Annotation for Personal
Exhibition of 1981
Of Completion and
Short Annotation for Personal
Exhibition of 1992
Two Spaces
The Ethics of the Beautiful
Contest design for Rekolle
International Workshop, 2005
  1. Avant-garde Today
  2. Humanized Space
The Ability To Bring Light
Movement of the Diagonal
Artistic Credo
On the Incompleteness
of the Creative Act, Sacrifice,
and Self-awareness
in the Anderssein
On Art and Life
The Code of the Plastic Art
and Space of Sculptural
The Evolution of the "Russian Idea"
in the Visual Arts of the 12th–19th
The Russian Idea, Now
and in the Future
Articles by Other Authors
The Ethics of Plastic Forms
in Valery Yevdokimov's Sculptures
Plastic Art as an Iconic
Experience: The Problem
of the Artistic Image
The Sculpture
of Valery Yevdokimov
Artificial Game
Mikhail Seleznev about
Valery Yevdokimov
Oleg Komov about
Valery Yevdokimov
Peter Baranov about
Valery Yevdokimov
Portrait – A Convergenc
of Forms
Extracts from an Article
by Olga Kostina
Extract from an Article
by Susanna Serova
Commentary on the Model
Monument of Russian Philosopher
Vladimir Solovyov
In Search of One's Own Self
Thinking About Time
Spiritual Anxiety
The Mystery of Art.
Sergey Orlov
Master. Valery Maloletkov
The Academy of Arts Presents…
The Mystery of Art.
Lubov Yevdokimova
Soul and Body. Study. 1967. Bronze, granite. 22x9x6 cm
Marina. 1992. Bronze, granite. 36x9x9 cm
Ascension. 1980. Bronze; height 1,37 m

The Ability To Bring Light

An Interview with Valery Yevdokimov, by Evgenia Ivanova


Sculptor Valery Yevdokimov was born in Moscow in 1938. A pupil of N.V. Tomsky and M.F. Baburin, he made his debut in the latter half of the 1960s, immediately after graduation from the Moscow State Institute of Art named after V.I. Surikov – when he was immediately recognized as an artist. The three decades that have passed since then have become for V. Yevdokimov a time of profound and earnest creative searching, since he is today, without any doubt, one of the most interesting sculptors working in modern Russia. We now offer to you an interview of Valery Yevdokimov given by the sculptor to journalist Evgeniya Ivanova.

E.I.: Your solo exhibition was held in 1992, and another held early in 1993. After those solo exhibitions they began to show your sculptures at the Krymsky Val gallery, together with those who are considered in our art circles as "artists of the 1960s." How do You see the role of the artists of the 1960s in our culture?

V.Y.: I was a partial ally of the Generation of the 1960s. I found myself a member of the Club of Artistic Colleges which was one of the first artistic associations of the Generation of the 1960's. The Club stands in fact at the beginning of the history of the exhibitions held by the Generation of the 1960's. The Club was set up at the Youth Hotel very early in the 1960's, even before the decrees on intensifying ideological monitoring that were issued by Nikita Khrushchev.

Well, at the time that was one of the bastions of the YCL, the Young Communist League. So, one day the Club of Artistic Colleges put together an exhibition there, the first with the participation of Yankelevich, Sooster, Neizvestny, and others of the 1960's Generation who are widely recognized masters now. At that time I did some playing at a jazz band and I invited some musicians to give a concert after the exhibition would be opened. But the whole of Moscow knew about the exhibition even before it was opened. And that was exactly the time when the sinistrous decree was issued by Nikita Khrushchev enjoining to intensify the ideological propaganda; the decree was adopted by him under pressure from a group of artists after the exhibition marking 30 years of the Moscow Chapter of the Union of Artists – but we did not think much of that fact. So we come to the opening ceremony… only to see a lot of Friends of Order volunteer police there, and we were told in so many words that there would be no opening ceremony. A scandal broke out, the musicians refused to play at the event, as far as I can remember, there then arrived at the hotel none other than Tyazhelnikov himself, the then first secretary of the Moscow City Young Communists; he literally shouted at us and he was banging his fist on the table.

