artist, news Alexandra Pospelova Manifesto, part 1: Artist’s Statement

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I believe that for art to be effective, it should reflect skills and knowledge, communicate by inspiring feelings, and possess a sense of beauty. Without communication, art loses its purpose and makes it nonsensical to share with others. Art is a way to communicate one’s feelings and to expose a personal view on various things. Therefore, my work focuses on the role of art in the modern world and what art should represent as a truly creative form. It takes a personal view on determining what art and an artist is at the present time. As my subject matter, I start with human forms, sometimes derived from classical sculptures.

I appreciate the human body, its details and its movements. I seek to bring out the beauty I see in the human form, as well as other forms in nature. My distinct voice is in finding hidden forms that all living things especially those not seen with the naked eye. I use my talent to divulge those concealed forms by bringing out the parts that are not shown from the first glance. I see the beauty and preciousness in hidden aspects of the world around me, and thus, I want to expose it to others and make them lost in thought about the importance of kept out of sight forms. I want the viewers to pause and make them attentive to the things that need more attention in order to be fully discovered. Through my filter I convey my own appreciation of a human form. Instead of simply depicting the subject matter as a whole, I penetrate deeper to see the beauty underneath the surface. My mission as an artist is to show the relevance of things in the world, to which people have lost their connection. I want the viewer to focus on the essence of the distillation of a human form being broken down into simplified components, which I construct to illustrate the inner part of the subject matter. Interaction of single forms that create a general perception of the subject is so beautiful to me and that is why my art is abstracted. Looking at any subject matter I find its unique form, closely examining each part of it.

>The reason why my art is abstracted is because the interaction and configuration of the physical structure are so appealing to me that I allow unconscious part of my mind to take over the conscious part. Also, playing with lights and shadows allows me to abstract my subject matter using geometrical forms, thus, helping me to discover the significant parts of an exposition. In this way I recall the ideals that former artists adhered to and I compare them with the ideals that are valued in the present. Looking at the masters of the past with new eyes, I translate the essence of the human form. When people view my work I want them to understand this comparison and force an awareness of how important it is to acknowledge traditions and to be able to take a new look at these traditions in order to create a modern masterpiece. I believe that an artist should not forget tradition while breaking new ground.

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My photographs are what I term “true photography,” which means that I like photographs that do not need to be digitally modified. In fact, my photographs are inspired by the paintings of Caillebotte’s work, with a precise knowledge of composition and golden proportion that adds movement. A strictness of composition, viewpoint, lightning, etc. – this traditional knowledge can be visible in my work. I also stimulate my creativity by forcing myself to work with restrictions of the medium. The reason I produce large artwork is because the bigger painting has more authority by its relationship to a body viewing it in a space, as something one cannot take in with one glance.

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The inspiration for writing this artist manifesto came from my dissatisfaction with contemporary art and its lack of the three fundamental criteria – possession of beauty, narration of morality, and effective communication. Visiting galleries in Chelsea and going to different museums, made me think about what creates the value of art, what people imply by saying “This is art,” looking at a painting or another form of art, what are the canons of artistry, and what are the ways to achieve that level of the highest degree? Or, is there even that extent of perfection? Asking these questions and experiencing a new look of art, I am offering a strategy where art should meet these three concepts in order to be great. First, art should be beautiful, pleasing one’s mind aesthetically. When I say beautiful, I do not mean that a work of art should look pretty, but beautiful to an extent that it touches the viewer’s soul. As a German philosopher, Emmanuel Kant, believes, “The beautiful is the symbol of morally good.” Beauty should evoke visual and intellectual stimulation, thus, leading to pleasure and joy. Inspiration derives from pleasure. This brings us to the second criteria, where art should evoke emotions, either with laughter, screeching, or tears. According to Leo Tolstoy, a Russian poet, “Art begins when one person, with the object of joining another or others to himself in one and the same feeling, expresses that feeling by certain external indications.”[1] Thirdly, art should reflect knowledge of the artist in order to be able to express oneself effectively, in order that the viewer understands the message behind the work of art. Knowledge is a deep understanding of history, tradition, and technical skill. A true artist has to start with those in order to be able to break traditions, innovating with integrity. These three conceptual threads have to make contact with one another, so then the vibration of life always sounds. Therefore, my goal as a contemporary artist is to accomplish the aforementioned points. In order to bring into existence my objective, I want to make a work of art that would speak to people’s minds, evoke emotions, and make them appreciate a profound knowledge of history, traditions, material world, and creative skills.

