"So to speak" / Valery Yevdokimov /
Valery Yevdokimov writes:
"A game is a peculiar form of perception that embraces many things in life: from a joke to a tragedy. The game starts as an imitation but at its highest manifestation it reveals mysteries of life and turns into art."
If one applies this criterion to Valery Yevdokimov's articles, they will turn out to be neither game nor art, neither joke nor tragedy but a neutral "text". Although the text is complicated with a lot of subordinate clauses hardly adjusted to each other, they are absolutely fruitless and empty. Phrases found in his articles are just a line of rusty gates that swing lazily on the squeaky hinges – they lead nowhere, they do not lock or open anything. Holes, wind and rusty screech.
Yet Valery Yevdokimov's articles are interesting. They are interesting for people who know his plastic art works. Analysis of his articles can help reconstruct his view of life in order to understand his creative works more fully.
…Thus Yevdokimov's sculpture is not a deformation, nor a space that splits with a crackle, but rather an alteration of antique forms – a curve, an elusive ambiguity. Russian architectural and archetypal forms, their eroticism and roundness are expressed this way. The basis of his sculptures is a conscious space. This dematerialization is a prayer. It is an expression of inner nihilism as well as its adaptation achieved by twisting and holding it in a three-dimensional space. There is no direct meaning, only a conscious curve. It is ethereal. It is amorphous. It seems everything has passed: you closed your eyes, and the eraser of non-existence erased these lines from your memory for ever. But it did not. After a while a smoothly running thread of reason returns to these forms again and again. A person starts thinking, the sculpture is twisting in his mind, while the mind and the soul themselves are twisting in his head.
Yevdokimov's sculpture is a Christian one – and not just Christian, but Orthodox, Russian Orthodox. Russian Orthodoxy emerged before words and forms, and this is the only way one can touch upon the most virtuous and sacrosanct subject for any Russian – the subject of God. Catholic and Protestant art, especially sculpture as the most material and perceivable kind of art, will always be crude and artificial for Russians. Thorvaldsen's Christus has no mystery. There is Idea, and Logos, but there is no mystery. Is Christ wise? God in general is intellect Himself, but Christ, the embodiment of Christianity – is He logos? What intellectual things did Christ say to his pupils? Socrates – yes, he is intellect. Solomon is also intellectual, he embodies the wisdom of the East. But Christ? Christ is a sweet, tantalizing mystery – the one that is cosy, close, native and innermost. It is cosy and inexorably elusive. It's ethereal. Like an icon. And Valery Yevdokimov has this purely national attitude to the subject of Christ. Christ is neither intellectual nor foolish, he is beyond this, beyond people's definitions. There is a mystery, not mysteriousness. Shadowy mysteriousness is dark. A Catholic cathedral is, and a Catholic cemetery are mysterious. Protestantism is rational. Orthodoxy is irrational, but it is neither mysterious nor dark – just like Protestantism. Orthodoxy is embellished, it is melancholy, but not frightening, it is luminous. The crying Christ is not even an emotion, a fit of passion, but a tonality of existence. So Valery Yevdokimov's sculptures are not Christian, strictly speaking. Orthodox Christianity is a tonality, a hint dissolved in his works that makes his creative work dependent on a certain idea. Dependent on an uncertain idea. On a vague, enigmatic idea that still shines through symbolized reality in some incomprehensible way.
Valery Yevdokimov's creative work foresees the experience of the logical sculpture of Antiquity, although it does not follow it. His works are to be fore-seen. They are based on recognition. Yevdokimov's sculptures are sophisticated and incomprehensible keys to archetypical locks of our reason. Their sophistication provokes perplexity.
Perplexity is just the beginning of the visual perception, stretched out in time. Therefore time is included in pre-logical structures of Yevdokimov's sculptures. This is another characteristic of the irrational sculpture. There is no time in the world of ideas and there is no time in the sculpture of Antiquity. There is no gradual "plexus" during the process of perception, no gradual involvement of our minds in understanding the interwoven meanings of an artwork.
The illustration of "plexus" could be a key to Valery Yevdokimov's personality – a key of his "Self-portrait". A turn of the key is its symbolization.
