Essays in memory of Sergey Bolenok

In his picture the fish fly, oranges swim and the quite sun shines
In his picture the fish fly, oranges swim and the quite sun shines.

A creative manner of this painter is peculiar. The works of Sergey Bolenok can be referred to abstract painting, though the author has his own opinion about that. He is more known as a graphic-maker, whose works are honored to possess the art museums of ten world countries. This is a high category of re­cognition. What and how does Sergey Bolenok paint, I found up with him. And, perhaps, his own evaluation of art seemed to be more appropriate, than an extraneous commentary. Only the author can better explain the painter’s perception of the world, moreover, who is not clear to everybody. The beginning of the talk dotted the Is at once.
— I paint my pictures under a slogan: the essays of memory. It means, that I remembered what surrounded me. The fragments of landscapes, interiors, meetings — all this is drawn up in the head in a composition, the colouring of what we have seen is preserved or combined. You can combine an autumn evening or a summer morning — this is how pictures occur. These are not places depicted, not a peculiar condition or mood, but an illustration to the information, which is in my own head.
Well, it should be interesting further.
— Your picture “Wet asphalt” — apples, snow, some dim asphalt... How would you comment on this?
— I saw apples in early summer, when they fell from trees from wind, they were not ripe. Wet asphalt is in Minsk all the year round. Sometimes there is dry snow. All this is a certain illustration to the topic of essays of memory. Apples are from summer, wet asphalt from autumn, moreover, it is not simply wet, it is dirty, and snow from winter. Rather an attractive picture occurred in a combination.
— The author can do everything. Nevertheless, there is some phantasmagoria. Apple, wet asphalt, snow. And where is the idea of the work, the thought of the author?
— There is no idea. The integrity is in a composition, in color, in coloring. There is no idea and the thought. I simply paint some condition and mood. Moreover, not only my own, but with the hope, that my feelings will coincide with the feelings of the viewers. But this is a problem of the viewer — to find something interesting in the picture. There are two stages: a painter — picture, and then a picture — a viewer. And the painter has nothing to do here. There is a dialogue of the picture with the viewer. And the painter has to sit at home, to drink tea and not to prevent the art consumer from communication with the work.
— Judging by the works, the direction of your art is not even associative. Associations are deflection of thoughts. And you have reflection of memory, details, some things, perhaps, some space, and not more.
— This depends from the point of view. Let’s take an apple, lying on the snow. One way or another, it will cause the viewer’s association. Which one? It would be better that neither. There is such an estimation in the art: a person stands, watches and can’t understand, why he likes it. When you can explain what is what, then you can talk about poster publicity, even about advertising of the work. And sometimes it is not clear. How can it be, that an orange or fish flies? In this case works the subconsciousness of the viewer, there are associations. There are no certain associations, because, unfortunately, a man is a pragmatic and he prefers to take everything by shelves: a fork from the left, a spoon — from the right… In order everything could have been explained and clear. And the art means nuances, which can’t be said in words. The approach to art has always been subjective.
— There were many talks about the place, where the ideological sense of pieces of art was hidden, put, buried. Did this formula exploded? Is it present in your art?
— The idea of art has always been one and the same, since Ancient Egypt: in order everything was beautiful. Then ideologists called all possible works thematic pictures, and art — thematic. I don’t want to say, that it is bad, but this is for a topic of the day. In my opinion, ideology means the other — to what extent it is interesting for the viewer to watch this art. This is its attractiveness. And when you see, that a man and a woman are with a paddle on the picture — it isn’t art. This is a report, an illustration to the past. It had to be, and it was. But to call it art…
— Many painters will take offence at you.
— I don’t doubt it. Moreover, I am sure of it.
— Not everybody understands and perceives you. Your manner of painting is peculiar, but isn’t it a chase for originality for the sake of originality? May be, your manner leads you to the wish to surprise. And then the content is lost.
— No, I don’t think so. The matter is, that I don’t have such dress-off from nature. I respect myself for originality, I am ambitious enough. There is even ambition to some extent. It turned out to be, that in graphics I made many things in a creative impulse, and now it isn’t shameful for me to say, that I didn’t try to surprise. I simply knew, what I had to depict on this very picture. I often fought with myself. In the institute I had the hours of painting, art, for an academic painting I had not excellent marks, but good ones and good with plus I received for them. I can draw and draw from nature. But this is not interesting. Painting from a copy has never been art — this is mastery, craft. People are born artists. There are such people, they meet sometimes. The poets, for example. The nearest example is Vladimir Vysotsky. He didn’t graduate from the literary institute, he simply wrote verses, because he needed this. And he could do this. Besides, this is a key word: I simply can do this. When I start painting, some figures dance in my head, some objects, I simply stick them together on paper. You can argue with this, but you can’t avoid the fact, that the sun shines on the sky. This is how I express the feeling of composition and the feeling of art. I don’t try to surprise anybody especially. I will repeat one more time: usually I paint or make graphics for me, in order I liked this personally, I bring and show it then. I didn’t make many pictures, from 50 to 60. Out of them, probably, I destroyed 7–8 pictures, because I didn’t manage to paint them. I can’t show something, what I didn’t manage to paint, in spite of the consumed labor, time and materials.
