Great philosopher Victor Alshevsky
[b]The Contemporary Art Centre, newly headed by Professor Alshevsky, is generating exciting ideas, which are finding application in interesting projects and creative solutions[/b]Undoubtedly, Victor Alshevsky views the world philosophically; even in ordinary conversation, he tends to ‘shift’ to philosophical musings, explaining the essence of things and the logic of their origin. He may be an artist by profession but he is a philosopher in life; the two are complementary, aiding and supporting each other and helping him generate original ideas for his new endeavour. We meet in his studio, among his canvases, which hang on the walls. Some are large scale, radiating symbolism, while others are more cosy and intimate. In fact, he is more of a monumental artist, keen on large shapes and symbolism — such as his knight in armour and his lady with a white lily.
Undoubtedly, Victor Alshevsky views the world philosophically; even in ordinary conversation, he tends to ‘shift’ to philosophical musings, explaining the essence of things and the logic of their origin. He may be an artist by profession but he is a philosopher in life; the two are complementary, aiding and supporting each other and helping him generate original ideas for his new endeavour.
We meet in his studio, among his canvases, which hang on the walls. Some are large scale, radiating symbolism, while others are more cosy and intimate. In fact, he is more of a monumental artist, keen on large shapes and symbolism — such as his knight in armour and his lady with a white lily. He tends to segment each painting, adding Roman streets, Egyptian pyramids, Norwegian fiords and Belarusian churches.
Speaking of his new responsibilities, he tells me of his excitement at being engaged with the Contemporary Art Centre; he is elevated and inspired, and carefully tries to explain his principles to me.
You’re now heading the Contem-porary Art Centre, so you must have developmental plans, perhaps making it more multi-functional. What are your dreams for the immediate future?
Many countries have centres of contemporary art, which aim to be hubs of experimentation, allowing artists to explore their creativity in painting, design or music. These can be mixed, although few people are talented in more than one sphere (like Leo Tolstoy). We are ready to observe and criticise, despite lacking ability ourselves. In fact, most creative people tend to state the obvious, so we should be encouraging them to take more risks, regardless of current trends. Be truly creative, making your own decisions.
It’s vital to create rather than to destroy. Our Contemporary Art Centre doesn’t copy that which already exists — having been seen down the centuries in Europe, the USA and elsewhere. Various trends exist in art, so it can seem that we are trapped in a cycle, with commercial popularity at the heart of creativity. Obviously, this is not the way forward, although experimentation needs to be within reasonable bounds, or it can become absurd. In fact, creativity can be simple: we plant a grain and reap the results. The Contemporary Art Centre should promote interesting yet sensible projects: selected and analysed. Theatre and design (among other artistic areas) are now far more accessible to the public, which is a positive move. We aim to extend the concept of art as widely as possible, while promoting originality.
So, you aim to promote bright and interesting ideas which reflect contemporary trends while being creative, showing each artist’s concept for the future.
I think that our major task is to disclose the potential of each creative personality. Each of us has our own intellect, which I’d like to see used for creative purposes. Artists often complain that no one buys their works but, of course, people only buy that which they need or desire. Just because you are creating artworks doesn’t mean that others will want to buy them. If you are primarily motivated by sales, you should create art which will definitely find a market. If this is beyond your ability, then you may be in the wrong profession. You need to develop your own style; contemporary art has a world outlook, looking to the future.
You want today’s artists to display their individuality while incorporating some relevance to real life I think….
I agree that we’re primarily speaking about purpose and about classical types of art. We’re also speaking about experimentation (within limits). A painter, in their studio, can experiment as much as they like. What’s soul destroying is to discover than none of your ideas are actually original; no boundaries exist in the context of intellectual perfection.
It’s natural for us to wish to improve and develop ourselves; moreover, those with brains seek self-knowledge. We are all capable of creative initiative but we need to analyse our actions to ensure that we have a real goal. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel limited artificially but they need to understand where they are headed: otherwise, how can their work have meaning?
How is the Centre aiding this philosophy?
We are creating a venue in which to gather painters, architects, sculptors and designers with adventurous souls. We’ve already achieved much of interest, modelling new paths of creativity. However, we can’t build an immediate Tower of Babel. We’re keen to promote ourselves as an exhibition venue, so that our young talent has a chance to show itself.
