Exhibition as an event
[b]Victor Alshevsky’s works, showcased at National Art Museum, go beyond usual exposition[/b]Everything about the show is unusual, including its truly cosmic level of organisation and stunning success with visitors, which has been evident from the very first moment of its solemn opening. Fragments of the Tower of Babel, at the National Art Museum, drew a large crowd, with Belarus’ PM, Sergei Sidorsky, in attendance. Culture Minister Pavel Latushko welcomed the hero of the event — Victor Alshevsky — with lofty words, while Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov noted that the artist reveals the cultural richness of Belarus via his artistry. He is like a diplomat bringing Belarus closer to the whole civilised world. Representatives of the Mogilev region were also generous in their praise for Mr. Alshevsky, who was born in Mogilev region’s Belynichi district (in the village of Ugolshchina). Eighty years ago, famous Belarusian artist Vitold Belynitsky-Birulya was also born there.
Everything about the show is unusual, including its truly cosmic level of organisation and stunning success with visitors, which has been evident from the very first moment of its solemn opening. Fragments of the Tower of Babel, at the National Art Museum, drew a large crowd, with Belarus’ PM, Sergei Sidorsky, in attendance. Culture Minister Pavel Latushko welcomed the hero of the event — Victor Alshevsky — with lofty words, while Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov noted that the artist reveals the cultural richness of Belarus via his artistry. He is like a diplomat bringing Belarus closer to the whole civilised world. Representatives of the Mogilev region were also generous in their praise for Mr. Alshevsky, who was born in Mogilev region’s Belynichi district (in the village of Ugolshchina). Eighty years ago, famous Belarusian artist Vitold Belynitsky-Birulya was also born there.
As for the exhibition, there’s no doubt that it’s a milestone in Mr. Alshevsky’s creative career — being expressive, conceptual and philosophical. It links wonderfully with his last project — Legends of Our Civilisation; last year, the latter toured the Mogilev region and is now a success in the capital. These two projects are a true synthesis of world cultural traditions, in the context of our national cultural heritage. Their main goal is to reflect the profound interconnections of history and modern life, the harmonic unanimity of lofty ideals and spiritual values.
“I’ve tried to show the originality of Belarusian culture, to splash ancient legends and tales with colourful artistic images, depicting the grandeur of national and world architecture,” the artist explains. Today’s exhibition is Mr. Alshevsky’s philosophical conceptualisation of global civilisation and history. To some extent, his works show his travels around the world. Fragments of ancient Belarusian Mir Castle conjoin with Syrian Palmyra. Meanwhile, the Egyptian pyramids, and the grandeur of Byzantium and Ephesus, interlace with Belarusian Ryzhany and Nesvizh castles, the majesty of Mogilev and Shklov town halls and the beauty of Rumyantsev-Paskevich Palace in Gomel. “Belarus does not stand outside of world civilisation. On the contrary, we have contributed to its development, as evinced by history, culture and architecture,” Victor stresses.
For Mr. Alshevsky, the search for his own figurative expression has become the basis of his art. He feels free to interpret themes and can masterfully combine various methods in a single work — from classical traditions to contemporary aesthetics. He is unafraid to experiment and easily transforms works by combining techniques and plots. He strives to disclose the essence of humanity, exploring fate and the future. He unveils the world’s hidden secrets, as well as his personal ‘self’, and concentrates his attention on signs which reveal his personal attitude towards the understanding of eternal values.
Victor’s pictures stand out in their colour and size, boasting monumental images, with attention to symbolic detail. They push beyond the limits of the traditional and there is no doubt that they show his strong artistic personality. They testify to his individuality, his philosophical apprehension of life and the broadness of his artistic ideas, alongside his professional mastery.
“Modern art always follows global aesthetic, artistic and philosophical trends; it is a form of dialogue between cultures,” Victor asserts. He represents a new wave of artistic thinking, which incorporates general images of world culture. His themes are complex fragments of history and modern life, notable for being spiritual while reflecting his unique artistic philosophy.
He took his first steps in a pic-turesque village in the Mogilev region and is still fed by rural wisdom and a respect for nature and handicrafts, as his mother taught him. He recalls those childhood days fondly, often taking a pen and thick leather notebook to jot down his recollections. Mr. Alshevsky’s childhood memories are the foundation for his enduring determination and confidence, evident in his four attempts to enter the Belarusian State Theatre and Art Institute’s Monumental-Decorative Art Department. His confidence is rooted in his tenacious ambitions (unusual in a man from such a rural village).
