Aleksandr Nosov. Interview

I was born in 1947 in Leningrad, but spent my childhood in Georgia, struck by its beauty and color. In 13 years, I read a book that changed my life forever. It was a well-known work of John Rewald «History of Impressionism», from which I learned that there was another painting.

Another lasting impression was the meeting with Vladimir Vasilyevich Sterligov, and this event took place in the 66 th year, at the first joint-personal exhibition of V.V. Sterligov and T.N.Glebova at LOSH (Leningrad union of artists). At that time the avant-garde was considered to be alien to Soviet art, however, the exhibition was opened, but after 3 hours has already been closed. When I came with my father, the exhibition was in a small blue living room (the so-called lounge room), he introduced me to Vladimir Vasilyevich. My parents were friends with Alexander Borisovich Baturin, who had already been the student of Sterligov. From early youth, I was interested in such art, I knew Braque and Picasso, so, it was extremely interesting to me.

And, when I was going to Sterligov’s exhibition, I thought it would be something similar close.

But it turned out to be quite another thing, completely unexpected. I couldn’t even say that I liked it very much ... no, it was just so much different, that, I was very impressed.

But several years passed before I found myself not without Baturin’s help and protection

in «invisible institution» that Vladimir formed from young artists.

To this circle Gennady Zubkov entered, he was at the moment the most experienced among young artists, and had been familiar with Vladimir Vasilyevich a little bit earlier, then joined Alyosha Gostintsev, later Alexander Kozhin, Lena Gritsenko, so the participants were adding gradually..., someone dropped out, someone appeared.

Sterligov is the greatest mystery. He has put us a lot of such questions that are difficult to answer. It is necessary to have, perhaps, very large gifts. And I hope that everyone got as as they say, the things that he was worthy and deserved. Lena Gritsenko from the very beginning has liked the curvilinear geometry. It was in tune with her artistic nature.

And to me was closer not such a rigid geometry, but the facts that now like to call by the word «organic», when the imagery is drawn not to the plastic realism, but rather to the preservation of something natural and at the same time to something objectless. Without objects as without figures.

Vladimir Vasilyevich used to say that “geometry, it is not general inherent to everyone. You can appreciate geometry, but it may not coincide with your inner world». Reviewing my sketch, Vladimir Vasilyevich found out that I might unconsciously come to understanding of the important principle of shaping – form subtraction. The basic process of training for me came down to the joint exhibitions held in the apartments of friends and students, and screening of our works by Vladimir Vasilyevich. And I should say that Sterligov treated everyone very delicately. He was a wonderful teacher, because he never swang a stick: it should be only in such a way! Even if he didn’t not like your work, he found out how to tell to his student about his mistake, but so that it didn’t not hurt, although he was quite impartial.

Therefore, I am grateful to him that he opened my eyes to some things, to the attitude towards art in general, to life. Sterligov was not only the Creator of Bowl-Dome image, he liked to say Bowl-Dome Existence, not the system. Now often art historians write «Bowl-Dome system, but if Sterligov was alive this word could not be used, because he was active, creative, growing, evolving artist. And the system is something completed...

In 20-30 years, he was closely connected with V. Ermolaeva, and apparently this fact had played a role in his further creative path and development as an artist and also in the appearance of a New Canon, because Sterligov is a kind of opponent to Malevich, despite the fact that he came out of the Suprematism. However, in Bowl-Dome Existence (I'm sticking to that term), Vladimir Vasilyevich came back to Nature, it was for him a definite help, unlike Suprematism, with its complete negation of natural forms, the absolute purity of any real associations and proximity to the contrasting form.

We studied the evolution of artistic means (what it is), how they evolved in the mind of the artist. The whole19th century was the gradual release of painting from the primacy of content, the primacy of  literature. On the main place picturesque beginning, picturesque characteristics came, and that was the color first of all. Impressionists, then their followers and Cezanne, and then in general the whole galaxy of artists led to such a powerful explosion and as a result of  it Cubism, Suprematism appeared. The 20th century started with its movement to the autonomy of artistic means, when the picturesque and plastic tasks became creative basis.

Vladimir Vasilyevich, certainly, was the person of that time, or it’s better to say, the person of spirit of  that time. Some people call him “the last avant-gardist in Russia”....

The word “avant-garde” is very conditional. In the West such word didn’t exist at all. But it was clear that another things appeared, we know them, so-called socialist realism, the movement in art supported by politicians and which is somehow rehabilitated by certain artistic circles at present.

