This paper was written for the Interdisciplinary Research Seminar
"Neo-Academism and Neo-Conservatism in Contemporary Russian Art, Music and Film: 1989-2014"
Organizers: Dr. Maria Engström (Dalarna University) and Prof. Per-Arne Bodin (The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities)
November 7 2014, Stockholm The title of the essay as well as quotations from ‘The Art of the Future‘ were revised in 2016.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov “New Classicals” and Timur Novikov “New Russian Classicism”
A documentation of Kozlov's "New Classicals” cycle is available here >>
Hannelore Fobo: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov “New Classicals” and Timur Novikov “New Russian Classicism”
1989 was dated by Timur Novikov retro-actively as the transitional year from his first art group – the “New Artists” – to his second, “Neo-Academism”, later described (by Novikov) as the St. Petersburg branch of “New Russian Classicism”.
This shift is also regarded as a major change for Novikov's artistic views: from avant garde and punk aspirations to the cultural stratum lying between ancient Greece and the European “salon” from the end of the 19th century.
In this paper I will explain why Evgenij Kozlov, one of the leading figures of the “New Artists” movement, kept away from Neo-Academism. From the late 1970’s Kozlov had been Novikov's art companion and indeed, with his rich stylistic and thematic vocabulary, which includes realistic and academic painting, it would have been easy for him to make a substantial contribution to this trend.
In essence, Timur Novikov and Evgenij Kozlov had different views about the meaning of “classical” for contemporary art. For Timur Novikov, “classical” was equivalent to a canon of beauty inherited that can be taught and reproduced. As in other historic periods, such a canon can be revived as “classicism” expressing a Weltanschauung, a “world-view”. More specifically, Timur used “New Russian Classicism” as a propaganda weapon to save Beauty in an era of modernist permissiveness. Here the adjectives “New” and “Russian” are connected with an ideological struggle which now, in 2014, has turned into an Anti-Western-Liberals state doctrine in Russia, although without any reference to Neo-Academism.
Evgenij Kozlov has a different perception of “classical”. For him, “classical” does not refer to any historical context but is the product of a complex spiritual process he described in 1991: “[…] the artist must first achieve a certain state called ‘the art of the future’,– this specific inner richness laden with desires; an inner desire characterised by… again I would say ‘riches’.”  This “art of the future” or “art within” or to be even more succinct “art”, materialises into a product that can be defined as “classical”. In other words and with reference to the spiritual process, art is the “unseen” and its result - the work of art - is “classical”. The impulse giving birth to “art” is not predictable: “It is very important that this process occurs in a new way on each occasion. That is why new works of art are different from previous ones.” Accordingly, “a” classical can appear at the moment where this unique impulse brings about a desire in the artist to create a work of unforeseen harmony.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Любовь к Работе (Love for Work) From the cycle “Новая Классика”, (“New Classicals”)
oil, canvas, 2 x 3 m, 1990
Kozlov uses the term “harmony” in the way that Novikov used the term “beauty”: as an ideal to be achieved with any specific work of art. However, for Kozlov “new” is a synonym for “unforeseen”, not for a renewal of a canon. If a new work possesses this quality of unforeseen harmony (this depends on the intensity of “art within”), it can immediately become a “new classical”. Such is the title of his large cycle of works from 1989 / 1990: “Новая Классика” / “New Classicals”. In view of this, questions of style are, although not irrelevant to him, of secondary importance. As a matter of fact, the paintings from the “New Classicals” cycle have nothing to do with classicism, but it is interesting to note that in 1989, as the communist regimes of Europe collapsed, both Kozlov and Novikov were independently drawn - in the midst of crucial political, social and spiritual transformations - to this idea of “classical/ classicism”.
Paradoxically, it was Evgenij Kozlov’s works which inspired Timur Novikov’s turnaround in the second half of the 1980s, as Ekaterina Andreeva’s statement suggests: “He [Timur Novikov] departed from ‘wildness’ under the influence of Kozlov’s strict style”. In view of this discussion, I will first propose to have a closer look at Evgenij Kozlov’s artistic production of the 1980s and the way it relates to the “New artists”, before comparing (in a second chapter) the meaning of “classical” and “classicism” for Evgenij Kozlov and Timur Novikov and its implications for the response to a work of art. Additionally, the third chapter speculates over the triple nature of “classic”. The paper concludes with a consideration of Evgenij Kozlov’s commitment to the art of his fellow artists in the early 1990’s, parallel to Timur Novikov’s engagement with Neo-Academism.