Art is not something that we just analyze; it should give pleasure, narrate morality and decency. Pleasure is a positive emotion that usually arises from sensations and experiences. However, nowadays, when a question such as “When was the last time you experienced pleasure?” is asked, for some reason, people feel embarrassed and uncomfortable, by the fact that they are asked about sexual pleasure. How about happiness, joy, compliments, admiration, or harmony? Indeed, politeness has become so rare that it is interpreted as a flirtation, just like chivalry, mannerliness, and tact. Thus, pleasure received a different definition, and therefore art did. Art became very provocative, vulgar, and aggressive, with no limits of self-control; it became disgusting. It disturbs the ear when one says so. These two words – “art” and “disgust,” should not exist together. However, when people enter a museum and see an enormous photograph of a nude woman with fully extended legs or a photo-mosaic of a nun composed out of 5,000 to 10,000 pictures of nude women’s butts, they probably feel consternation. What is the museum, first of all? The word “museum” derives from a Greek phrase “Institution of the Muses,” which clearly means something that inspires, not something that makes people frightened and disgusted. I appreciate newness and things before never done, but they should not go beyond morality in order to be considered art. The reason why art changed so drastically is because of artists today are allowed unlimited freedom: freedom of being able to create what is not acceptable by codes of behavior, a person’s standards. In general, freedom and wisdom, first of all, are knowledge of self-limits. As Andrei Konchalovsky, a prominent Russian-American filmmaker believes, that only a person, who is capable of self-restraint, is truly free. People, in order to grow as intellectual beings, should have certain restrictions that would help them to achieve a high degree of self-being. Without the restriction, human beings will sink in their desires that will lead them to impairment. An artist needs freedom in order to free oneself from emotional destructions; however, everyone should know its limits. Gustave Courbet, a French painter who led the Realist movement in the 19th-century, and who will be discussed further in a later section, “…did not believe that man was born free, rather that he became free only through work. Work, including art, could lead to freedom; only if it is also improves the condition of society.”[2] Therefore, an artist should know his/her limits in order to be a person, who people would look up to, a person who would teach by his/her creation, possessing the capability of self-control, not dully face the viewer with the condition of the society. People encounter everyday difficulties and social issues; why should they come to the museum or the gallery and pay to see what they see every day outside of institutions? Yes, now and then art should reflect the world in order to be current with the times, but not in such an open manner (literally saying, when speaking about the works that were given as an example earlier). Museums allow people to search for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. Stephen David Ross, a distinguished professor of philosophy, states in his book Art and Its Significance: An Anthology of Aesthetic Theory:

Tolstoy’s theory of art is important for two major reasons. One is that he offers a theory deeply pervaded by the Russian impulse toward unification and communication. Far more important, however, he offers the strongest account available of a view of art that is held by many people – that art succeeds when it arouses and transmits emotion, when it brings people together and enriches their common humanity.[3]

Therefore, unlimited freedom has a bad effect on people’s minds and their development as human beings. Unrestricted volition of actions led to heresy, consciously denying and distorting the certified teachings. In these latter days, people, with open eyes, refuse to accept manners and follow an erroneous doctrine. These circumstances currently reflected in art have become incomprehensible, superficial, obscene, and disgusting by accepted standards of morality and decency. According to Andrei Konchalovsky, it is very important to know one’s opportunities and try to overstep them. The more a person learns, the more opportunities he/she has. When an artist is absolutely free, he/she starts to produce something that reflects the broken system of values. Therefore, an absolute freedom is not a pledge of an artist. As an example, under Soviet rule, there was restricted freedom, but a lot of masterpieces were produced, while today people have a lot of freedom, but do not call into existence a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship. I am not saying that people need a communistic system in order to be able to control one’s actions; I am simply illustrating how limited freedom affect human beings.

