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
Pieta. 1990. Chamotte; height 70 cm

Valery Yevdokimov: Movement of the Diagonal

Interview by Aleksey Kozyrev

Valery Yevdokimov at the studio. 2001. Moscow

A.K.: You were artistically formed within what we often call 'Soviet culture.' Were there any bright aspects in it which contributed to your self-realization?

V.Y.: What valuable things were there in the Soviet plan of life? What was it that allowed people, or allowed me to grow artistically, to receive positive impulses? I see all the positive influence of the Soviet culture as the continuing impact of the Russian culture of pre-revolutionary times. That culture still held alive. And some pre-revolution people were still living. A teacher of mine, Petr Pavlovich Vvedensky, who taught astronomy in my school, used to teach at a high school in Imperial Russia. People were still alive who had been brought up before the 1917 revolution, or who were educated by those who lived before the revolution. Hence this strong cultural foundation continued to exist for some time. Not even in politics was it possible to deny certain cultural, and even humanitarian, values. They continued to be proclaimed, albeit actually demagogically. This phenomenon was maintained not by those proclamations, but by the inertia of the tradition.

A.K.: And what is, may I call it, 'genealogy' in art? Have you been influenced by the art of the avant-garde, constructivism, by Tatlin?

V.Y.: Then I became a second-year student, and a third-year student. The literary works of Solzhenitsyn made their way into our College as xeroxed copies, and so did black-and-white reproductions of Henry Moore*, twentieth or thirtieth reprints. So my artistic conscience, as they say, began to be rapidly transformed. And, naturally, while I continued my studies at the College according to its curriculum, they were the new tidings that were seen as genuine creative art, as a way taking me beyond the limitations of the curriculum and farther on, on a free voyage.

I began to put into practice in my College those 'new tiding' ideas of composition and of form. Moore, for one, produced an indestructible impression on me, one which I have held for my entire life. Now I look at all those things more quietly, but there is present that influence in my first works, the ones done back in 1964 whilst I was still in the care of my Alma Mater.

A.K.: But you also spoke about Tatlin's 'Sinusoid?'

V.Y.: I made those discoveries for myself some time later. For one thing, they had not yet exhibited Tatlin's 'Tower' at the Tretyakov Gallery. It was somewhat later that I discovered for myself the art of avant-garde as such. It was the Renaissance that was the first to come, followed by modern western art.

A.K.: That means that the avant-garde was not valued in the official Soviet tradition?

V.Y.: It was not a tuition subject, so it did not exist. I discovered it for myself after College. Moore did not provide, of course, any radical conceptual rendering of compositional space in art. He made sculptural pieces of his own. His one strong aspect is that the plasticity of the human body is still discernable. I think that this is the basis of all spatial discoveries in art. Once it is present, then it is art; and where it is absent, there is no art there. It was in this way, by reaching to the art of the avant-garde, that I made my first sculptural discovery for myself, that of the phenomenon of Tatlin.

He was very talented. He made remarkable realistic drawings and sketches from life. One can see clearly that he was a very gifted person with a broad spatial perception of life. In his 'Tower', Tatlin laid the foundation of spatial rendering in art for the foreseeable future. This is a co-relation of two forms, each one of which is developing along a spiral, the co-relation of two forms in diagonal inclination, in diagonal direction. This is what Rodchenko meant some time later, when he said that the art of the future would be largely subjected to the movement of the diagonal. Tatlin brought together two diagonal movements to produce energy, tension, overcoming. It was the interplay of two forms that he combined in diagonal movement – the mutual relation between two spirally shaped forms.

This is, actually, the sculptural and spatial, aesthetical and artistic solution. There is, though, one important detail here. These dynamic forms operate against the background of a vertical line because inside the tower there are vertically arranged forms. They are provided for the purpose of contrast and they make the starting point for the movement of spirally-shaped forms. Realization of all these aesthetic merits of this work by Tatlin was coming to me gradually. I felt at once – by intuition – that there is some grain there which cannot be missed if an artist aspires to work in modern art, and if he masters the artistic thinking of space.

A.K.: I noticed that a sculptural portrait of Florensky stands in your studio with a withered rose in front it. I see here the same principle, the sinusoid: his glance directed at an upper corner of the room, his lowered head, and his curly hair.

V.Y.: This is true about any work, be it a portrait or a figure composition. And this is what empathizes the three-dimensional character of representation in the fine arts, including sculpture.

A.K.: So how have you arrived at the 'Russian' theme? The one at which you have worked for the past twenty years?

V.Y.: Beginning from 1978-1979. After reading writers of Russian religious philosophy I realized the necessity of understanding the meaning of the Old Russian art, and of using its principles and its discoveries in contemporary art. A series of my compositions of the 1980es is devoted exactly to implementation of these principles: supplying to works of art certain spiritual properties, instead of formal ones. To put it in more detail, I did not even make a particular use of inverted perspective. True, I saw that it exists but I did not take it as some discovery which would provide artists with a new artistic solution.

To provide an example, I will tell you the story of a work, "In commemoration of Andrey Rublev", which explains how I came to conceive and approach the theme. I realized that it is not Rublev's 'Trinity' itself that should be looked at, but we should look at what happens when a worshipper comes to pray before it.

The icon was not in a church, but it was instead kept at the Tretyakov Gallery. So I went to the Tretyakov Gallery, to the hall where the 'Trinity' was hanging; I found a seat in a corner there, and began to watch what happened when people looked at the icon. I attempted to unfold the 'Trinity' composition into a three-dimensional perspective and to complement the three-dimensional image of the icon with the fugure, also three-dimensional, of the gallery visitor-worshipper.