Evgenij Kozlov. The 1980s.
In an article from 2012, “Evgenij Kozlov: B(L)ack art 1985-1987”, I looked at Kozlov’s work of the 1980s and observed that a new stylistic approach was occurring every two years, even if the previous style was still current. In the early 1980s soft gradations of colour conveyed an almost impressionistic mood and then, even as early as 1982, realistic painting was being combined with elements of pop–art. By 1984 collage had begun to play an important role, to be followed by the graffiti-like painting of 1985/86. In 1987 the artist commenced upon reworking the language of the Russian avant-garde and Soviet signs and in 1988 some of his most important multi-figural paintings appeared, blending classical compositional features (e.g. from The Renaissance) with both portrait and abstract painting. Several of these works were exhibited abroad at the first large show of the “New Artists” — “The New from Leningrad” Stockholm, 1988.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Петродворец. Финский залив.
(Petrodvorets. Gulf of Finland.)
Lithographic crayon, paper, 30 x 42 cm, 1983
If one sticks to the formal definitions for the art of the “New”, as given by Timur Novikov, especially the “punk aspirations” and the technique of “re-composition”, or by Ekaterina Andreeva and her views on “wildness” one might say that Evgenij Kozlov’s art matches this definition to a degree and mostly within the idea of “re-compostion”. Generally speaking, his works of the 1980s, including his graffiti-style paintings, are carefully planned and executed, which becomes manifest, within his work, in a certain elegance and extravagance. This was keenly felt and discussed amongst his fellow artists. We already quoted. E. Andreeva with regard to Timur Novikov. She states the year 1986 / 87 as the turning point: from “wild” to “academic” painting. As an early example for Kozlov’s role in this turn-about she selected several drawings from his “Gulf of Finland” series (1983) for the exhibition “Club of Friends. Timur Novikov’s New artists and the New Academy” at Calvert22, London, 2014. They are drawn with lithographic crayon and show groups of young men and women relaxing on a summer beach. The soft lines of their bodies and the meditative facial expressions create an atmosphere reminiscent of Monet’s dreamy summer scenes though here, the figures are more individual and do not fuse with the background.
As a matter of fact, the criteria of ”wildness“ needs to be reviewed for each “New” artist separately, including Timur Novikov himself, but it was certainly a feature of their joint works – especially on stage where, at times, these works were executed during performances by Pop Mekhanika. However, Evgenij Kozlov only occasionally engaged in these joint works, generally preferring to create within the seclusion and quietude of his own studio.
On the other hand, the time spent in the company of the New artists, at home or in the city, during happenings or concerts with Pop Mekhanika exercised an influence on a considerable part of his artistic out put. This influence occurred through intermediate stages. On such occasions he would take large numbers of pictures, later to be used for his collages and also as a source of inspiration for his graphic works and paintings. Focusing on specific glances and postures, in a sense the camera served the same function for Kozlov as did the sketchbook for artists of the past. I described the result in 2010:
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Тимур на коне (Timur on Horseback)
black and white reproduction
mixed media, hessian
approx. 300 x 106 cm, 1988
“[In these paintings and graphic works,] he combined realistic elements of photography with free forms of a drawing; the photo-realistic images of faces and figures are seen to lose their temporal nature. This transformation enables the power and the potential of the human spiritual condition, that is, the intrinsic meaning of the picture, to emerge. The “classic novelty” of his expressive and modern artistic manner was highly appraised by all New Artists. According to Andrey Khlobystin, “Timur cherished them with all his heart.” Among all his various works, Evgenij Kozlov’s portraits of Georgy Guryanov, Timur Novikov, Igor Verichev, Oleg Kotelnikov and other artists of his circle received special acknowledgement. In an interview with Ekaterina Andreeva, published in her 2007 book entitled “Тимур. Врать только правду!” (“Timur. Only lie the truth!”), Georgy Gurianov stated that the works of Evgenij Kozlov produced a strong impression on him personally, and that he “preferred to all the others” the portraits of him created by Evgenij Kozlov.”
