in St.Petersburg where carefully keeps commandments of outstanding teacher Chistyakov Pavel Petrovich who grew a lot of best Russian artists: Polenov E., Surikov V., Repin I., Serov V., Vrubel M. Series of portrait goals and pictures of naked figures made in the period of apprenticeship testifies gift of a painter. The result of studying became a graduation work “Legend” which was drifted by stories about tilting matches and medieval legendaries. Here Makhnovich demonstrated talent of master of monumental forms which further helps him to create brilliant wall paintings. A lot of restaurants and private houses in St.Petersburg and Moscow are decorated by compositions of this original artist.
V.Makhnovich is very good at various genres and technics: pen-pictures, ink-pictures, sepia drawings, graphitic pen, charcoal pencil, watercolour painting, tempera, oil canvases – he demonstrates great skill everywhere, applies particular technical possibillities for solving set artistic task. Portraits, landscapes, still-life painting, everyday scenes and allegory, illustrations to classic literature, Russian history and Bible themes, icons and original compositions which do not contain into strict limits of genre division, - all these can be found in this artist creation.
Variety of themes astonishes. Here is war cycle. Slim gnarled teenager with his legs screwed up perched himself on a chair to view his father war medal which is like the greatest value lays on his palms (“Memory”); a woman getting condolence letter from a front became frozen in her sadness and her sons knowing nothing about this misfortune continue to sleep(“Letter”).
The artist manages to transmit unbearable heaviness of monotonous slave labour on a mine (“Old mine”), epical greatness of Bible events (“Escape to Egypt”, “Forgiveness”). He makes viewers see the most simple and plain things in a new way: country unkempt yard, stoned shed, pots on a fence, a scarecrow in a garden, old tree. And it surprisingly begins to drag melancholy in breast because of this new view on rural landscapes and things of modest everyday life.
      
N.E. Krollow – a candidate of cultural studies,
a member of State Hermitage.
2010.
 
Vasiliy Makhnovich is a young talanted artist, who lives and works in Moscow. The world of his images is many-sided, the language is figurative. The works are “multilevel” and quite often are allegorical. The way of their making up is long and difficult. Because - each element is carefully adjusted,which fills and forms the entire sphere.Tear, sharp pain, distructive and wrecking feelings coexist here together with total forgiveness, creation and moving delicacy, which salves invalid souls.
Specific heroes, legends become the starting point, and at the same time get a new version. The other perspective is chosen, the different interpretation key is smelt. And Greek mythology plots are overconceived, taking as a basis and comprising several epochs’ problems of various time and spatial layers, cuts, levels. The myth is refracted, reflecting in the light of a modern world. A deep meaning of things and events is crystallized. Their concealed meaning is shown through. And we feel like initiated into that world, where Diana’s all-sufficient, feel like pride and skill, Saint George’s protection and patronage are revealed; where dreams and reality are connected, and vague visions receive visible, definite features and get full-weighted shapes.
Emotions and worries are considered to be a leitmotif of artist’s creative work, strong passion and deep feelings of heroes and gods, people and celestials. They are revealed in the scenes of struggle as a rule – in the conflict between two powerful forces, light and darkness, good and bad, in their cohesion and connection into united knot of tension, into something entire. At the same time these examples are taken from epic and history. There are mutual penetration of themes and common plots, - artist is equally interested in the struggle of Peresvet and Chelubei, the battle of Theseus and Minotaur, St. George’s fight with the dragon. And the artist’s task - to transmit the incandescence of passion in entire rush, resistance – is the main and decisive here. Love is a kind of resistance, quite often accompanying with Passion and Jealousy.
The works of Vasiliy Makhnovich are intense and meditative. The artist admires each detail in them. The language of texture is complex and polysemantic. The light-and-shade of figures and decorative elements of surroundings, which fill the field, form a complex ornament bindind. Gentle and fluent lines, shapes, which suddenly break on the joints, turn into sharp and angular, reminding of modern plastic. The language of facture is ingenious, amphibolous and multiplicate. From surface to depth, core.
It is difficult to characterize the works of Vasiliy Makhnovich as up-to-date and contemporary in the meaning we used to understand for the last years. His canvases are fundamental and timeless, touching everlasting plots, appeal to thinking of the basic again. And that’s why they are up-to-date and contemporary. In that basic meaning.
 
 
Anna Shamankova,
Union member of Artists of Russia
and Association member of Art Critics.
2010.
 
