Georgy Skripnichenko’s space and time associations
[b]Among those artists whose creative work was shaped by Belarusian fine art in the second half of the 20th century, Georgy Skripnichenko is well known for his extraordinary view of reality and unique surrealism. His complex web of images is inspired by the subconscious — rich in fantastical paradoxes[/b]Mr. Skripnichenko has a personal exhibition in November, hosted by the National Art Museum. It is a rare opportunity of which few can boast: having a permanent exhibition at the country’s main museum. Clearly, Mr. Skripnichenko’s talent and skills have been recognised.
Among those artists whose creative work was shaped by Belarusian fine art
in the second half of the 20th century, Georgy Skripnichenko is well known for his extraordinary view of reality and unique surrealism. His complex web of images is inspired by the subconscious — rich in fantastical paradoxes
Mr. Skripnichenko has a personal exhibition in November, hosted by the National Art Museum. It is a rare opportunity of which few can boast: having a permanent exhibition at the country’s main museum. Clearly, Mr. Skripnichenko’s talent and skills have been recognised.
The large exhibition now being prepared is the result of much effort, so how important is it to you?
I’ve only had a few personal exhibitions — although not because I’ve ever been prevented from doing so. It’s true that my art was not deemed suitable by the authorities at one point, so I couldn’t think about personal exhibitions then. However, since 1985, everything has changed. I’ve taken part in several group exhibitions in Minsk and Moscow, and far abroad. I’ve also had a few small personal exhibitions dedicated to the capital, hosted by Minsk’s Museum of Modern Fine Art, in the Zhilbel Gallery.
Since a young age, I’ve been sketching the city, like the famous Georgian primitivistic artist Pirosmani. This is how my drawings and sketches have appeared. I was quite surprised that they impressed anyone…. but the present exhibition is the result. I wouldn’t have bothered, since it’s very tiresome and cumbersome to organise, but Natalia Sharangovich — the Director of the Museum of Modern Fine Arts — insisted. At the exhibition in November, a printed edition of my works is to be presented, alongside a graphic exhibition of about 200 sketches. I hope everything will be well-received.
Are you an adherent of informal painting?
Probably, yes. However, I like realism in art. Is not Caravaggio a realist and El Greco? I’ve never consciously formulated my relationship with art.
What motivates you when painting? What is most significant?
I like to paint from life. I like to think and dream while standing at the easel. The canvas is a game: a theatre of deceit, lies and laughter...
Are you a philosopher?
I’ve never considered myself to be so, since philosophy is something ‘high’; intuition was given to me by nature, I think. I’m a bad philosopher and thinker but work hard.
Aren’t you afraid that audiences may not understand your works?
You should always think before you speak.
What is your attitude to fame?
If it is deserved, you should take it in your stride. I haven’t had such an experience, so I know nothing about this, but it’s pleasant when, at an exhibition, your work is remarked upon and you agree that it is worthy. Everyone is pleased when they receive external approval.
What are your creative plans?
Work, work and work!
Mr. Skripnichenko doesn’t sell his works and presents them only rarely. It’s difficult to part with something drawn from your soul. Every one of his works has meaning for him, possessed with his personal energy and inner thoughts.
Mr. Skripnichenko considers himself to be a realist but his formal paintings don’t always confirm this, since his style can be so various — even when creating landscapes and still-life works. His figures and objects may be realistic but they are only details in his larger plot. He likes to interpret space and time, exploring them sometimes in a way only he fully understands. He uses irony, creating juxtaposition between the serious and comedic. Accordingly, he gives complicated names to his paintings, with some sense of fantasy, combining elements which are not natural companions. However, he always strives to ensure a certain logic, for those with time to ponder.
“My philosophy is simple,” says Mr. Skripnichenko. “It comes from the soul: expressive emotions, feelings and my own vision of the world.”
What inspired you to become an artist?
Apparently, my genes; my father tried to enter art school before the war and was unsuccessful, despite his great desire and passion for painting. My grandfather also liked painting.
I lived in Slutsk, which has a strong creative environment and an art studio run by Vladimir Stepanovich Sadin — a great enthusiast. Nikolay Korsov also had huge influence over me, with his real passion for painting. We became friends and he managed to direct me in this path. Art school saw me painting from morning until evening, to the point of exhaustion.
Do you think that time has helped you to develop as an artist?
Art is my life; I know nothing else. I believe this has made me move in one direction. During my youth, when I felt everything to the max, my only goal was to be like Leonardo da Vinci.
Undoubtedly, all Mr. Skripnichenko’s works are recognisable. His great life experience from over 70 years, dating from his post-war childhood, includes difficult times when there was little to celebrate. He worked on a building site and attended night school, painting in his free time and sometimes making up to 300 sketches a week...
He still has many incomplete works, some begun over a decade ago, which he likes to return to, sometimes finding an unexpected artistic solution. However, he can also suddenly lose interest in a work. So, canvases are left incomplete until he feels inspired again. New discoveries are applied to old themes, further developing plots. He never guarantees that a work is ultimately complete.
Perhaps, this is a feature of Mr. Skripnichenko as a creative person. He is always pushing his borders and finds new limits through life experience. When his impressions are united, an idea is formed, which can be expressed.
How would you describe your style of painting and do you reflect that which resides in your soul?