Proposal. 1965. Bronze, granite; height 41 cm

But, it should be taken note of, once having had his shouting done, he finally decided to pardon us as first-time offenders, and the exhibition of the young artists did take place after all. I remember very clearly the discussion of that exhibition, it nearly took the form of a public rally. The new art had its allies, but it also had its devout opponents. So the dispute was a genuine and sincere one. Following which, they started "to process" us, summoning us one by one and making us voice our opinions about the exhibition. I remember that I answered then that I did not see anything dangerous in it, leaving them unsatisfied, but they did not demand that I repent…. Quite recently an exhibition was held under the caption of "Other Art"; it made me reminisce about my younger years because some of the participants had made their start at that other exhibition, the first one. Some of them as if have stayed forever in that time, that epoch of "Sturm und Drang."

E.I.: What do you think of the phenomenon called "Soviet culture"?

V.Y.: I definitely recognize the fact of the existence of culture during the Soviet time, but that culture never was homogeneous. I recently had an interesting discussion with a journalist who was doing his utmost to convince me that Stalin was a good judge of art, and that in Stalin's time the level of the art was very high, he cited Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Eisenstein. But I think that in this situation we should distinguish between cause and effect. That was not an art which was created by the Soviet system, it was an art which came to be thanks to the high level that had been achieved by the Russian pre-1917-Revolution art. And one can say that in Stalin's time there were preserved only individual artists in various artistic fields, who had been artistically fashioned before the Revolution or who were brought up by those who had been shaped during that epoch, and for those artists there were provided decent material conditions for them to perform within the framework of the Soviet art. In music they were Shostakovich and Prokofiev, in dramatic art they were the Moscow Art Theatre, Stanislavsky.

There continued to exist members of the "Knave of Hearts" – Konchalovsky and Kuprin, as well as Nesterov and Korin. But for each one of those it was not the period when their talent was taking shape and flourished – Nesterov's portraits of academicians were not the best, putting it mildly, of his output; and similarly to him, degradation touched Korin, Kuprin, Matveyev, and even Favorsky.

E.I.: This goes to say that in the deep strata of the Soviet art they existed already as if under conditions that were out of touch from the very soil, from the culture which had brought them forth.

V.Y.: Exactly, and where they attempted to find new firm ground, tried to find rapport with modern times, tried to find the naked truth of the modern times and justification to what was happening before their very eyes – there the breakdown began for each one of them. This can be literally traced in the life stories of all of them. I can speak of such things freely now because I myself has given my due to these things, and I know what one loses when travelling down that road. I know also about these things because there were exceptions as well. According to my notions, such exceptions were represented by Favorsky (nevertheless) and Falk, Falk particularly. Artists of my generation, who studied and socialized with him, told me stories of him being absolutely irreconcilable, he did not make any efforts in order to co-exist peacefully with what was happening around him, he lived as if in a sort of isolation from his times, and he did not beg for anything of it. Favorsky, he too, was also alien to compromise – he provided assistance to many a young artist, among those who strove not to become exemplary Soviet artists, and many of them remember that support of his. But, when sizing up his creative path now, one can see also how much Favorsky lost where he tried to find points of contact with the new epoch….

E.I.: It follows then from your words that there wasn't any Soviet culture, nor that there could be one…

V.Y.: Culture there was, but one has to consider at what cost it existed. The so-called Soviet culture existed while it was possible to live at the expense of the inertia that had been accumulated by the Russian art – that is, to exist on the ruins of ruined Russian culture. Even the ballet existed mainly by drawing on the experience of the Russian ballet school, and this may be the reason why it held on longer than did other arts.

And that culture did finally die when there was nothing left on which to feed, when the generation was gone which had preserved that culture. They were not the 1960's generation who "killed" the Soviet art, it perished all by itself when the source of its nourishment was exhausted. For as long as there remained inside people the personal properties which made it possible for them to oppose deceit inwardly, the arts survived. This is exactly why music and ballet held on longer than the other arts – they could not do without genuine professionalism there, while meaning is not liable to unequivocal interpretation. Science was also lucky in part – being of immediate practical importance in a number of branches, it was useful – so it was not being destroyed so grossly. Well, as to philology, philosophy, history – all those were being annihilated spontaneously and without any regret whatsoever. Being a philologist, you know it better than I do.