 
                                                                               
NATURAL CLAY
ground paper, lead pensil, 2004, 63x70
Element of feelings, contradictory of man relationships is opposed by rationality of world order. Believe in your opportunities, show strength or be fatally and blindly subjected to Space? Something (Time? Universe?) goes through you, living “right here and right now”, overwhelms by consciousness, gives birth to either balck and white decision either feeling of weakness and desperation, fsde of will, forcing to accept. A key is found for complicated puzzle, and an entire sphere is formed. Or it breaks – at lack of one element. The surfaces of fractures are linked with each other or are not linked. Something is left to be a background, goes by, something freezes, “gets stuck” and turns into a new embodiment.
Three live plans. World of heavens (the highest), earth world (middle) and underground (the lowest). Sea shell reflects the voice of Universe and hypnotizes Snake of the lowest world. Passing tabun of horses probably symbolizes time fleetness and rashness of ideas stream.
 
LEGEND
Canvas, oil, 2006, 70x120
In the perspective of fervent feast history and legend, true story and fiction interlace. Brave knights, beautiful countrywomen, peasants – all are united by dance. Fragility, “shortness” of characters helps to catch the rhythm of melody. Entire forms, accuracy of picture, toughness and directness, graphity of picturesque manner, locality of colour turn poetic, romantic world of Middle Age into reality, fantasy – into true.
In accordance with graphic tradition of miniaturists the city is outlined conditionally and in relief. Each detail is worked out carefully. Detailed, comprehensive story is penetrated with love. The story which is about the gold of setting sun. About gold legend. About flourish of Middle Age. About heroes from dream, heroes-memories. Memories of soul about one of the past lives.
 
ABUSSUS INCOGNITA
ground paper, lead pensil, 2004, 115x80
Birth of some power from abstractive beginning. Its shoots up like whirlwind from depths of consciousness, from depths of ocean, from abussus incognita. Goes away like whirlwind of space energy. Inner thought gets concrete forms. And in outer space it embodies in Virgin who sits on dignified Bull.
Myth. Phantasmagoria. New interpretation of myth about World Creation.. Its breaking in modern world. Re-thinking of traditions. Different, new key. Other view which reveals “secret intention”, concealed essence. Child’s vision of urban century, soul of Future, goddess of Universe, Eternity.
 
 STRUGGLE
ground paper, lead pensil, 2000, 50x65
Struggle of Peresvet and Chelubei. Collision of two powerful forces, masses which are worthy each other. Tension. Opposition. Confrontation. Fighting of two sides of one essence. Two equally distant poles of one world which are coming to each other. Two equal energies with different directions. Two opposite vectors. Light and darkness. The good and the evil. Man and woman. Yin and Yang. Energy of destruction and creation
Piercing each other by spears of death, heroes become an organic unity. The hug of death gives them peace, forgiveness. And the result of struggle equals to zero by this, returns world to harmony… Or on the contrary summarizes forces for new and more powerful explosion.
 
JEALOUSY
Canvas, oil, 2009, 117 x 117
Love varieties. Collision of feelings, fatality of emotions. Blind knight, who returned to his beautiful lady, have got eyes full of veil of jealousy. Fish eyes don’t allow to feel the power of love and devotion of woman to her hero. The woman who manages to wait for her beloved. Steel hoop of jealousy reflects all the purity clearness of consciousness and assurness (of yourswelf and him) of beloved. Tenderness of touches break up on rude surface like wall of mistrust. Thin transparent skin dissolves day light, reflects in non-transparent surface of stones but does not already attract gloom look.
 
OLD GUSLI
Canvas, oil, 2008, 120x120
Gold dust is all around. Space is created from it. Shapes of beloved are enweaved from it – Centaur and Nymph. Wish of one character. Contemplation and thinking of another. Wind sorts the chords of old gusli. Wind brings the ideas of possible happiness. Lift up, wavelike stalks-lines of poppies echoes the chords. Their bolls swing in unhasting way, wrapping into gold dust.
  
WHISPER OF THE SUN
ground paper, lead pensil, 1999, 69x55
The space is intensive. Generous Sun presents sonority to colour and density, “viscosity” to shade. Its beams seem to caress, softly wrap all the objects of distant world, and – suddenly pierce, sting, turn sunflowers’ inflorescences into mirrors, tender leaves fall down, give way to sharply defined, rhythmical ornaments. Moments freeze, time stops. Something intangible passes through the Centaur and his sweetheart, penetrates their blood, consciousness. And there can be heard whisper of the Sun in Her words. Deep essence of things and events is revealed.
 
Anna Shamankova,
Union member of Artists of Russia
and Association member of Art Critics.
2010