The Image of the City in Temporal Context.
It seems that every European town, whether it is big or small, has its own architectural and town-planning history reflected in painting. It is easy to notice that the history of town development reflected in art acquires some new chronological calculation. Thus the combination of cultural and historical events, which help to determine town's life, form certain stages. Sometimes it is difficult to say what is initial – historical facts or cultural events, great poets, artists, writers. It is enough to mention the expression “Pushkin's Petersburg ”, and through the flow of certain places in the city you can discover a certain epoch in Russian history. Then, another example, the expression ‘Paris of Impressionists' can mean much more than some piece of information about Paris of the turn of the century found in a reference book. It seems, that painting and other forms of fine arts can represent a certain anthology of town's life.
However, at the end of the XIXth century, photography, to some extent, replaced painting as a method of town representation. Photodepiction of city's life grew more preferable. Now, for example, one can easily observe all the details of the Red Army Parade in Red Square in !935. If we, however, compare photos with paintings of similar plots, the latter created by artists of social realism, we'll clearly see that the paintings are psychologically much more meaningful for us; they convey ‘time spirit', since methods of artistic depiction formed in particular epochs, which are known as styles, do characterize those periods, while photography has in its possession rather modest optical means of depiction. Any photographer can only dream of rich expressiveness of painting.
This ‘dreaming' inspired me to create a special technique, which combined the freedom of painting and the veracity of photography. So then, it became possible, with the help of visual images, to create Petersburg 's chronology in the regime of cultural and historical time. Thus, the project “The Image of the City in Temporal Context” occurred.
The series contains 12 works, and each of them is devoted to a certain architectural style represented in Petersburg . Creating a picture of some architectural ensemble and some style, I tried to reveal the image, the impression of that epoch, which already existed in the artistic memory. The image may have been inspired by paintings of the same period. Thus, for the picture ‘The New Hermitage' (the building constructed in 1852, Neo-Greek style) I chose yellow-brown colors of earth and buildings as well as green-yellow colors of sky, the palette being characteristic for the city landscapes of Petersburg in the middle of the XIXth century. While the work ‘ Palace Square ' (1820 - 1843, Empire style), being graphic and monochromic, reminds colored lithographs, the method which was widely used in the XVIII-XIXth centuries. In the work ‘The Grand Cascade. Petrodvorets' (created in 1705-1723), the dynamic, extending, circled composition with quick vertical rhythms of fountains recalls the dynamic expressiveness of Baroque style. Golden-blue and dense green tones of this work remind the color palette of the pictures representing palace and landscape architecture in ‘Grand Maniere'.
An architectural style is very often closely connected with the political epoch, with some emotional recollections of the political regime. The mood and color range of the picture ‘The House of Council' (Stalin Classicism Style, 1936-1941) seem to appear because of that. We may say that the picture contains the allegory of ‘the failed new dawn of our life'. In the work ‘The Building of Kirov District Council', while searching for the image of the ‘Constructivism style' I found another approach. It seems that the buildings constructed in this style are more attractive in sketches or in projects. So, I decided to put the building into its original environment. I think, it must have been greenish-yellow toned cardboard, Indian ink, and tempera.
While working on the picture of the building in Neoroman style, I made an dramatically exaggerated composition, seeking for some romantic abundance in the created image (some recollections of the romanticism of Caspar David Friedrich).
I think, that in Petersburg there are two trends in the modernist style that are closely connected with theatre design, and they are Neoclassical and Neorussian styles. One can remember the works of Bakst, A.Benua, Korovin, Golovin. Western viewers can know them by their works created for Dyagilev's ‘Russian Seasons'. So, I created two works that are purposefully theatrical. In the first one - ‘Polovtsev's Summer Cottage' (built in 1912-1916) - sets structure of the landscape - the ‘stage' - is singled out. In the foreground one can see hanging over the stage emerald-blue tree branches. Then, in the middle of ‘the stage' there is a marble statue of a woman ( a goddess?) and a long shadow stretching from it. Behind the statue stands a deadly blue palace and clumps of violet-green trees surrounding it. Further in the background, we can see mysteriously gleaming water, an island, and almost invisible white columns of the summer-house, and then the back cloth (the sky) with cold sparkling stars on it. On the left, over the stage there should be a spotlight (the Moon) filling the space with blue-violet light. Thus, the atmosphere of the mystical romanticism of art nouveaux is reconstructed.
The second work is called ‘ Fyedorovsky Town ' (built in 1912-1914). In this work I tried to create an imitation of theater lighting: exaggerated richness of the yellow light, stiff blue shadows seem to be formed by an invisible spotlight hidden over the stage. So, a remarkably realistic landscape turns into somewhat abstract one, and becomes a representative artistic image. The picture seems to be familiar. May be, it is act three, part six. Putivl's walls. Prince Igor is returning from Polovets imprisonment …
Now, it's for viewers to judge, and I would like to finish analyzing the works I have made.
Constructive Aspect of the Works.
When I started working on the series, I decided to preserve the original character of the depicted architectural ensembles, and at the same time I tried to show them in a wider range than it is possible to see from only one point. In general the width of the depicted space equals to 200 . Shooting of the material necessary for work was usually carried out from different points, which were often removed from each other on a distance of 100 - 500 m. Such an approach made it possible to create pictures of architectural ensembles which in reality it was impossible to observe because of the laws of perspective reduction, or because of the absence of the survey. Actually, first, an abstract model was made, then the shooting from different points was carried out, and then came the arrangement of the received fragments. Thus, the pictures give us a possibility to catch some ideal representation of an architectural ensemble through the real depiction got by the method of photography. May be, such a possibility of “above-world observing” attracts us in cityscapes of the old masters. The method of perspective reduction, which can be found in most classical town landscapes, was used. The method involves some changes in plane correlation. The foreground is usually diminished, the middle stays unchanged, while the background is enlarged. All the methods mentioned above, when put together, approximate the creation of works to ‘painting' psychology of space perception.