The works I have presented in my most recent exhibitions are the result of long research into the processes by which visual art is perceived, and they illustrate several of my ideas about it. I constantly encounter the need to offer certain explanations for the works I show, even though I am passionately opposed to providing explanatory texts for images, believing as I do that a genuine artist should say everything with his picture.
But since one of the basic principles of my art is love for the viewer, these explanations may be taken as a declaration of love.
1. Love for the viewer
More and more often, modern art deliberately strives for incomprehensibility. The image of the "incomprehensible genius" has become widely accepted, and viewers no longer ask artists any questions, concealing their total incomprehension behind their only defence - an intelligent expression. The critics defend themselves against artists by means of "indulgences" from their "popes" - Guattari, Baudrillard, Barthes and all the others, who have invented for them words which act on the reader in a manner which can only be compared with the effect of the Medusa's head. My works are simple. They are not overloaded with information. I want my viewer to relax, to feel rested. In actual fact a person feels rested when he contemplates a landscape, but we do not relax when we contemplate even the most beautiful of faces. Probably only the flowers in a still life make us relax, and they are in effect a part of a landscape. My wish to please my viewer leads me back again and again to the landscape, and above all to the seascape. I measure every painting I work on against the space above my bed - would it spoil my mood? Could I bear to see it every day? Many artists painting for the "big" exhibitions - where there are lots of different pictures and the viewer passes on quickly - try to exploit the techniques of the advertisement and shock the viewer just enough to fix the picture in his memory, but that is not for me. Perhaps this is why I have finally decided to hold a one-man exhibition, an occasion for intimate contact, despite my long democratic record as an exhibitor (about 300 group exhibitions!). Comfortable viewing is one of the most important goals I set myself in developing the painterly system employed in the works displayed here; the viewer must carry away positive emotions from the exhibition. I have dealt on more than occasion with themes of ecology and disaster, but sometimes I deliberately avoid them. Rose-tinted glasses are an essential accessory for a man who wishes to maintain the health of his psyche in times like ours. The ideology of my most recent exhibitions is the ideology of goodness and joy.
2. The Picture
"The picture dies, but it does not surrender" I. Kabakov
Pictures displayed in an exhibition are like things you might see in real life, represented on a flat surface through the means of. visual art. The ongoing struggle which artists have waged against the picture (as always, they attempt to saw off the branch on which they are sitting) has led to repeated "deaths" of the picture, and yet it has never completely died. These pictures have already shed a significant part of their essential attributes - the frame, the paint-layer... Incorporeality is a consequence of death. The immortal soul of art becomes ever more denuded, the fig-leaf constantly shrinks.
3. The small sign
Human vision has to do with objects of various magnitudes situated in space:
a table — a matchbox
a mountain — a tree
outer space — a star
the sky — the sun
a newspaper — a letter
a floor — a chair
a road — a car
Spaces of differing magnitudes are encountered much less often. It was this simple observation which led me to use fine detail on a large surface: I consider this spatial model to be more natural.
4. Sign perspective
This is one possible name for the spatial system I employ in my works. Research into the perception of space led me to create my own system of representation - the qualitative aspects of this perception are determined by the amount of information possessed by the viewer. Changes in our conception of the world around us have inevitably led to changes in our systematic constructs of space. In our times a total change is taking place in the formation of many individual systems of adaptation to a flat surface. I have arrived at these conclusions by a process of universalisation and the elimination of all superfluous elements.
A coloured flat surface depicts space of a particular quality - earth, water, air, cosmic space. The presence of a defining sign lends its quality to the space, while the colour is freed from the functions of definition, a fact which allows the artist unlimited freedom in his coloristic choices.
For instance, placing on a green background the sign "ship" allows us to interpret it as "sea"; the sign "pine tree" transforms the same space into a forest, the sign "sun" transforms it into the sky.
The sign's position on the surface and its size determine the dimensions of the space. For instance, transferring the sign "pine tree" from the upper section of the surface to the lower section significantly increases the extent of the space represented.
Over the years I have tried exhibiting my works in the most varied surroundings. They have been used as decorations at concerts and theatrical performances, they have been exhibited in modern archcitectural interiors, and interiors from various other periods. My experiments have included displays on the outside of buildings, including the Mariinsky Palace, on bridges and ships... I have even been fortunate enough to display my work on space craft. This long experiment convinced me I was searching in the right direction. The image has withstood the pressure of its surroundings. And my works withstand various lighting regimes with no difficulty. I hope this encounter with my work will bring the viewers genuine enjoyment - the pictures were painted purely of love for the viewer.
This explanation was originally prepared by Timur Novik'ov for an exhibition at the Ethnographical Museum in St. Petersburg in May 1992 (curators Olesya Turkina and Victor Mazin). It was edited by Olvi Matur, in May 1993.
Novikov T.: "Explanation" // Timur Novikov. Avant-Garde. Moscow. P.6-8, 1993