— But your graphical works are also not simple for perception, aren’t they?
— In graphics I rather often depict compositions with negative moments. People are not always positive. With the help of my picture I show: this is bad, you can’t do that, think a little bit, may be, you can do it differently. From this point of view — yes, there is pessimism, negative moments. It can’t be on my pictures, that on this picture — clear positive, on that one — clearly negative, here is happiness and here is sadness. At my pictures there is everything little by little. There is also a moment of hope. The unambiguity is present sometimes, and sometimes it is absent.
— Each painter wants his pictures to be sold. You can see in the painting, that it is required, as for graphics: are these works rather for yourself, for your soul or for the consumer?
— Not for the consumer to be offended. The funniest thing, is that Mercedes or Toyota is firstly engineered for yourself, and then it is offered to the consumer. Firstly, I paint for myself, and then I offer it to the consumer. I made many exhibitions. Initially, I didn’t think about this. First of all, I simply painted, and then I started to offer works to an exhibition. I was also occupied with sculpture. I am simply a painter. Painting and graphics are under my hand. And the sculpture needs a room. I can’t make a sculpture in the kitchen. But my first participation in the exhibition — this was a bronze sculpture and ceramics made out of clay. I am also occupied with polygraph, execution of poligraphic production. There are no self-restrictions and specializations. Besides, my graphics travelled through almost all countries of Europe: Ireland, Holland, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Poland, Germany, Ita­ly, England, Hungary, Czechia, Lithuania, Russia.
— What is your estimation? You saw it, you liked it and without comments, right?
— Sometimes people ask me, what I wanted to express with the help of my work. But somebody said, that art had always been up-market. Not in the sense, that art is for elite, but for the elite with brains and intellect. It isn’t important, whether a person is a yard-keeper or a minister. If he has intellect from nature, he will digest it. Proust (a French writer and philosopher — author’s note) said, that pictures and art are needed for the viewer to grasp in himself. It happens, that I give the food for the intellect of other people. We feel the same, but I have a natural necessity in depicting it. And somebody has a necessity to watch it. The chain has locked.
— Let’s return to the form one more time. Is this your way of thinking as a painter, or is this something, chosen from the point of view of attractiveness?
— No, this is a way of thinking. In any person there are mind, brains and intellect in different proportions. Pragmatics have more mind, and intellectuals have more foolishness in commas. I have a half of the intellect, a quarter of mind and one more quarter of brains, perhaps, less. I often regret it, because sometimes I want more mind. When I was a student, the graphics of Baltic painters was exhibited. I was surprised. There something flew and sizzled, so to say. One person told me: you should think this way to paint this way. I remembered this phrase. During the 4th course I depicted something in graphics, and one more student also depicted something. The commission, which accepted the course projects, said to that student: you should not paint this way, Balenok is enough. I also remembered this phrase. I can’t say, that I always tried to think this way. It happened naturally. I has always been an art director, I worked in the publishing house: I formed covers, illustrations, layouts, post cards, booklets, leaflets, visiting cards. This was simply a work. I painted at evenings and nights.
— There are many painters and people, who are occupied with this. There are poets, writers, but there are few of those, who are known and remembered. Would you like to be among them?
— I didn’t even think about that. It turned out to be, that I am among them. Which achievement can be greater for the painter, than the fact, that his pictures are in museums. Can it be higher? My graphics is in the art museums of different world countries: in the USA, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Switzerland, Belarus, Poland and Germany. People say in Germany, that my collection is a national property. But I didn’t strive to it, I didn’t even think about this.
— Do you like public attention to your person?
— Of course, I do. I am rather an ambitious person.
— In your opinion, is art international or is there gradation: this is national?
— I think, that there should be different points of view on art. It should be both national and international. One person can not embrace all the spectrum of art. My pictures are international. It was said at one of my earlier exhibitions: this is not Soviet art, this is not Belarusian art, but this is interesting. We will take your picture. On the whole, I am a painter, who lives in Belarus. Because Belarusian is an adjective, it obliges to something. In this sense I have a mixture of blood, 5 or 6 bloods. Exactly a painter, living in Belarus, this is the most correct. My brains differ only in the way, that there fish fly, oranges swim, it snows heavily, and the quiet sun always shines. Exactly the quiet sun.
What can you say. Balenok is a great original.

Viktor Mikhailov
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