Portraiture of fellow artists was not unusual among the New artists, but Kozlov used a specific compositional approach by which those portrayed appear metamorphosed. A closer look at some works from the late 1980s will explain this concept. “Timur on Horseback” was chosen for the catalogue cover and poster of “The New from Leningrad” at the Kulturhuset, 1988. Evgenij Kozlov had taken the picture in 1985, during a spontaneous performance with Timur Novikov, the “New Composers” Igor Verichev and Valery Alakhev and their Dutch friend Johann. This was a full three years before it went on to inspire the painting itself. In this painting the figure of Timur is removed from the background of the apartment wall and his playful, nonsensical posture is turned into that of a fierce horseman. The portrait is a cypher for willpower, alacrity and determination.
left: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
untitled. (Анна Каренина (2) / Anna Karenina (2)), mixed media, canvas, approx. 200 x 145 cm, 1988
private collection, USA. click to enlarge >>
right: Raphael Sistine Madonna (La Madonna di San Sisto) Oil on canvas, 265 cm × 196 cm, 1512
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden
The figures of Vladislav Gutsevich, Sergei Bugaev and Rodion Zavernyaev – from one of the pictures taken at a performance of ‘Anna Karenina’ in 1985 – are given a different treatment. In the painting from 1988 later entitled ‘Anna Karenina (2)’, the artist retained the triangular, renaissance-like position of the three figures, but set the figures in space. The Earth appears below them as a distant planet, and the composition now echoes that of Raphael’s Sistine Madonna (albeit mirrored around the latter’s vertical axis). However, while in the Sistine Madonna we look in the direction of Heaven from the perspective of the Earth, in this case the standpoint of the viewer is taken from above the group of figures. The Earth is also present in the globe (the backpack) held by the central figure. This additional vanishing point makes the perspective more complex than in Raphael’s famous painting: the perspective of the viewer is doubled, not only extending from within the cosmos to the earth below, but also projecting towards centre of the cosmos – the globe.
left: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Игорь. Mир? Mир? — О, нет. (Igor, peace between us? Peace? — No way.) Oil, collage, paper, 226 x 97 cm, 1989 - Collection Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Turku, Finland Валера. Душа Вещей. (Valera. The Soul present within Things.) Oil, collage, paper, 226 x 85 cm, 1989 - Private collection, Finland
right: Andrey Rublev, Daniil Chorney (?) The Apostle Peter • The Apostle Paul. Early 15th century
From the iconostasis in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Vladimir. Early 15th century (?) Moscow School Tempera on panel,
311 x 105 x 4 cm and 312 x 105 x 4 cm, The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.
The fundamental transformation from the original photograph to the final work of art serves only one purpose: to anticipate the transfiguration of the human being, of the creative human being, into their potential and “divine” nature. If, in this respect, “Anna Karenina I” illustrates the significance of Western religious painting, the diptych from 1989 with the full-body portraits of the ‘New Composers’ Valery Alakhov (Валера. Душа Вещей. / Valera. The Soul present within Things.) and Igor Verichev (Игорь, мир? Mир? – О, нет. / Igor, peace between us? – Peace? No way.) ” presents key features of two large icons by Andrey Rublev from the 15th century that portray the apostles Peter and Paul, which were originally in the Uspensky Cathedral (the Cathedral of the Assumption) in Vladimir, but are now in the collection of the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. ‘Igor’ and ‘Valera’ both possess the same elongated format as Rublev’s icons, together with the characteristic low horizon at foot level; indeed, their postures and the positions of their feet are also reminiscent of these two icons. Furthermore, as with icons, specific borders separate the world of the image from what the viewer takes to be the real world, although here the borders are slightly irregular, and are in powerful contrast to the monochrome paintings.
The “Portrait of Timur Novikov with Arms consisting of Bones (Портрет Тимура Новикова с костяными руками)” (1988) is another impressive example of Evgenij Kozlov’s capacity to absorb the masters of religious painting in a work of “classic novelty”. This composition reveals striking parallels with the icon of Christ Pantocrator at Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai – seen in the following ways: in Timur Novikov’s eyes (one looking up, the other down), in his posture, in the gesture of the third (red) hand, in which a book is being held (as indicated by the pages of the book in relief), in the vaulted opening of the gazebo and its intersecting bars – corresponding to the halo of the icon and the cross on the Bible – and last, but not least, in the background, with its architecture and landscape. Likewise, the main feature is the intensity of the gaze.
The artist himself made the following comment with regard to this portrait, in 2010: ‘To be more precise, it is not Timur that is portrayed in this painting from 1988, but the state of being which he eventually attained.” The painting has been frequently reproduced in the press and has the potential to become a new icon.
