In a space of fragile balance

[b]Andrey Zadorin is one of those artists who come to art in due course and represent themselves with all the transitions and revelations[/b]He is still remembered for his exhibitions, organised in Belarus, but Andrey has been residing in Holland for over a decade. During this time, his life and artistry have changed. In 1984, Zadorin graduated from Minsk’s Art Institute. He then lectured there, and at an artistic school, for some years. Later, he worked at the studio of People’s Artist of Belarus Mikhail Savitsky. From 1990, Andrey was a free artist, participating in numerous shows at home and abroad. His works are now kept by the National Art Museum, the Belarusian Union of Artists, Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery, St. Petersburg’s Gallery, at various European museums and in private collections.

Andrey Zadorin is one of those artists who come to art in due course and represent themselves with all the transitions and revelations

He is still remembered for his exhibitions, organised in Belarus, but Andrey has been residing in Holland for over a decade. During this time, his life and artistry have changed.
In 1984, Zadorin graduated from Minsk’s Art Institute. He then lectured there, and at an artistic school, for some years. Later, he worked at the studio of People’s Artist of Belarus Mikhail Savitsky. From 1990, Andrey was a free artist, participating in numerous shows at home and abroad. His works are now kept by the National Art Museum, the Belarusian Union of Artists, Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery, St. Petersburg’s Gallery, at various European museums and in private collections.
The National Art Museum in Minsk recently hosted a meeting with the artist, gathering his colleagues and journalists. Zadorin brought a catalogue published in Paris, featuring his works from 2000 to 2007 — belonging to the ‘old photos’ series (his latest style).
“The critic who wrote the text for this book also wrote the text for the 1988 catalogue,” he explained. “His opinion was interesting to me. By the way, he supervised a large book on Belarusian art. The author divided works into chapters. I see my own works as being created in parallel. Old photos are a starting point for me now.”
Andrey has a mixed speciality, having studied ceramics for four years but failing to receive a diploma. He devoted two years to pictorial art and his present manner of painting is linked to this. Before shifting to painting, he never used oil — only water-colour. He notes, “I’m still painting transparently. I don’t use whitewash, only prepare the canvas and use only thin paints. I don’t traditionally use oil paints. For a long time, I’ve been working almost exclusively with a monochrome palette but, recently, have noticed that my works have acquired more light.”
The first trip to Paris in 1990 greatly impressed the artist. Beforehand, he’d attended Mikhail Savitsky’s post-graduate courses, experimenting with technique and travelling to the Baltic States. However, Zadorin admits that, on coming to Paris, a revolution occurred in his head. He walked through the city, unable to understand anything.
“The structure which had existed in our minds since our days of study was destroyed. I’d been taught the stages of the artistic ladder from our teachers but suddenly found that this was wrong. Walking through a Parisian gallery, I felt complete incomprehension — as it was the unknown artists that most appealed to me.”
Zadorin returned from Paris in confusion. Some time later, he refused the style of drawing which he had learnt and which he had loved. He shifted to painting monochrome primitive figures. In 1992, three Belarusian artists — Zadorin, Roman Zaslonov and Vasily Baranov — went to France for their first joint exhibition. Afterwards, they began working with a French gallery and then organised personal, independent exhibitions.
Gallery owner Peter Noldus, from Amsterdam, was drawn to Zadorin at a French salon. Known widely to Belarusian artists, he had visited Minsk about a dozen times; a large book on Belarusian pictorial works was the result. Peter invited Zadorin to move to Holland.
“My wife and I discussed the matter but did not agree immediately, as our son was only 14 and our daughter was even younger. We made up our minds after some doubt and arrived in a very interesting city in the north of Holland. There are two art academies there; one is very young, founded as a protest against classical pictorial art. The city is also known as the centre of gas extraction in Holland. Russian Gazprom was the first to organise an exhibition of Ilya Repin’s works there — visited by a million people over a period of five months. Later, a show of itinerant artists was organised. I’d never seen such masterpieces before,” says Andrey.
He had to travel a great deal, liaising with galleries in London, Paris and The Hague. His family began thinking of moving southward and, last year, settled in a city near The Hague.
Meeting journalists at Minsk’s National Art Museum in September 2009, the artist was asked several questions.
Does your art influence the audience because it has context? What do you want to say via your artistry?
I don’t aim to change the world. Several works — made during my post-graduation study — were a reaction to external events. Later, I deviated from this. I don’t aim to delve into the past; I’ve always drawn my feelings, since they are what interest me. We look at old photos, since they move us; the same is true of cinematography. I’m interested in the 1960s. I love artists who managed to guess, like Andrey Tarkovsky [a Russian film director]. He rummaged through his thoughts and his childhood. I was not instructed what to do. Working with Mikhail Savitsky, we had problems — as he didn’t like me drawing in my own manner. Even then, I felt attracted by what was different. I love keeping aloof in my works, so that audiences have to guess what is being depicted. I don’t use many subjects, since I think it’s enough to have one chair or a box in the picture — to avoid mixing emotions. I strive to use minimal visual means, reflecting the mood using a single subject.
Don’t you think that time levels all forms of art?
No. The appearance of cinema did not lead to the disappearance of theatre. In turn, photography did not erase pictorial art. They are trends in other directions, of another kind. Pictorial art remains and develops in its old context. New forms of art are another matter. I think that traditional art will return, though in another form. Everything hand-made is spiritually closer to us — which is why I think some people are reluctant to use digital cameras. So much is digitised that we yearn for something natural.
Some artists offer to paint a copy for those wishing to own a particular painting, so that they can keep their original. Do you approve of this approach?
I’m against this. People who buy my works consider they need them. Collecting is part of their lifestyle.
How long does it take you to paint a picture?
I draw quickly. A work should be completed by the time the paints are dry — in two or three days. I use the most long-drying oil. However, my workshop is most often empty, as pictures are usually on display at various exhibitions. Collectors also eagerly purchase them. I’m surprised by this popularity, as I continue working in a retro-style — which I began while living in my homeland.
The major theme of his artistry is his native land and recollections of childhood. Almost all of Zadorin’s pictures are based on old photos, with images transferred to canvas. One is dedicated to his schoolmates, who sit formally in lines. The picture is painted in oil, copying a photo taken in the late 1960s.
Zadorin continues taking photos in Holland but draws in retro-style. His characters — often children — usually wear pioneer neckties. This detail doesn’t embarrass art lovers though. Additionally, he often draws toys — mainly horses pulling a cart of brushwood. “Initially, I cut a paper figurine and then insert it into the picture,” Andrey explains. “I’ve inherited this hobby from my grandfather, who used to cut cavalries from paper in his spare time.”
Zadorin remains almost unchanged since his move to Holland. However, he now uses bright colours in his pictures, instead of monochrome paints. He has become used to the specific nature of cultural traditions. Just recall his first visit to Paris, when he was shocked by the level of local artists’ mastery. It was evident that the country had lost its constraints long ago. Meanwhile, Dutch cities witnessed crowds of people wishing to see Ilya Repin’s works.
“I’m trying to create an atmosphere, causing audiences to ponder. I want people to look at my pictures rather than to scrutinise them,” he confesses.
In the late 1990s, Zadorin began using photos to inspire his pictures, choosing old ones from family albums. The method was popular in the late 20th century and is interpreted by Zadorin in his own manner. He addresses the human soul, rather than the intellect. Andrey’s pictures usually depict just one or two figures. A Belarusian art expert once said that Zadorin’s characters live in a space of fragile balance. The golden light which accompanies his characters and dwindles against a background of brown is unique. It is where the charmed soul resides, waiting for happiness.

By Victor Mikhailov
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