E.I.: And here we have approached yet another theme which I would like to have touched in today's discussion. In two of your exhibitions which were held recently, there was shown a portrait of philosopher Dmitry Galkovsky – so you must have surely read his article entitled "Underground"…

V.Y.: I certainly have read it and many things in it I hold very close to me. It seems to me that Galkovsky has given a clear definition of the lack of cultural foundation underlaying Soviet culture. He gave to that phenomenon the name of "spiritual underground." This is a highly fruitful definition serving to understand what is implied under the notion of "Soviet culture." I also find correct the conception according to which there exists a ground-based culture on the one hand, and there also exists underground culture. This concept contributes to the understanding of the whole history of culture, including the Soviet culture, and to the understanding of the life stories of individual cultural figures. I see in the notion of "underground" a fortunately-found handy analytical tool. As to his descriptions of individual artists, well, those are his personal points of view.

E.I.: How do you understand the tasks of your art?

V.Y.: When I came to take interest in Russian icon painting, the first thing which struck me was the way the Byzantine canon underwent change when it came to the Russian soil – the way the Byzantine canon became clarified by Russian icon painters who, so it would seem, did their best to adhere to it as their primary task. The Byzantine canon in genuine Greek art is loaded with human passions – while in the Russian icon these images are made transparent with spiritual light. As I see it, this may be one of the chief properties of the Russian culture – its capability to make more light and transparent those borrowed forms that have been accomplished elsewhere. Examples may be cited from various cultural fields. We were not the ones to bring forth the literary form of the novel. It first appeared in France and was adopted by Russian literature. But Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky elevated that previously accomplished literary form to a height which can never ever be surpassed – because at those levels, problems evolve which transcend the limits of literature and which cannot be resolved by literature.

As far back as my period of "Sturm und Drang" I formulated for myself the idea of my point of departure as follows: there are people who perceive color, there are people who perceive sound. The one clearest perception which I found in myself was my feeling of composition, space. If we trace in sculpture the gradual development of spatial thinking from petroglyphic art, through relief and to the round sculpture, it becomes evident that man's idea of space and its laws was becoming ever deeper, step by step.

Generally speaking, in sculpture it is very difficult to find something new. The purely representational tasks have for centuries been resolved with such artistic perfection, that inside the traditionally-understood sculpture there are only a few more or less successful repetitions possible. This is why it seemed to me that searching for new forms of representation could only be undertaken along the road of enriching our ideas of space. The only schools that thought of serious search for new systems of new spatial constructions were the cubists and the suprematists – the avant-garde streams, which came later, acting blindly in this field. But the cubists and the suprematists were searching precisely for a new system – working to discover a new understanding of form and space. It is a different matter that they failed in their attempts to create such a universal system of compositional thinking and they used their methods by intuition.

But I wanted to find the principle of compositional conjugation of forms in space, and my compositions of the 1970's represented my searches in that direction. That was particularly true with respect to my works on Biblical and Gospel subjects in which spiritual tension and accomplishment are present in the theme itself – where there is present a kind of a spiritual space, when at the very beginning of the story you have the absolute mutual moral relations which only remain to be expressed in the language of plasticity.

In my searches I was not so much guided by theory, as by intuition. If the universal model of life development represents a spiral (not necessarily a vertical spiral, a diagonal spiral will be even more representative, one that is positioned at an angle and widening as a cone), I have used that image in order to express plastically the idea, the wonder of human aggrandizement. The spiral is present literally in my sculptural piece "Steps", where it is an image of development, aggrandizement, and the action is performed by the efforts not of one human being alone, but by the efforts of generations – and idea which is expressed by the interchanging volumes of torsos. The piece has been conceived to render the feeling of a permanently continuing process of creative spiritualization of universal space, the process making the sense of human activities. But this is a vertical spiral, that is, so to say, the ontological spiral.

In a number of other works I developed, in fact, these same ideas, but making use now of the diagonal spiral such are the compositions "Ascension", "Ferapontovo", and "Eternal Road". So when I came across the idea of Rodchenko to the effect that 'the farther goes the diagonal, the more it will be perceived' as one of the most important principles of composition (I may be rendering his idea in a somewhat different manner), that fortified my certainty in the correct direction while searching. (Delacroix used to say that composition is built in the form of the Cross of St. Andrew .[Note of 2005]).

E.I.: Was that direction in your searching oriented towards avant-garde art?

V.Y.: This is not quite so, that may rather be quite different. My searching acquired that direction precisely on the grounds of studying the dynamics of the classical styles in the arts. If we consider sculpture as a developing process of cognition of the world, cognition of the world in its artistic form, then we should name as the beginning of the plastic thinking of the world the moment at which the artist noticed that the displacement of the human body occurs thanks to the fact that there exists a certain interaction among the motor impulses, these impulses interact among them according to the law of spiral: the movement of the right leg negates movement of the left leg, etc. This dialectic allows the body to traverse and take various attitudes in space.