In this question Vladimir Vasilyevich was the principal opponent, ruthless fighter. The struggle  against an object, and a new concept without objects, that was apparently the fact he had got during his studies in State Institute of artistic culture where he learnt from Malevich. Sterligov considered that the most important and valuable things in the modern art led to the release from the picturesque nature, from material. And the first place went to color and its enormous possibilities for the formation of forms.

Painting without objects gave the chance for the solution of the highest spiritual problems. Sterligov saw in this painting cleared of all useless and material, the manifestation of the Spirit.

He had the very figurative poetic language, he always found some kind of metaphor, and the most complicated problems were somehow adequately, convincingly expressed by him. Vladimir Vasilyevich had a friend and the conversationalist, very original philosopher  - Druskin Yakov Semenovich - connected with Oberiuts. It was specific Sterligov's feature, his appeal was in such things too. There are a lot of artists among them also talented ones, but here was the person who could do everything convincingly, both explain and show.

Malevich developed the system in the history of art, in which at any given moment there was a new additional element. Cezanne in the period of Cubism suggested the concept of the so-called crescent curve. Vladimir Vasilyevich has made a new discovery - the appearance of  Bowl-Dome curvilinear geometry, curvilinear space. Interest in the curve could be found in art history for example Matyushin’s ZorVed (Vision and Vedenie (knowledge), but it was another way to attract attention to the curvilinearity. Similar might be found in the West. But Sterligov undoubtedly revealed himself to the world in a very original and earnest manner... And it was not suddenly.

He had a peculiar fortune. Works of the period which had been related to State Institute of artistic culture, to K. Malevich, practically disappeared in the besieged Leningrad, there only one left. He had been wounded at the beginning of the Great war, evacuated to Kazakhstan, to Alma-Ata and already in the late forties, and in the 50th years, he in fact restored everything. He spent an internal concentrated work, and certain series, so-called Angels have appeared. Then this theme of Angels was repeated. Or rather, it appeared in another aspect. It happened later, in the 70th years, before the death.

We still have to say that he was a Christian, the man who suffered for his faith in reality, who had passed the camps. And, as you can see, simply dealing with art, construction of forms, this wasn't enough for him. The eternal problem about the form and content was solved by him unusually. The content was natural religiosity, absolutely free as an appeal to the divine world. So he tried to find the adequate means to express it.

If we talk about his school now, it is likely direction in contemporary art, its plastic line. The feature of this school is in the preservation of the basic philosophical positions as well as

faithfulness to the ideas of plasticity left by the teacher. Above all, it is the problem of the additional element in the art, the unity of the spiritual and artistic, lack of objects, as a necessary condition of art, the ability of color to organize the forms. All that remains actual and in our days. To the point it is good to quote the words of a famous art critic and Sterligov’s student E.F.Kovtun: «An esthetics of the curve, bowl and dome was not invented by Sterligov, it was caught in the spiritual and moral life of the world as a new and imperious requirement. It forces way through modern art and architecture».

In my works I try to keep those qualities which I had got, communicating with Vladimir Vasilyevich. First of all that is devotion to the art without objects, and also devotion to fundamental value of color in painting. In the works I use the method when there is a gradual increase of a picturesque layer when the lower layers, interact with the forming new layer, participate in creation of a spatial color form.

Sterligov spoke about picturesque planeness, about picturesque volume, about dense color thickness. «Development of color comes not only in space, but also in time – from depth, from the spatial thickness going to an antiworld. There the beginnings of color or not - color lies».

It seems to me that Vladimir Vasilyevich Sterligov is, probably, the only artist who might consider art creativity as spiritual making. Sterligov tried to solve a complex world outlook problem by means of painting, he wrote: «The sense and the purpose of artist’s work is in a prayer, the artist's prayer is the execution of his work».

The time came (it was very short period, the end of the 80th — the beginning of the 90th) when all fears disappeared and, it seemed that art critics and artists themselves had turned towards the Russian avant-garde, so it meant that they also turned towards problems once had been put. But it has passed very quickly.

In the West there were a little bit different events because the tradition there was never interrupted. And most of artists redirected. Therefore artists of Sterligov circle again appeared in a certain missing of time. I keep thinking that Sterligovs movement is always not in the context of time. Not in deep time, but in external, in a temporary situation.

Though I consider that those fundamental problems which have been put by Sterligov and Malevich weren't gone anywhere, won't be gone anywhere because that is the creativity basis, the basis of plastic arts in general. Any hyper-realism, any fashion, introduction of new technical means per se won’t destroy these questions. In the basis of art the same principles lie which have been formulated by Malevich and by cubism, all those achievements that have been received in general in the 20th years, not only in our country, but also in the West. They will return to them sooner or later.

Alexander Nosov