Sergei Vorzhev's world of art


Sergei Vorzhev is a personality organically blended with a complex conflicting cultural situation of an «active nihilism» which sprang up in Russia at the end of the 20th century. His creative will, brilliant capability to social adaptation allowed him to create an image of a Master, Maitre, Artist creating incontestable valuables which turned out to be indispensable for the specific historical moment, in this he bases himself upon a certain volume of cultural and historical knowledge as well as topical public ideas, for he feels his time, its rhythm and sounds simultaneously from inside and as if from outside. This quality allows him to break former stereotypes and to create some vivid reality authentic to his consciousness and a complex of frame of mind dominating in a certain public stratum. Vorzhev like old masters strives not to create «poor art». He might say like Theophile Gautier "I like three things: gold, marble and purple, i.e. brilliance, firmness and color". Rejecting a vulgar-sociological approach and directions to a naturalistic copying Vorzhev establishes a utilitarian approach to the art. The artist sees in the artistic form a means of creation and glorification of the beauty of the world because he considers the art to be the highest form of human cognition adequate to the structure of the universe itself. In this he bases himself upon the experience of ancient Italian masters when a pictorial spot, line, artistic idea, plastic art have not disintegrated yet and were capable of expressing all universal ties of the creating subject with a dynamic objective character. Sergei Vorzhev may be ascribed to «neo-conservatives» with a clear-cut tendency towards ideology. The realistic tendency of «neo-conservatives» against the background of retro-styles is a sort of an antiphase to centripetal anti-aesthetic forces which destroyed a classical notional line.

«Neo-conservatives» stand up for safe keeping of traditional aesthetic categories. It looks like Sergei by his activity returns the art to the «normal way of ancient mythography», reviving by this the traditional figurative methods.

Declaring permanently his spiritual alliance with ethnos and not excluding himself from the rhythm of life of his small homeland, Vorzhev absolutises the ties of his consciousness with the folk soil which begot him and gives birth to a known legend - the idea of a Kuban pictorial school as a self-sufficient and self-developing phenomenon in cultural life of Russia of the second half of the 20th century.

This idea raised the social status of a creative personality on Kuban land and played a positive role in the everlasting dialog: artist-society, artist-audience, artist-purchaser. The positive qualities contained in it attract permanently young artists and graphics artists to Vorzhev and they complete certain stages of training in his studio. (Some of them did not succeed in getting rid of the charm of Vorzhev's creative manner and remained imitators and illustrators of the creative manner of the artist; the rest, having inherited some of his pictorial principles, joined the ranks of the artists who solve their aesthetic and artistic problems for themselves.) The known absolutization of the artist's ties with the specific country, stable associations rising from childhood, observations of the every day mode of life of large Cossack villages inhabitants became an emotional background and perceptible and aesthetic basis of the mature period of creation imparting the features of high democratism and national originality. Sergei Vorzhev works a myth from the immediate data of eyesight, sense of smell and acoustic perception. By method of mythologization he gives certain reference points of perception, organizing ready made semantic units and architypical models which pinpoint hit the cultural memory of contemporaries.

Vorzhev's creative work was formed under the influence of the two opposing trends: realism, or rather socialist realism, and underground of the late 70's. Personal contacts with a well-known Kuban post-modernist artist E. Tsey revealed the problem of originality of the plastic language before the young painter and taught him the independence of the creative search.

Vorzhev preserves the love to a perceptible objective-ness. Mimetic principles are necessary for him for the expression vital forces of the matter at the level of consciousness. This life-affirming purpose of the value of human existence in the world outgrew into the creative principle of the «necessary splendor» and entertainment. Sergei is far from aesthetics of fortuity. The creative act is conscious and purposeful; the intellectual analysis clears up and completes the work of intuition. Dominating in his creative work is a whole-heartedness of the pictorial system achieved by use of a common warm color range which looks like going from the earth and a method of a gradual movement away from the model and its parallel submission to the "discipline of style". Inventing his own mythography, Vorzhev inevitably comes to a construction of image-bearing and notional schemes which, in essence, are in the state of a canon, absolute formula of expression of his plastic ideas. This circumstance helps him to master-like switch real events happening on the everyday life level into a symbolic context. Folklore, «styob», about which the author likes to speak so much, closes up with some methods of avant-guard art forming a picturesque symbiosis typical of Russian «home-made artists». Canonization of some methods serves as a guaranty of stability of the creative process and completeness of the artistic images. The scope of themes chosen by the artist is naturally determined and logical for him. The themes came into existence almost in parallel emotionally feeding each other and penetrating each other. From them, Vorzhev constructs a vertical uniting into a common fundamental sensual system the loose life of tipplers, rush roofs with UFO, with cosmos. The method of «genetic realism» as it is determined by the author himself allows to accumulate the energy of fellow countrymen and transform it into the energy of personal discoveries. The earliest pictorial series «Old Ekaterinodar» was started in 1978.

About 300 works were made since then. The city in Vorzhev's pictures is a large common home where the walls are more expressive than the people. Junction of the emotional and artistic basis gives birth to a legend about an earlier existence of an ideal space which served as a protective cover of the fragile quickly flowing human life. That's why architectural landscapes are perceived as succulent pictorial portraits of houses bearing not only the stamp of time but the appearance of the inhabitants, owners («A house in Ekaterinodar», 1992; «Tolstopyat's house», 1987; «Ekaterinodar», 1979 and others).