The discovery and the perception of this law distinguishes the Greek sculpture from the Egyptian sculpture. In Egyptian sculpture human beings stand and walk by putting their weight on both feet. During this process the body is motionless and the position of the pelvis is horizontal. Then the Greeks came to realize and evaluate aesthetically the observation that when a human stands in a certain attitude, the larger part of his weight is transferred to one foot only, and when he walks, the movements of his legs and parts of his body are not symmetrical, but antinomic – due to which fact there appears the well-known plastic effect. Both the pelvis and the pectoral arch change their horizontal positions during walking into inclined position, and become positioned one at an angle towards each other. So these Greeks' new compositional observations enabled them to say something new in the understanding of space and its laws. Thanks to this, the flat figure of the Egyptians became with the Greeks a complicated spatial phenomenon.

This enabled the Greeks not only to render the movement of human body, but also to interpret man's certain internal state – which stayed in wonderful correspondence with the philosophy of the man of antiquity. Man was represented not in the tense static condition as with the Egyptians, but in a sort of dynamic rest which radiates the feeling of freedom and day-dreaming. The Greeks found a plastic expression of that condition and discovered that law of composition precisely because that was important for them – because that expressed their attitude towards the world. What is more, I would say that the Greeks have in fact exhausted all possible manifestations of that law in the composition of the single human figure. As to taking several figures, the Greeks' discoveries are limited here by two-dimensional compositional space. All this is present in Phidias's reliefs at the Parthenon – all possible composition situations on a single plane.

E.I.: And the time of the Renaissance, Michelangelo presented a new step along this road, by showing Man as enlightened by Christianity – that is, an individual of a qualitatively different spirituality?

V.Y.: It seems to me that in the sculpture of the Renaissance the purely spiritual dimension of the individual was not the most important thing. I am interested in the sculpture of the Renaissance from a different point of view. This posed a new composition task – to find the law of interaction between two or among several figures, to come by palpation upon the field of their spiritual rapport. So it was Michelangelo who, by expanding spatial thinking, made the next step in the direction of which I spoke. But it was not incidental that Delacroix described Michelangelo as more of a painter rather than a sculptor, his works being designed to be viewed from one point only, from the frontal point. Hence the following generations took the previously trodden path and proceeded farther on in their continued search for these new compositional laws of interaction. Here I would like to identify two other phenomena which are important to me, although they are of different values for the history of world sculpture. The first one is the Russian wooden sculpture which I saw in museums of Vologda and Perm. The second phenomenon is Rodin's work "Monument to the Burghers of Calais" which I was able, to study with all attention for the first time during my visit to France, while I knew it before from photographs. In both these cases there is present further searching for compositional interaction.

It should be pointed out that Rodin's individual figures are actually works of genius, but they are not united rhythmically – although it is beyond any doubt that he made efforts toward them becoming one whole. At the time when I began my searches, my primary task consisted in giving up live forms, and in the process of that search for compositional interaction I operated with abstract spatial objects. Along that avenue created was a whole series of my works – "Ascension", "Opening", "Cathedral", "Birth".

E.I.: And what is your evaluation of your artistic accretion along that road?

V.Y.: As I realize now, there were things alongside then gains. The price paid for those acquisitions was dear. Along that road, art becomes dehumanized, it loses its human measure. From the artistic point of view, there can be found a justification to this, probably in the 20th century cataclysms in which the human measure was forfeited to such a degree. This departure from Man as a unique individual and operating in masses, in aggregate notions is probably the thinking mode of the entire 20th century. What art does is no more than translate this universal process into its own language, laying bare the decomposition, the forfeiture of human as measure of things. But one cannot travel that road for long, the life of the human spirit being richer and non-reductible to that decomposition. The movements of the spirit, which are thoroughly complex and basically serious, are alas inexpressible in that language.

As soon as we abandon our human face, abandon the stare of human eyes, the fine arts become deprived of their compass. Given all the liking for the Impressionists, one comes to realize that their art has its limits – the most elevated conditions of the human spirit are inaccessible to their language. This is the reason due to which returning to the art of human content was felt by me at a certain point in time as the necessity. But in so doing, I felt that I ought not either to let go of my experience which had been accumulated during the period of my formal searching. What I was striving for was to come by a certain synthesis which would make it possible both to render the spiritual heights of human individual, and the feeling of that individual's connection to the surrounding world, those complicated processes of interaction with cosmos in the broad sense of the word, interaction with the spiritual essences of the surrounding phenomena.