The oldest known icon of Christ Pantocrator, encaustic on panel (Saint Catherine's Monastery). The two different facial expressions on either side may emphasize Christ's two natures as fully God and fully human (source: Wikipedia)
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov Портрет Тимура Новикова с костяными руками / Portrait of Timur Novikov with Arms consisting of Bones
Oil, gouache, canvas, 103 x 94 cm, 1988. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg
"Spiritual-Scientific Clairvoyance and art". An interpretation of the portrait with reference to Rudolf Steiner's lectures "Art as Seen in the Light of Mystery Wisdom" in German >>or Russian >>
Such a work of art allows the portrayed to become conscious of their potential or at least sense it intuitively. This is the deeper reason why Evgenij Kozlov’s “portraits” made such an impact on his fellow artists: they are not portraits of persons as they are, but as they may become.
In a letter to Evgenij Kozlov from January 1995 Alexander Borovsky, head of the department of New Tendencies at the State Russian Museum St. Petersburg, explained why the museum had sent the “Portrait of Timur Novikov with Arms Consisting of Bones” to an international exhibition tour: as being “foremost a subject matter expressing a historical-cultural and iconographic concept, characterising time and its heroes”. In Borovsky’s eyes, it is the importance of Novikov which justifies the presence of Kozlov’s portrait in the collection of the Russian Museum. For Kozlov, it is the creative and spiritual potential of Timur Novikov that justifies his portrait of the artist.
 Andreeva, Ekaterina, “Время Тимура. Екатерина Андреева о Тимуре Петровиче Новикове.” (Time of Timur. Ekaterina Andreeva about Timur Petrovich Novikov) Критическая Масса 2 (2006): 4 Журнальный зал. Retrieved 31 Oct. 2014 from http://magazines.russ.ru/km/2006/2/and10.html
 Timur Novikov in his speech on the “New artists” in 2002. “Timur”, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, exhibition catalogue, 2013, p. 123
 “Often alluding to the art of primitive peoples, archaica and ethnic art, the modernists did not take along with themselves into the future «classics» [Note by the author: “did not take inspiration from the classics for future works”] ranging from ancient Greece to the late 19th century European «salon». It is precisely this vast cultural stratum that became the source of inspiration for «new Russian classicists.»“
Timur Novikov, 2003, p. 47 “New Russian Classicism, 1996”
See the original Russian text:
"Модернисты, часто ссылавшиеся на искусство первобытных народов, архаику, этническое искусство, не брали с собой в будущее “классику” в пределах от античной Греции до европейского “салона” конца XIX века. Именно этот широчайший культурный пласт и стал источником вдохновения для “новых русских классицистов”.
 See Igor Bezrukov’s movie from 1999 "Красный квадрат, или Золотое сечение" (The Red Square or the Golden Ratio) featuring Timur Novikov, Vladislav Mamyshev-Monro, Irena Kuksenaite, a parody on modern art in general and Malevich in particular.
 Art of the future. A conversation between Evgenij Kozlov (E-E) and Hannelore Fobo, 1991
 Calvert catalogue, also “The New Artists“, 2012, page 10.
 Ekaterina Andreeva erroneously assumes that these drawings reflect ”real” scenes with Kozlov’s artists friends. However, the artist himself assured me that they are the result of his artistic imagination and not of “life” or model drawing.
 “Later he would select from the films single photographs or parts of them that presented a particular harmony of composition, novelty of gesture and expression of faces and figures. Afterwards these photographs would become his “models” for photo-collages and albums, graphics and paintings, where, as a rule, they appeared in a modified form. Since he developed films (monochrome negatives produced by Tasma and Svema) and printed photographs himself, he mastered the entire artistic process, from taking pictures to the final result: the work of art.” Retrieved 31 Oct. 2014 from http://www.e-e.eu/E-E/summaryEE.htm
 “скорее, как материал историко-культурного и иконографического плана, характеризующий время и его героев.” From an unpublished letter by A. Borovsky to E. Kozlov on January 17, 1995
N.B.: When Evgenij Kozlov had informed Alexander Borovsky in 1994 that his painting could not have been donated to the Russian museum by Sergei Bugaev simply because Bugaev never acquired it from its author, we discussed with A. Borovsky the question whether this painting should remain in the collection of the Russian museum or be given back to its author. In a meeting in 1996 with myself Alexander Borovsky once again stated that Evgenij Kozlov’s “Portrait of Timur Novikov with bone arms” holds merely iconographic value.