This composition originated actually from that idea. It is a different matter as to how successful it is. There are certain drawbacks in it too. And this is explained by the fact that the work was created by efforts of one man, while, Rublev, anyway, painted proceeding from the experience of a culture of several centuries. What I want to say is that I came to approach the Russian motif through a discovery – through a delightful discovery for myself, of the principles of composition in the Old Russian art. I continue to hold until now the opinion that those principles that were realized in the Old Russian icon of the 14-th and 15-th centuries, are unique in their character, and that by their artistic merits they are far above the experience of perception of Evangelical events, that were provided by the Western art at about the same time in history.

A.K.: During the 1970es there appeared the artistic trend of making what can be described as disguised pilgrimage. Artists took to visiting the Optina Pustyn monastary, to look at destroyed churches there where there actually was no church life in the proper sense of the word.

V.Y.: Yes. That was when Dmitry Galkovsky and I went to the Optina. He was then still a university student, or a recent graduate. But that was not the only case of my pilgrimage. I went to all the places that could be visited by pilgrims, including the Ferapontovo Monastery. I did a piece of sculpture on the subject also as an attempt to ponder and understand the situation as a whole, the object being not only church arts or the architectural merits of the Old Russian construction style. I made a special piece on this subject – 'Cathedral.' Proceeding from this work, I approached the subject of personalities in the Russian religious philosophy. Partly also through Galkovsky, who put forward my candidature, when there appeared an opportunity to start working on the design of a monument to philosopher Vladimir Solovyov. A memorial stone was laid at that time in the courtyard of the Institute of Philosophy in Moscow. The Dostoyevsky Memorial Society invited me – as the prospective monument-maker – to the ceremony of the stone-laying and consecration.

It was since that time that I began to study the personalities of the writers who have created the unique phenomenon of the Russian religious philosophy, the one phenomenon which enables Russia to pose in the international arena as a wholesome entity with a thinking of its own.

A.K.: There are people who are of a different opinion. Some philosophers hold that no Russian philosoohy exists at all, and all we have are the vestiges of western mysticism, Jakob Bohme**, and of German Romanticism. Do you take the Russian religious philosophy as a holistic notion which provides you with impetus for your creative work?

V.Y.: Yes, it was an epoch of discoveries. I read one book after another, starting with Vladimir Solovyov. Next came Berdyayev, Florensky, Rozanov, and others. I saw my prospect – which was very important not only for creative work, but for personal life as well.

A.K.: Have you not been disappointed as far as that vision is concerned? Back in 1997 I had a discussion with Yury Afanasyev, the rector of the Russian State Humanitarian University. We went together to Toulouse, France, and Yury Nokolaevich said during a dinner: 'Yes, this is how the Russian philosophy is – it has always been attracting, calling you, enveloping you. But where is it that it calls you to go?

V.Y.: But that's is exactly what is valuable – the feeling of perspective, the charming effect of something that attracts you. But which philosophy makes things happen in real life? There is none. Take any western author. All of them write without providing solutions of the basic issues. What they offer are only visions that are distinctly their own. But such a vision is not realized during the existence of a particular human person. And this happens because there remains unresolved the one principal problem – that of immortality, that of the attitude towards eternity on the part of humans as finite beings.

A.K.: Well, there is a philosophy which proceeds from finitude. Take Martin Heidegger, for example, and his 'being-toward-death.' One aspect is there that immortality is something undesirable and unnecessary.

V.Y.: As far as I understand it now, that would be actually destructive for life. To put it in other words, I have not been disappointed in these authors because I am grateful to them for the upsurge of inspiration which I experienced as I was getting to know their works. For me it was a period of discoveries, a period of spiritual development – without which I would not have done what I did subsequently, since my creative work began to enter gradually the mainstream of realization of new ideas. Tatlin provided rather a formal support, while they were the ideas of the Russian religious philosophy that served as the spiritual pivot and were, so to say, the prime mover for the creation of sculptural models of these instances of spiritual experience.

Project of monument to Victims of repressions. 2018. Plaster cast. 100x100x100 cm

A.K.: And you also have begun to enter the Russian philosophy, because the images which you have created – Florensky, Rozanov, Dostoyevsky, Solovyov – it is difficult now to imagine the history of the Russian philosophy without them. This is a certain kind of reading, we speak about the history of the Russian philosophy of N. Lossky, V. Zenkovsky or G. Shpet. They are interpretations while they are also texts of Russian philosophy. The same is true about your works – as interpretations, they also are included into the history of Russian philosophy, and thus they are non-verbal philosophemes.

V.Y.: I am flattered by this comparison, although I do not think that my contribution is so significant. I would say that these are prolegomena to those solutions which are bound to take place, may be not necessarily in my creative work, but in works to be performed by other artists.

A.K.: Why is it that we have so few monuments to Russian philosophers? They erect monuments to all sorts of people: to recently-deceased men of literature and to political figures, but they put up no monuments to famous classics that have brought world fame to Russia, our state provides no funds for them. Your story of the design of a monument for Solovyov is very sad. It will soon be twenty years of your trying to build that monument.

V.Y.: The problem is easy to resolve. It is a fact that if some person is elevated in public eyes, and if that person comes to carry a moral halo, the issue will arise invariably that that person must be imitated and that life must be organized according to his principles. But this is a very difficult task. It is very difficult even to understand their example and adopt it as something that is attractive to yourself. One needs to become spiritually mature for that task.

"Socrates", #2, 2010

* Henry Spencer Moore (1898–1986), an English artist and sculptor who worked in the genre of figurative monumental plastic arts.

** Jakob Bohme (1575–1624), a German theosophist, visionary, and Christian mystic.