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Contemporary art, for the most part, is too conceptual; it requires written statements in order to explain the premise or idea, instead of the ability to reproduce what would speak directly to the spectator. It seems that many contemporary artists have forgotten the spiritual value of art. Often, people appreciate the work of art when it turns into a treatise; for example when people look at it only as a matter of an intellectual reflection. Some of contemporary art has moved from creating artistic value to market value; art nowadays is an ingenious marketing stroke. It does not refer to the development, and progress anymore, but decadence. I have observed that the majority of contemporary artists are trying to move away from the appropriate “language” of art, the language that represents morality, a code of conduct, roughly speaking, thus, pushing away the audience from appreciating this beautiful way of expressing oneself. I believe art should be understood in order to be valuable. The audience in art is very important because art cannot exist without mutual understanding of an artist and the viewer. The expression and application of human creative skill and imagination are produced to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. Thus, without the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of art, art loses its purpose, because art is created to be shared with others and convey a hidden message. There would be no museums and galleries, if not the idea of art being a tool of communication. Therefore, in order for art to be perceptible, artists should incorporate academic invention with new ideas, thus, contributing effective communication. That would bring a new dimension to the art and will allow it to speak for itself. People should not dispense with the classic traditions because those traditions are like a foundation of a building that would never stand without the support of the main base. In the first place, art is knowledge that helps people to understand and comprehend outward things and promote eternal growth, but only from an aesthetic point of view. Knowing traditions and being able to take a new look at them creates a great work of art. “Art is completely individual and for each artist it is only the talent that results from his own inspiration and his own study of tradition. Paintings cannon allow a partial aspect of art to dominate, be it drawing, color or composition.”[4] In other words, art is very unique because it is a reflection of one’s world and personal experiences.

For the most part, contemporary art is based on mental concepts. Contemporary artists are trying to make something that is not in capability of men to understand without a base allusion. Art can be conceptual and at the same time it can be understood without mentioning the idea explicitly. In order to achieve that effect, indirect reference should be replaced with different qualities in order to make the viewer engaged and relieve the idea through color or any other representations. In my opinion, that is the reason why art nowadays is losing its quality, because it became hard to understand it. It seems that contemporary artists are looking for a scientific sense, but then I do not think that a man needs it, and that is why religion is needed. Man needs religion, not for a reason to say that some kind of god protects him; he needs religion in order to understand that there are things that will never be understood. As Einstein said, 99% is unknown to the human, incomprehensible, and will never be understood. A person needs something that is inexplicable, what he must believe in and what is unknown. Faith is religion, not knowledge. Knowledge is science and faith is a belief in the irrational, in what is unknowable, and should never be cognizable. Rodin was right saying that “People can express only what they know well.”[5] Here is Picasso’s affirmation: “The idea of research has often made paintings go astray, and made the artist lose himself in mental lucubration. Perhaps this has been the principal fault of modern art.”[6] According to Konchalovsky, what excites is a true art, but what requires knowledge is science. An artist is a creator; he cannot create beyond knowledge. Someone beautifully said that literature arose from grief. The same can be addressed to art: an artist is like a confessor, while the viewer plays a role of a priest, trying to understand and accept the message of the creator. In order to capture a particular moment, feeling, or thought, an artist should possess a sense of beauty.

Alexandra Pospelova Website

[1] Leo Tolstoy, and Aylmer Maude. Tolstoy on Art. London: Oxford University Press, 1924: 121-122.

[2] Klaus Herding. “Courbet, Gustave.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed October 10, 2014: 9.

[3] Stephen David Ross. Art and Its Significance: An Anthology of Aesthetic Theory. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994: 177.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Auguste Rodin, Paul Gsell, and Juan Luis Delmont. Auguste Rodin, Conversaciones Sobre El Arte. (Caracas: Monte Ávila, 1991), 219.

[6] Herschel B. Chipp, Peter Selz, and Joshua C. Taylor. Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968: 264.

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