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. 1999–2000. Granite; height 2,3 m.
Gerlesborg, Sweden
The Ethics of Plastic Forms
in Valery Yevdokimov's Sculptures

"art seeks to give a face to things,
and in this its greatness and
its deceit simultaneously reside"

Emmanuel Levinas.
"Difficult Freedom", 2004


Valery Yevdokimov's sculptures or, to be more precise, paths he took to choose the profession were initially based on the search and inner need for ethical actions that would implement his humanistic project in visual arts. The organizational model of such a large-scale project has taken a certain shape after 60 years of artist's work. Apart from his main specialization – indoor and monumental sculpture – Valery Yevdokimov makes drawings which one should describe not just as an independent craft, but more as a series of artistic studies of space and composition by means of plastic forms and materials. Moreover, the sculptor consistently gives theoretical explanations of work that develops in the context of solving the phenomenological problem of ethics as "the first philosophy" of the arts. It is noteworthy that every type of work is strictly independent and none of them together can be reduced to a common denominator. Despite their ultimate goal, the drawings – and particularly the texts – serve as auxiliary, analytical tools which are not necessarily coherent within their genres – contrary to expectations. The way Valery Yevdokimov draws a distinction between his practices and those of the historical avant-garde , and thus emphasizes it, is of great importance in this regard. The latter may be at first sight – and probably mistakenly – considered to be a source of the sculptor's artistic viewpoint. While avant-gardists manifested working "as one", thus disrupting the established art regime, Yevdokimov's sculptures enter into a long dialogue with the existing canon of ethical patterns of reality and the established aesthetic programme. The sculptor does not work with a set of ethical rules or a frame of morality in the arts – but rather seeks to clarify the situation when ethics "illuminate" the principal things that make its existence possible – in order to find the meaning of forgotten or neglected things that do not become less genuine at the same time. In my opinion, the lack of philosophical and art analysis of ethics in Valery Yevdokimov's works is quite a strange and notable omission. Therefore I will try to formulate key issues and focal points that bring ethics to the forefront of Yevdokimov's works in this small and consolidated by its inner natural text.

Portrait of Fr. P.A. Florensky. 2007. Bronze, granite. 32x30x21 cm

First and, maybe, foremost question one should start with deals with the origins of the sculptor's understanding of ethical actions and their ontological coherence with artistic practices. In other words, is there a correlation that allows us to consider plastic forms as the final stage of ethics that includes both teleological and axiological potential? For example, Valery Yevdokimov states in his texts of various years: "Art becomes a game thus losing its meaning of ethical meditation and reflection. Art and game unnoticeably turn into each other. The problem of ethics is revealed as the problem of measure in art and game's convergence. The ethical meaning of a work of art is found in every aspect of it. Image, literary or plastic plot, correlation of mass and rhythmic features of composition, colour and shade, texture, form and traces of how material is handled can say a lot about the artist's outlook on life." (Yevdokimov, 1984) And later: "The space quality of reality becomes the true content of a sculpture or drawing. It gives new insights into a topic and defines the artist's place in artistic and spiritual hierarchy. Since the depth of an image is unattainable without entering the world of form that sets free and heals, without the feeling of transcendence of space in the composition and its details. Hence there is a connection between ethics and aesthetics." (Yevdokimov, 1995) A tradition of Russian religious philosophy that is known for raising the issue of the value of good and kindness is an essential and important pillar for the sculptor. However, representatives of this philosophy followed the antique school that, primarily, focused on theoretical learning of experience so that actions could correspond with the rationality of existence. This resulted in the emergence of the law of polis and human activity. Thus the experience becomes accessible, immanent as soon as a subject makes a statement. Ethical actions are fixed in language and its social stratification. Meanwhile, "the feeling of transcendence of space" defined by the sculptor sets the language of plastic forms free from the social "framework" of knowledge making the revelation a part of the inter-subjective exchange and synchronistic clarification of something "being stated" at the moment of the imperative, rather than of something "stated".

Thus ethics – as an attempt to grab the otherness and nonequivalence of the "Me – You" relation by means of plastic gesture and physical environment – deal with another philosophical tradition that appeared in the 20th century and was called "the philosophy of dialogue". The connection with Russian religious philosophy remains, but only at the thematic level – for example, when a sculptor interprets the "Russian national idea" while studying "iconographical" representation of portrayed philosophers.