I can’t give a simple answer. Each artist works according to their talent. I was very surprised when Finnish gallery owners were interested in my early works, as I thought they were irrelevant.
Nevertheless, how would you define your creative credo?
I’m a realist, so I can’t create abstract works. Probably, my love of Rembrandt, El Greco and Velazquez inspires me to make most of my images appear real. However, I also change them from reality, as is the fashion. My creativity starts with a clean sheet and I have no idea where each day will lead me, relying on my intuition. Sometimes, it’s enough to touch a stretched canvas and inspiration comes. At other times, I already know what I want to achieve. I usually start as a realist, making lots of sketches, but I can also be inspired to mix realistic images with elements of surrealism.
His original views began early in his days at art school; even then, he was confident in his style. Without the support of his teachers, among whom was People’s Artist of Belarus Leonid Shchemelev, he might have been asked to leave. Leonid emphasised to the director of the school that, if they excluded Skripnichenko, whom could they ask to stay? It may have been the most authoritative assessment of his talent.
In the studio, some works from those days remain — simple in composition. However, his still life works show a desire for something beyond reality. His paintings are even more detached from the everyday, influenced by Picasso’s Cubism. They lack detail, rather using symbolism.
Are your works based on life?
Certainly, what else can inspire them? Everything comes from reality and all that is associated with my own life, my home town of Slutsk, and the city of Minsk. Regardless of my travels abroad, I’ve always wanted to return home. We have a great national school for graphics, painting and sculpture. We rival anything happening abroad and may even have higher skills.
What is this Belarusian art school?
We have a wonderful school of graphics, boasting such names as Savich, Yakovenko Alimov, Slavuk, Vishnevsky and Vladimir and Andrei Basalyga. It’s a very good school, with high professionalism. At the Academy of Arts, youngsters receive a serious education from great teachers. Many years pass but they continue to work there, with great love. In short, the school is rich in painting traditions and, particularly, in graphics. Its sculpture is also admirable.
Do you consider yourself to be a Belarusian artist or an international artist?
Of course, I am a Belarusian artist — a real one. However, I don’t like the distinction between Belarusian and international. If I’m a high level Belarusian artist, it means I am international. I won’t deny the influence of Picasso, Dali or Van Gogh, or that of world contemporary art. All impresses and inspires me. We are each individual, yet are inspired by what’s around us. It would be impossible for me to move to another planet, since this is my world. I perceive everything in it and make it my own. The more able you are as an artist, the more international you become. Exhibitions abroad bring you into the international realm. Perhaps the national and international shouldn’t be separated, at least in art. I think so.
What nourishes your creative work? What drives you? After all, you have been doing the same thing for years. Aren’t you tired?
I can’t do anything else so I can’t be bored. You can tire physically but you make your own choices. I don’t want to do anything else so I live with it. There may be ups and downs, as is natural in life.
How many works have you created?
Thousands: drawings, paintings, watercolours, graphics, lithographs, etchings and sketches. My ‘Minsk of the 1960s’ exhibition caused quite a media stir: in the press and on the radio.
Is today a good time for creativity?
Certainly, you rarely leave exhibitions feeling indifferent. Something always touches you. I’m seeing works of a good level.
You combine reality, associations and thoughts, showing us your soul. Is this essential to the creative process?
In my case, it is, and it may be the same for most artists. I used to illustrate books, drawing futuristic cities with flying cars from my imagination. Where did those images come from? Nothing comes from nothing. You need to be open minded. Probably, my knowledge is intuitive, as no one directs me. I read Pushkin, who was interested in avant-garde art, but it’s hard to say for sure where ideas come from.
Is it important for you to be recognised as an artist?
Everyone is vain and I’m no exception. My vanity is a little parochial, as I’m rather insecure, having been turned away from an exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery on one occasion. I think it’s most important to have exhibitions at home.
Actually, vanity is one of the things which drives forward any profession, especially creative work. Nobody lacks vanity. I’m satisfied that my works reside in the National Art Museum and the Museum of Modern Fine Art. It’s great. Of course, they’re also found in private collections around the world and have been seen at dozens of international exhibitions. Once, I received a magazine from the USA by mail, in which there was an article about Georgy Skripnichenko of Belarus; they printed one of my works, which was pleasing.
What is the idea behind your paintings?
They reveal my inner world.
Do you think that art should be beautiful, always pleasing?
I remember a poem by Pushkin, which read: ‘Are you pleased with it, exacting artist? Satisfied? Let the crowd scold you’. As ‘geniuses’, we work hard and can’t help feeling that those who don’t like our works should simply look elsewhere. The main thing is for us to be satisfied and happy with our own works. Of course, we want favourable reviews and, like any artist — whether realist or abstractionist — need an audience. The natural scheme of things is: artist — painting — viewer.
We can assume that every artist strives for harmony, regardless of declarations to the contrary. Georgy Skripnichenko approaches harmony via life’s conflicts, as we see from his Along Life’s Path, created twenty years ago. He likes texture in painting, alongside loud, colourful bursts and elements of collage. He loves painting with precise detail as well as using complex associative, imaginative structures, which are fantastically diverse and attractive.
All are sides of one style. Perhaps, this helps him keep his integrity and a panoramic view of the world. He forms a new dimension in Belarusian art.
By Victor Mikhailov