The ideal contents is deeply submerged into the visible materiality. The artist is lyrical in this series as nowhere else. Architectural landscapes are divided into three spatial plans devoid of light and air medium. The background is neutral. This is a tone extension. House facade is the second background. Here the artist, with an ease of a master-visioner, shapes theatrically elated images from a pictorial mass, which always intrigue the spectator by the significance of appearance and coloristic wealth. The spectator with the help of the artist's imagination overcomes the time distance restoring the far past of old Ekaterinodar from later depositions. This plastic idea of an inner unity of Man and Nature is being developed in the "Kuban series" which was started somewhat later than "Old Ekaterinodar". The "Kuban series" (about 40 works) includes stilllife: "Golden pike-perch", 1991; "September", 1992, etc. as well as idyllic landscapes tinctured with a nostalgic feeling for the past never return. The artist re-forms; associations and images retained in his memory where physical and mental worlds correspond with each other («Flown away bird Kuban», 1990; «Fishermen», 1992; «Solyony farmstead», 1990; «Estuary coast», 1992).

Vorzhev in his landscapes creates unpretentious image of the Nature where silence is self-sufficient and may last for ever. Characters abide in-an inactive aloofness on the verge of conscious being and obedience to the pulses of Nature. Spatial plans are as clearly separated as they are in architectural landscapes. The topical center in these compositions is often an expressive rush fairy-tale roof overgrown with moss and lichen, artistically rendered by the brilliant brush of the artist. The image turned out to be so fascinating that the master comes back to it again and again playing an encore savory pictorial later developments. The rush roof from the "Flown away bird Kuban" became a distinctive symbol of the creative work of the Kuban painter. The series "Loose life of tipplers" arises almost simultaneously with the series "Old Ekaterinodar" in 1981. The series numbers about 70 works. The program topic is turned to a generalizing notion poetical metaphor, parable («Year of the rooster», 1994; «Mummers», 1993; «Loose life of tipplers», 1994; «Theft of a red rooster», 1994). In this series there is a propinquity of the images of the Kuban painter to great works of Pieter Bruegel and Caravaggio and, partially, to compositions of the «small Dutch» but he does not seek a literal citing but is guided by the summary conception of the creative work of favorite painters trying to return the valuable tunes of the old canvases to contemporaneity. Total monochrome warm color key, strongly organized pictorial spots, plastic completeness of figures and groups, light grotesque in interpretation of the appearance of the contemporaries (looking like the author in outward appearance), subjectness and narrativeness, prolong rhythm, thoroughness of treatment of the details, mat surface of the canvas create a powerful emotional field of forces which absorbs the spectator by its Rablaisian spirit, filling him by the sensation of a pressure of vital forces so that a particular scene outstrips into a symbol of inexhaustible inner potencies of the world of reality. Space of the picture in this series is divided into foreground and background. Figures of the foreground look to be cut by the lower edge of the frame and organize a rhythmical play which does not oppose laws of vision. Stylization of the genre-painting topic is very delicate. It does not the ties between the figurative form and semantic meaning. The series «UFO» which was started by the painter in 1984 (it includes about 150 works) is one of the most significant Vorzhev's creative works. The series was accumulated gradually, like previous ones, as a result of a stable long emotional experience of a strong emotional stress suffered some time ago. By means of fantasy, he constructs a special figurative system in which recognizable shapes of real objects and events become a mode of designation of spiritual phenomena. The series «UFO» breaks up into two blocks. The first one includes illustrative, almost documentary exact works narrating about the events which took place in reality; «The house of antiquarian», 1980; «Night guest», 1991, etc. The second one includes the works which figuratively close up with the series «Loose life of tipplers» — «Manual docking» 1995; «Cossacks over the farm-stead», 1989; «Flight over Varenikovskaya», 1986; «Marapatsutsa-1», 1991; «Marapatsutsa-2», 1992; «Marapatsutsa-3», 1992, etc.

Ideological and subject content of pictures of the second block is close to allegory but it is revealed by means of satiation of the image by noncanonic metaphors and direct references to folklore. This is the series where the painter comes forward as a creator of myths seeking to lay stable traditions. Hand-written chronicle «Marapatsutsa», known in the artistic circles of the South of Russia, serves an original overture of introduction into a half-real world of inhabitants of Marapatsutsa land. Playfully-eccentric tone of the album-book provokes the reader to a birth of original thoughts on the occasion of the creative personality of the author himself and his encirclement. Air craft in Vorzhev's works hover in an empty space as symbols of certain common states inherent to the author himself and to a Russian man in general. Pseudo-complicacy of UFO mechanisms, smallest details, absence of dynamics of flight, planeness in treatment of the canvas space, graphicism, ornamentalism of general tunes of the pictures, textual impregnations (mischievous literary comments directly correlate with the image, delicately introducing a sound background and not ruining the aesthetics of figurativeness) associate with the drawings of country selftaught persons dreaming of «taking off into the height of the sky» notwithstanding all rules of logic, by using improvised means and familiar objects, or unpretentious shapes of home made vodka distillation apparatus, for which Kuban is so famous, come to memory. But an aesthetic status is attached to all this on the pictures. Topical characters, settled figurative methods, devotion to a warm color gamut constitute the originality of Sergei Vorzhev's plastic language, who aspires to feel his time as a cosmic resonance, as a gratifying possibility to flow into eternity.

Lyudmila Bondarenko, art critic, Russia.