Challenge, shock, aggression... or sharp calculation?
What does prevail in the pictures of this fashionable painter?
Ruslan Vashkevich is like Belarusian Tarantino in art. The same amateur of bully parodies–provocations, demonstrating to the viewer the corners of his own and the viewer’s brains without scruple, balancing on the verge of taste and as if not admitting any authorities... Vashkevich’s art can cause delight or antipathy, exactly as Tarantino’s films, it doesn’t leave anybody indifferent. People often speak about him— Vashkevich is in fashion today! Ruslan’s pictures are literally everywhere: in “LaSandr-Art” gallery, in the Palace of Art, where the biennale of Belarusian art has just taken place... His exhibitions became traditional in Estonia, the Ukraine and Holland.
It wasn’t simple to arrange an interview: the calls found Ruslan abroad. At last, he told the address of his studio in Minsk, a quiet district of old buildings behind the Troitskoe suburbs.
From the window of his studio under the roof a striking view opens on a provincial yard.
— When I was given this studio, I was very upset. Though once upon a time here lived people famous in art. When my time came, the studio was empty. Then I played in, repaired everything and made an oven here... Firstly, of course, the oven seemed to me, a citizen, a real disaster. Now I got used to it, such exoticism, romanticism...
— I thought earlier, that Ruslan Vashkevich is rather a thrifty businessman, but not a romantic... Your pictures pretend to be shocking, but people like them, because there is a challenge there, but as if gradually, without agression... What can it be if not sharp calculation?
— No, I am an inconsiderate person in this sense! Not commercial success is important for me, but a drive, provided by my profession. Another question is that now it is not enough to write good aggressive or kind works. It is necessary to know the life of modern art, to understand its pulse. Now it is rather difficult to become a painter — many things shall coincide, so that everything would start working...
— There are few painters of your generation, whose names are famous...
— This is not because they don’t exist! Simply many of them turned out to be out of the art context and were carried away by making money. I wasn’t initially intersted in it, besides, I was lucky, that soon after graduating from the Academy of Art I worked on probation in Hannover with a small group of our students. I at once plunged into a normal and right context: there we visited museums, galleries, followed our contemporaries. However bad or difficult it was, I had already had my own program in my head...
— Were you apt to scandalous behavior when you were a student?
— You see, at those times perestroyka seemed to break the dam — such freedom came, that everybody was at a loss, we could do whatever we wanted. If earlier a person graduated from university and then was lost somewhere for 10 years, then now we were able to make exhibitions while studying. We took part in the famous Baltic biennale, triennale, we were carried away by Nonconformity...
— Which aims do you pursue with the help of your art?
— When you switch from everything for half a year and work at a project, there aren’t, as a rule, commercial thoughts, because you are not aware of the resonance beforehand. Probably, everything is defined by your faith and energy. And finally not a beautiful picture will function, not amazing colors, and something else. I try to feel such a moment... I strive to loosen your brains, to expand your world view. It seems that I am still an idealist and believe that art can change many things. And, of course, to provoke for thoughts is the main thing for me, as if a bomb inside. It may not explode, but it has to.
— Nevertheless, many people are sure that you make this for fun. You repaint old masters...
— This is a very serious project! Museum essence is a very serious problem in art. The verge between our life and museum is so tough, that you feel yourself as an ant, a grain of sand near these masters... I am breaking these partitions all my life. This is why I formed a team of classics and made their stagings with them. For example, I drew a girl on the ball by Picasso from the other side — this is how we drew from nature in the form. Or Golbein with a skull... There is a computer effect there, it was impossible to unriddle it for a hundred years. This was my beautiful letter of response to Golbein. We are the sum of impressions of other people... On the whole, this project is 10 years already. One gallery in Moscow is interested in it, and now I want to make a new project “Rhymes” — to find out, how improvisation on the topic of classics took shape in my art.
— Is it true, that your exhibitions are mapped out for months ahead?
— Of course, I have some plans, I cooperate with galleries, but I need so much. Ideally, I would like to have business with one gallery and once a year to make there a good, elaborate exhibition.
I had many plans. The time changed so extremely, that it is unnecessary to leave somewhere to function normally. As for now, I am not bonded with any gallery, this is why I can easily create here my own island and populate it with myself... On the whole, this is good, when a painter doesn’t become too much required too early. Then he has a possibility to show himself wider. Of course, anyone wants to become commercially successful sooner, but this fact cuts you off and then you work on the level of your being in demand. The later you are cut off, the thicker will be the crown, the more you will be able to allow yourself afterwards. It is important to stand out...
“Everything is defined by your faith and energy”
Challenge, shock, aggression... or sharp calculation? What does prevail in the pictures of this fashionable painter?