The hallowed dictum to the effect that "life places a person according to his place" was uttered by Petr Pavlovich Vvedenskiy in 1954 when he – having interrupted his explanation – noiselessly walked to stand behind me, and watched me drawing for some time. The words surfaced in my memory much later, when I had graduated from my art institute and was occupying my social place, in society – as a sculpture artist. The fulfillment of this prophesy became apparent to me after some time. I realized that my place was an outward expression of the actual place occupied by artists among all other manifestations of the human creative spirit – those manifestations forming an inviolable metaphysical set – the cosmos of culture. But each and every branch of creation is also a cosmos in itself. If we put it in a more precise manner – every branch of creation is a microcosmic organism. It has its own intricately developed organs – which are epochs, styles, methods and manners – and all these performing the necessary functions of the stateliness of the whole and ever-growing tree that traces the image of God.
Thus it became clear that this place is determined with greater precision: that is – determining at which metaphysical branch, at which correspond level, and at which certain specific moment in the period of life the whole becomes the state of the soul. This is because the destiny of any artist (or of anybody's soul for that matter) is also a microcosmic organism. An organism with a logic of its own, representing an intertwining of manifestations of different qualities – realizations that form ascends and falls. With all the peaks and abysses of their own. We are inclined to think that the place of a creative soul should be more easily determined from the outside. For example, from the location of a destinty which has been achieved. Or, at least, from a neighboring place – such as, for example, the place of another destiny. Only a genius has the true premonition of his own destiny's-mission. The premonition of the inevitability of accomplishment.
This premonition also appears also at the moment when a work is being created. With me it is a feeling of purification, a feeling of transition into the world of free development of shape and of a mysteriously attracting space. The absolute dimensions of plastic expression are of no significance here. The plot is good to the extent that it helps to perform the association with that world. The space quality of existence comes to make the actual content of a piece of sculpture, or of a drawing. It is precisely this quality which renders true depth to the subject and determines the place of the artist both in the creative and spiritual hierarchies. For the profundity of the image is unattainable without penetration into the liberating and healing world of the form, unattainable without the feeling of the transcendant character of space in composition and its details. Thus the connection between the ethical and the aesthetical.
I have turned to different stylistic peculiarities of form at various periods during my creative career. I sometimes turned to several such form peculiarities during one and the same period of time. This avenue is not very wide, indeed it is rather too well known: Leonard and Michelangelo, the ancient classical and the archaic works, the ontological mysticism of form in the art of Ancient Egypt, Henry Moor and figurative expressionism, the canon of old Russian Art, the archetypical symbolism in anthropological and Christian themes (the definition of the most autocephalous part of creative activity), the realistic art of the 19-th century, the impressionism of Meunier, Rodin and Trubetskoy, and academic and studious work with the model. An ordinary particular reflection in an individual biography – they are all a mere drop of the ocean of world art. I started at studies as stylization, at becoming associated with the respective culture, at making discoveries of its appropriations and its limitations. But I returned every time to my own inner feeling of form and space. I was looking everywhere for traits of one and the same state of the image that was close to me, and I was watching it awaken in the gallery of world art of all times and all peoples.
Step by step, there appearance began of a comparative picture of stylistic imaging possibilities – which may include only respective ethical content. The connection between the various phenomena of art, and between phenomena of culture as a whole, is anthropomorphous. In the best of it, this connection arranges itself according to the Incarnated Likeness – which is the Christian reading of the ancient expression "man is the measure of all things". Man, as a phenomenon and as an idea, contains a certain row of symbols, and these symbols come to be crowned by the symbolic significance of the brow and the eyes – the omphalos of the spiritual image. Each fact of art corresponds according to its sources to fleshly specifity – to a form of sensualism, and has its own specific spiritual range of content. This is equally true whether we are dealing with a whole epoch, or some particular trend, a creative destiny or a part thereof – or, at last, it may be a particular work of art or even merely an artistic vehicle.
In the first place, it has become clear that the realistic portrait cannot attain those spiritual heights and depths, nor can it express the serene sorrow and the wisdom which we discover for ourselves in the best paragons of the images in the Old Russian icon and fresco. These elevated states of mind are impossible to be experienced in life in that state that is so refined. They have been taken out of inward contemplation and rendered with the help of the profoundly experienced canonical purification-communion of the form. The best paragons of the icon – the fresco, and the embroidery of the 12th–17th centuries – are seen by me as the highest content, the one that is accessible in art as the extreme, beyond which there is no more. This content is expressed by the state of the contemplation of the Sense of Life whose state is only attainable duringevanescanet lofty moments of holiness, and which seemingly transcend the physical limits of the body – the space where the thought and the feeling are spiritualized. Their content has, however, its bodily symbol – the eyes. Moreover, the sensual symbol – which is the eyesight. Form, once understood as flesh, dooms the viewer to attention to life in its emotional-sensual, mental existence. But just the same, this is something that stands closest to the icon. The realistic portrait bears the witness to the limitless value of the individual content of the individual – in His image and after His likeness. The face is the symbol of the portrait art in all the richness of the genres. Antiquity has incarnated the supreme beauty as the idea of body. The body is the symbol of the art of space and plastic-sculpture. Its sensual symbol is found in the sense of touch (which is felt as a lofty experience). The ideas of life, deified at the genetic level, are symbolized as something supreme, through the art of phallic cults and depictions.
The system of cultural symbols may be very flexible and even individual. But it is always hierarchically anthropomorphous. The content of a piece of art depends on the theme, the subject depicted and the perceptions of the artist. Not, however, entirely. The real interaction of the artist with the world is manifested in their attitude towards the form and the facture of the material, in their sense of color and sense of rhythm, space and sounding of the masses, in the specific touch and in the tempo of their work. In reverence and in violence. Both in the artist's technique and in their own life. This alloy is quite characteristic and tell us that the particular piece of art belongs to one culture or another, and it speaks also about the piece of art belonging to a particular artist. For example, the instability of emotional perception is a value that is gifted by the impressionist form. (This form may itself be a symbol of various movements of the soul. The symbol and the symbolized are mutually convertible, they may be put one in the place of the other). When artistic language is experienced at a symbolic level, the spirit of the work becomes revealed. The symbolic content of a number of works of art creates the dynamics of the creative biography which finds place in the anthropomorphous hierarchy of the values of culture.
("Magic Mountain" Magazine. Moscow, 1995, #3)