It is clear that it senseless and epistemologically improbable to define the individual language of the sculpture by means of theses and the development of a whole philosophical school of thought. That is the reason why it is better to limit oneself to the area where both Valery Yevdokimov's sculptures and his dialogic philosophy seek similar ethical openness to the otherness of the Other. The closest and the most similar by its concept phenomenology of ethics belongs to Emmanuel Levinas, and it would help to describe the sculptor's works. It means that I am going to reject and reconsider everything that has been added to the sculptor's works by standard formal analysis of the style – and as a cautious outside observer I will still radically call them "ethos-plastic art" – an artistic method and a complex of moral imperatives that are implicitly inherent in inter-subjective space engaged into the sphere of plastic appeal to the Other.

Levinas believes that the otherness of the Other, its originality seems to be insuperable and goes beyond the game of categories of identical and different. The absolute Other belongs to what is found on the other side of existence. The philosopher uses phenomenological reduction to display such type of the Other. As a result, the Other ceases to belong to some object class but appears as the specific Other or "close" one. Thus a genuine, independent meaning is revealed in the Other. Alain Badiou makes very succinct remarks on Levinas's philosophy in his short monograph "Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil": "Levinas maintains that metaphysics, imprisoned by its Greek origins, has subordinated thought to the logic of the Same, to the primacy of substance and identity. But, according to Levinas, it is impossible to arrive at an authentic thought of the Other (and thus an ethics of the relation to the Other) from the despotism of the Same, which is incapable of recognizing this Other. This dialectic of the Same and the Other, conceived 'ontologically' under the dominance of self-identity, ensures the absence of the Other in effective thought, suppresses all genuine experience of the Other, and bars the way to an ethical opening to alterity. So we must push thought over to a different origin, a non-Greek origin – one that proposes a radical, primary opening to the Other conceived as ontologically anterior to the construction of identity. It is in the Jewish tradition that Levinas finds the basis for this pushing-over. What the Law (understood according to Jewish tradition as both immemorial and currently in effect) names is precisely the anteriority, founded in being-before-the-Same, and with respect to theoretical thought, of the ethics of the relation to the Other, itself conceived merely as the 'objective' identification of regularities and identities. The Law, indeed, does not tell me what is, but what is imposed by the existence of others." * (Badiou, 2006).

It's noteworthy that Levinas interprets the Old Testament Law in order to reject interpretation that is in some way ideologically charged and is reasonably criticized for bias – the support of national and religious interests. Levinas "extracts" words from the Bible to achieve a philosophical objective: he shows that this tradition merges with our ethical attitude towards modern times, as much as the ethics of ancient Greek thought does. Likewise, the sculptor does not take an imaginary "national Russian idea" fabricated by commemorative political strategies on faith, but offers this idea as an ethical topology that ranges from abstract sculptures and monuments to the physiognomy of Russian writers and philosophers depicted on portraits whose images unite according to their imperative into a made equivalence.

Ethos-plastic art does not interact directly with a model or a topic – it does not oppress them with the precision of the sharp and experienced look of a professional. It is the opposite: taking into consideration the ontological difference of any Other, ethos-plastic art seeks the crystallization of absolute expression and signs inherent in the very area of focus and response from the Other, even before starting to work with a model. I would like to emphasize that the absolute expression and signs are not inherent in objects because the question is about the inter-subjectivity of mutual communication where events, story plots, individual memory of the sculptor appear available under the influence of features of material morphology and plastic "revelation" of the form. In other words, openness that announces the principal difference between "myself", the Author, and "the Other" becomes the beginning of the ethics of plastic forms. It form of the work of art gets the functions of a "face", which prohibits any thought of the Other as an alter ego in its radical exteriority – as with "Identical". This "face" is the exterior side, a transcendence of form-taking in space that is unthinkable in the context of victory and virtuosity of subjugation with the help of skills and mastery. This meeting and acquaintance with a self-presentation of the Other, its "epiphany" allows the sculptor to build his positional responsibility. Only such an ethical link, that is no more fixed in its own existential capacities, allows him to break the cycle of sinister loneliness, and to cease to consider himself as a burden and to bog in his own facticity.

Whatever motives, topics and personal impressions Valery Yevdokimov works with, the ethos of the chosen direction prevails over social frameworks attributed to the sculpture by repressive formats of institutional representation, that is sometimes regarded as sculpture's true identity. In my opinion, this nontrivial opposition – the search of difficult freedom by means of plastic art is the essence of sculptor's credo.

Alexandr Salenkov
Moscow, 2018

Model monument to F. M. Dostoyevsky. 1997. Bronze, granite. 50x64x55 cm