The idea of this image is trite and uninteresting. If I was told that it could be turned into a plastic art work, I would burst out laughing. The philosophical idea of the "reflection of the world" is a common place itself, while its representation in a sculptural image of the individual "self" is nothing more than a parody. However, Valery Yevdokimov did the impossible – because he did not slip into the parody as expected. To be more precise, his "Self-portrait" is a parody – but it is parodical since it is created as an exhibition poster. On the one hand, there is an idealized image of the artist, sublime plasticity and even excessive emotionality, – while on the other hand, there is comical and crude destruction – the head and arms are confused and interwoven. It's certainly funny. Strangely enough, a viewer cannot find "the point of laughter", that point of view that would finally expose insignificance of the author's image. The lucidity of the image dissolves, becomes seeming, reaches the point of self-destruction without being noticed turning into triteness. Valery Yevdokimov's sculpture twists the space around it so that the a viewer cannot resist the magnetism of the strangely curved space and glides along its elusive meaning. Triteness is exaggerated thanks to the inner mysteriousness of the image. The image does not even split, but dissolves – breaks the view while making different coordinate systems possible. At the same time the image unites these systems, devaluing each viewpoint. Therefore this sculpture cannot be called destructive. Its destructiveness is ultimate and, thus, soft. There are no sharp angles that tear the space. The space is not cut open, but twisted, it becomes as tangible as the gap in the self-portrait's "head meat".
To what extent does Valery Yevdokimov understand his creativity? He clearly feels the need to understand his works. And his articles, for instance, show this need. But the articles themselves demonstrate that attempts to conduct a rational analysis are unsuccessful. Entirely unsuccessful. The author's thoughts lack inner tension. Pages of articles are not transparent, there is no "divine repetition" when different layers of meanings of the text overlap, creating a peculiar kind of magnifiers. Valery Yevdokimov wrote what he wrote. His articles are open-ended, they lack symbols and, consequently, do not exist independently. The artist as a personality is much more interesting than his articles. While a work of art is deeper and more sincere than its creator. It is alive and interacts with reality in the way the artist had not expected.
However, the question is not about the articles themselves, but about Valery Yevdokimov's way of thinking. Is it an adequate form of the existence of his personality? It does not seem like that. His existence "grabs most of life", while his way of thinking is narrow, static and quiet. This man does not understand all the humour and all the tragedy of his existence. The concept of his creative work is simple and sterile yet if it is applied to his existence as an artist and a personality, it is tragic.
Valery Yevdokimov thinks of himself as an artist, a creator who is living at the moment when international visual art has reached its climax. Thousands of years of human history just form a route leading to his creative work. Valery Yevdokimov's works are the apogee of "compositional thinking" that has been gradually evolving from "cave paintings" to his – Valery Yevdokimov's – sculptures.
Such a point of view is certainly typical of amateurs. And that is funny. But Valery Yevdokimov is not an amateur and his creative work is far from being amateurish. And that is tragic. This man does not understand his works, he does not understand what is happening to him. But he is a human being, he is endowed with reason, and he tries to understand the reality and his existence in it with the help of "a sacred crutch". He believes he reaches the peace of mind through understanding. But it is no more than a dangerous and fleeting illusion!
Valery Yevdokimov thinks his creative work is what the world needs and, moreover, he believes that his works can change the world. But in fact nobody needs either him or his works. What does he deserve as a personality and as an artist? – Sympathy. His creative work is interesting only as a strange and fitful attempt to understand a chasm opening wide before the man who was thrown into a foreign and absolutely incomprehensible world. Understanding is futile and fruitless but as a state of mind it is full of great meaning because it harmonizes a person. Harmonization emerges as the result of "recognition". It is not the recognition of the graphic structure of sculptures but it is a recognition-projection. The perception of Valery Yevdokimov's sculptures is at the same time the projection of one's sense of the world and the feeling of its familiarity with the author's sense. A similar situation is found in the case of recognizing one's behaviour in others when one feels the similarity of the inner world behind the similarity of manifestations of the soul.