The Centre recently presented an exhibition of young designers and architects. What were your thoughts?
Yes, it has just opened, showcasing 150 young architects and designers — each giving us their vision of how our environment can be developed and improved. Their views on modernity look to the future, embracing tradition as well as experimentation. I would say that they provoke our consciousness regarding the future.
Would you like society to pay more attention to young artists and architects?
Of course. It’s necessary to develop young people’s creativity from school days. They need support, which is what our Centre aims to give, looking at how we can improve the system of creative education. Nobody lacks creativity, so everyone should be invited to participate in interesting experiments. Let’s make a bright fair of ideas!
Don’t you tire of the administrative and organisational responsibilities that come with heading the Contemporary Art Centre? You are a painter.
You know that when a painter stands at their easel from morning until night a result appears. If you shift your focus, it creates a conflict (your art doesn’t like you being ‘unfaithful’ and you can lose your mastery). However, to avoid becoming repetitive and mechanical, it’s good to have your focus drawn to different things: it widens your perception of the world. It’s easy for artists to become stale, so it’s good to switch your consciousness towards literature, music, teaching and participation in artistic councils. We exchange experience, passing on to others what we can do ourselves.
You’ve taken on the new endeavour with enthusiasm. What are the Centre’s plans?
Regarding its development, I don’t make those decisions alone, although I wish there were more people who would take an active part. We have big plans and so many projects that it’s difficult to implement them all. Our main aim is to help artists reveal their potential. It’s more correct to speak about what has already been achieved, than to linger on my dreams.
We have a life philosophy and clearly outlined tasks. We discuss ideas and our thoughts cross, giving us mutual understanding. I can’t voice today’s culture alone; it needs to be the articulation of many thoughts. When intellects meet, a joint truth is born. At the Contemporary Art Centre, we should model our projects, implementing them together to create something new and original. Our major task is to create that which represents an idea and allows us to ponder it. In discussing our ideas, we’re already moving towards creativity. In other words, the Centre tries to allow artists to shape their future.
As Mr. Alshevsky speaks, I recall one of his recent exhibitions at the National Art Museum. It was a creative project, comprising seven picturesque canvases thematically devoted to Minsk. Each had its own central motif, encouraging people to muse philosophically.
In his works, Alshevsky shows how ornamental relief and geometric shapes are combined in Belarusian architecture. He notes that these uniquely symbolise our national culture, with recognisable images. “White Rus is pure and special — not due to the absence of history or culture but through its ancient origins. Belarus’ power lies in its revival; Minsk, and the whole country, has risen from the ashes many times — like the mythological Phoenix,” he explains, speaking of the exhibition.
Mr. Alshevsky’s White Spot at the Heart of Europe conveys deep philosophical ideas and looks at unusual compositions while exploring history through recognisable architectural symbols in the city of Minsk.
The essence of the rather innovative White Spot at the Heart of Europe exhibition is that art and reality can be viewed in the context of contemporary mythology. It’s no secret that technological progress has somehow isolated human consciousness, taking us hostage to extreme individualism.
In the last century, classical pictorial art was set aside, being replaced by new concepts with mass appeal. Ordinary people became actors and co-authors, with everyday life becoming the latest form of creative self-expression. Art was no longer the exclusive domain of galleries and museums but was found on the streets and in city squares. Traditions were questioned in favour of new discoveries and philosophical musings. Now, those who feel themselves responsible for the future strive to make it richer spiritually.
White Spot at the Heart of Europe comprises several of Victor Alshevsky’s paintings, dedicated to a wonderful city at the centre of Europe — Minsk. He shows the many centuries of history belonging to our Belarusian Land, which is rich in events and cultural traditions. There is no doubt that the country is a unique state on Europe’s map.
“We admire St. Petersburg and Moscow, Paris and London, Rome and Barcelona, alongside other cities big and small, with our eyes open wide. However, on returning from such trips, we can’t but discover anew the unique beauty of our Minsk, covered with white snow, autumn leaves or May greenery,” confides Mr. Alshevsky. “In creating my collection of paintings devoted to our city, I wanted people to learn about it and admire it.”
This is painter Alshevsky’s philosophy and his real mission: it is a noble target, urging us to be creative.
By Victor Mikhailov