E.I.: Thus, Man is not for you a definite self-enclosed object of imagery. It is possible to find in him a conjugation with the world of super-valuable ideas, with the field of spiritual force in which he exists…

E.I.: How did the portrait of V.V. Rozanov arise? There wasn't, of course, anyone to order it?

V.Y.: I became interested in that subject during my work on the portrait of Galkovsky. Galkovsky is very much captivated by Rozanov, he put forward to me his ideas of Rozanov, he cited his favorite extracts, and I had read Rozanov's books before. That interest grew also due to my communication with Victor Sukach, also an acquaintance of mine. It was he who made it possible for me to use rare photos and books and he insisted that I should make Rozanov's portrait. So gradually I came to taking the decision, and started to work on the portrait.

E.I.: To me, however, Rozanov was opened quite from a different aspect. I see his power in his exceptional rooting in the fundamental bases of life.

V.Y.: This in-depth connection is manifested for me in an episode like the following one. He once went to church together with his daughter and was simply standing there. That happened at a time when he was unable to get his divorce from Appolinaria Suslova, and because of that his children remained unrecognized and illegal. Now, when he recalled that the Church did not want to recognize his family, he left the church and took his daughter with him. Since the Church did not care about his plight, since it could bear keeping his children in the condition of bastards, he felt that he could no longer stay within its walls.

I am not going into the matter of him being right in his grievances, I don't see this as the most important thing, what I am drawing attention to is Rozanov's ability to face the Church as an institution single-handedly. For him the non-recognition of his children by the Church was not a matter of mere formality, that meant for him too many things. He suffered the fact of the non-recognition not only as a formal obstacle along the road to the proper schooling, but as a fact which dealt with the very essence of his family life. This goes to say that he was rooted in the Church even in that grievance of his, that such a man cannot live without the Church, and the Church cannot either exist without such men, may not exist without such men – even if they are deluded – they are its mainstay. That deed of his, those foundations reflected for me the essentials of Rozanov which made me represent his visage the way I did.

This is where the contrast comes from between the costume and the plasticity of the figure – each one of those corresponding to the state of the youthful freedom and credulity on the one hand, and the expression of the face showing already gleams of the future. But so far, the portrait is is still in progress…

Tatyana Bermant. 1961. Concrete; 1 life size

E.I.: Now, coming to the end of our conversation, I would like to put to you one more question, which is particularly important for the readers of the Continent journal, and it deals with your latest work, your monument to V. Solovyov. I must mention, that I took part in the ceremony of the laying of the first stone at the site of the would-be monument in the courtyard of the Institute of Philosophy. A am glad for the very fact of that project, and I am glad that our readers will be able to see the monument. How did you take that work?

V.Y.: Beginning with the portrait of Galkovsky, and coming through my work on portraits of Pushkin and Rozanov, there became traced for me a new theme – a conjugation of an individual with a certain spiritual space, that space being the national space, an ethnically colored spiritual space. These portraits as if reflect for me different facets of certain ethnic, national idea, the "Russian idea", as they describe it sometimes. Solovyov continues the series. Although most of his portraits show some taint of demonic character, I found in one of the photos something that I consider as the mainstay of the entirety of Russian art, and that I spoke about earlier in connection with the works of Andrey Rublev: the ability to bring to light ideas that come from without. That was also the road traveled by Russian philosophy, traveled by Solovyov the thinker, although his roads were not straight ones, which also adds another facet to his image.

That early photograph shows him looking far ahead from the depth of his inner world, far ahead where he feels existence of light and his own connection to that light, a connection creating the spiritual field of the image – a field I tried to represent as best I could.

E.I.: As we came to the end of our conversation, we succeeded in finding the line that runs through all your works: to express in a human image an expression of super-valuable ideas, the connection with which serves to determine the inner content of the individual…

V.Y.: Yes, and these, as you call them, super-valuable ideas, consist for me, when applied to the Russian art, in its mission of illuminating everything with which it comes into contact. I find this same mission in our history too, and in our social life, and it is desirable to be able to stay true to it throughout whichever new historic roads to be taken. Where we succeed in doing so, culture will continue to be Russian and it will perform its predestination.

"Continent", 1994