In 1980, Victor graduated from the Monumental-Decorative Art Department and, for over a decade, has been lecturing at the Academy. “Monumental art requires a general approach, identifying the most essential and significant elements. It’s not enough to master a technique — such as frescoing. You need to use philosophical notions to find your artistic language,” he says. Since his studies, Victor has been inventing a symbolic code for his paintings, avoiding irrelevant details. Later, he began viewing his figures outside of reality; they were free of the need for cognition. His works were notable not only for their bright and vibrant colours, but also for their compositional forethought.
Mr. Alshevsky does not take the simple route of using ordinary collage, which adds decorative attractiveness. Rather, he unites objects torn from reality, architectural monuments and human images, creating finely drawn faces while conveying their internal state and spiritual energy.
His artistry cannot be linked to abstract reflection alone. His works are full of signs and symbols — all united by a single logic; we detect not cold-blooded computation but his spiritual message addressed to future viewers. It’s no wonder that he believes himself to be creating a ‘new reality’. His goal is not to depict those who run away from everyday life to an ideal world; he leaves them in the time to which they belong. It is a unique message from the past to the future.
Victor does not merely create an artistic image. He demonstrates his own vision of the world and his own experience, which helps him to diagnose an era. His philosophy is based on personal impressions born of his travels, reading and reflection.
In the 1990s, Victor began a new artistic stage, addressing world history and creating his eye-catching Letters of Time series. He drew historical artefacts within the context of time and their architectural situation — including domes and columns, facades and portals, sphinxes and pyramids, San Pietro and the Tower of Pisa. He drew the architecture of Belarus, Russia, Italy, France and Egypt. Mr. Alshevsky’s images are often unrecognisable, being part of no natural landscape. Rather, they are traces of human activity, illusions of time and space. His every gesture is a thread uniting him with himself and with his own place in life.
Fragments of the Tower of Babel includes dozens of picturesque works, created in recent years, and is the artist’s first such large project. Naturally, he has chosen to launch it in his homeland. Explaining the title of the exhibition, he explains, “It’s an attempt to unite the world and tell my contemporaries how closely we are linked with that which is near and far from us — both in time and space. I wish to show how much people are interdependent. Life is ever flowing. I want people to understand my idea of humanity being a single family. We must have mutual respect, tolerance and understanding to preserve our common ‘tower’ and allow our heirs to continue its construction in the future. I hope my comprehension will contribute to the process. Many centuries on, our work will become the foundation of new ‘towers’. Each generation leaves its own legacy, as well as intellectual and spiritual values acquired through suffering and joy.”
Apart from uniting landmark architecture, Fragments of the Tower of Babel unites culture in the broadest sense: science, music, literature, photography and all kinds of spiritual activity on Earth. They are a shared source of spiritual energy. “In my artistry, the Tower of Babel symbolises knowledge, experience and the path to declaring our civilisation an indivisible and integral culture. We travel the world, admiring beautiful monuments — those which have miraculously survived and those in ruins. They represent different epochs and nations. Such journeys allow us to acknowledge our identity and feel that eternity exists close by. We are its contemporaries and witnesses,” he muses.
Mr. Alshevsky is surely an artist-philosopher. His philosophy is evident in his paintings and he can easily explain his concept. “Our modern culture is a fragment of the wall of the Tower of Babel — a common spiritual idea which should bring all of us closer to the truth. It encompasses distinctness and infinity, the joy of new dis-
coveries and disappointment in previous viewpoints. It unites construction and demolition simultaneously. It is a house, a city, Earth and the infinity of space. It reflects humankind’s path. We make our way to the future through the past, while accumulating experience and impressions. A man devoid of the historical memories of the past thousand years is like a fish in the sands of the desert. The great Tower of Babel holds the spiritual achievements of real people and nations, as well as the experience hidden in mythological characters,” Mr. Alshevsky explains, speaking of ideas beyond his present exhibition. He depicts his artistic path, where he strives to express the interconnection of civilisations. These are depicted symbolically in his pictures via images which have already become ‘calling cards’ of civilisations, countries and nations.
Mr. Alshevsky believes his Fragments of the Tower of Babel speaks to the future. “This is the path from the past to the unknown,” he explains. We can only wish him good luck on his way.
By Victor Mikhailov