Russia used to be a naive and fuzzy caterpillar. But years, decades, centuries passed by – and it turned into a closed and hard cocoon. When the hand of the clock turned again, Russia flew up as a beautiful, defenceless and ephemeral butterfly. Autumn came round, and the butterfly dropped its wings before dying and turned into a disgusting insect, a water strider that makes one sick to even look at. It is an enduring country. Maybe it is too enduring. And we live in this country. Certainly, since there were so many transformations it is natural to dream of future metamorphoses. To err is human. Still Valery Yevdokimov lives in this country. He has lived here most of his life. And life is waning. What is coming to an end? A leaking ceiling, a trash pile by a window, a cracked floor, some little flies that always get into a cup of tea, and so on – in other words, all charms of idiocy associated with the work of bureaucrats and life in a basement, that characterizes our extremely happy life, Russian life.
Is there a reflection of this side of existence in Valery Yevdokimov's works? Or maybe it is "not genuine"? No, this is genuine, this is real. And everything else is just a game – a painted basement, basement-amusement. However, the mind does not want to work in this direction, because it serves therapeutic functions.
And there will not be another existence, another Russia. We have to take this old, poor and disgusting insect in our hands and accept it with all our heart. Valery Yevdokimov's works are all about love for Russia – but one that has gone, love for a "fading Rus'". Once again he turns a blind eye to reality. Valery Yevdokimov is an artist of the past and the future, the patriarchal and the modernistic, but he is not an artist of the present. His life in the present is just a connection of the past and the future interdependent in different ways. This is the reason (or a consequence) of the lastest myth. Valery Yevdokimov could express his ultimate goal and his dream citing Khodasevich:
In me is the beginning, in me the end.
What's been accomplished by me a blink!
Yet still I am a reliable chain link:
This happiness to me has been given.
In the new but greater Russia they will
erect to me a Janus-faced idol at
the broad cross-roads of two city streets
where there's sand, time, and the wind whines...
Everyone understands this pathos, and one would be a heartless idiot to drag it through the mud. In this case the question is about transferring the centre of gravity of rational thinking to the present. This is the goal that my "middle myth", the myth of middle (present, today's) times pursues. After such a transfer, thinking will go from a lock to a key.
If V. Yevdokimov were to read this article, he would agree with me in many respects. Moreover, he would think that most of the thoughts stated above were familiar to him because they were his own thoughts. Actually, this is just an illusion because he does not think of that but feels it and embodies it in his sculptures. The actual layer of thoughts does not exist. Thus a strange fact becomes clearer: there is no direct mention of his works in the articles. The author keeps silence and does not explain his works. And they need so much to be explained. They do not need an "explanation" (otherwise their existence would be pointless), but rather a clarification, a type of "maieutics" necessary for eye contact. Valery Yevdokimov understands his works in an ultimately abstract way. His thinking has nothing to do with physiology, but his sculpture does – even the most abstract ones (for example, "Opening" with stretching bulb-resembling claws that create a whole bunch of meanings, viewpoints). The feeling of the chasm of the world is revealed through the density of material forms. The artist achieves the authentic demonstration of his inner state, the ability to show com-passion. Valery Yevdokimov's way of thinking is empty and abstract therefore it is untrue, unauthentic and simply incomprehensible, uninteresting.
Obviously it is a detailed sketch, an accent. An opinion. Nevertheless, I, the author of this article, live in the world of words – while existence in the world of plastic art is possible, yet is neither true nor genuine to me. Plastic thinking is probable only as a superficial and uncreative phenomenon. When I look at a sculpture or a painting, it is strange, but I do not see it. However, then it penetrates the verbal level of my "self", later a dull and grayish visual image becomes filled with words, and turns into a crude and visible idea. Thus the contact with Valery Yevdokimov's works is possible somewhere deep inside me. It is based on the world that emerged before words, culture and art. Valery Yevdokimov sees this world of inner experience take visible shape, and I see it take the shape of a thought.
Anyway, my position is mere snobbery. The man is living and is going to fall into the black abyss of infinity without understanding and seeing a thing in this world, and he will be falling there slowly, quietly, spread like an X… Forever. And all words remain small, pitiful, and insignificant in comparison to this fact.
Contact is impossible, though an illusion of contact is feasible. Our worlds exist in different dimensions. One part of my article enters somebody else's world with terrible screech and gritting. The part that is gray and bleak. Valery Yevdokimov's sculptures also cut into my world but in a soft, gentle, ethereal way. This world is closer to its roots…
February 14–July 1, 1985