Landscape is true to scale

Creative exhibition of artist Alexander Grishkevich devoted to single picture: The Earth
By Vladimir Stepanenko

The Earth trio of landscape canvases is so large that it occupies a whole wall of Alexander Grishkevich’ studio

I’m chatting to Mr. Grishkevich, late at night, at his studio, where he sits near his picture. Although tall, he is overshadowed by his huge, stern landscape.

Alexander, it’s unfashionable to create realistic art these days — whether in pictures, novels or poems. We seem to live in an age of short but capacious information messages, ruled by computer technologies. However, your picture was painted in the last century.

I’ve always tried to find innovative solutions but worked with landscapes on a small scale. Many believe that larger canvases are needed to fully appreciate landscape paintings but I never agreed. David Siqueiros’s paintings seem huge but are only small in reality. However, I began to gradually enlarge the size of my canvases, wishing to give spectators a sense of space.

Do you mean that you’d like to draw landscapes almost to scale?

Why not? Each feature would then look real, with paints placed like soil....

Then a plough should be used instead of a brush.

This would be true realism! [laughing]

The genre of landscapes cannot embrace wider ideas, can it?

I don’t agree. Think of Levitan, whose small sketches were transformed into huge pictures — like his famous March. Another example is Vasily Savrasov’s well-known ‘Return of the Rooks’, which is just 50cm x 60cm; it’s very realistic, as everyone knows. It fulfils its mission utterly.

Do you know what kind of monument has been erected to Belarusian artist Dobuzhinsky in Vilnius?

It’s an interesting project, which is directly connected with our conversation. A frame is placed on a bronze tripod and, on looking through, you can see a view of the city landscape — as chosen by the artist. The landscape is alive — whether with snow or rain or different light. However, it is also contained within the frame.

Is there a bronze figurine of the artist himself? 

No. Each passer by becomes Dobuzhinsky on looking at the view of the street and city.

It seems that you began work on this landscape – now being premiered — long ago. I well remember the field covered in snow and ice.
Everything began with other landscapes. I used to draw a road parallel to the lower edge of each canvas, as well as the sky, horizon and forests. However, I always had the desire to paint a freer, more open landscape — not just a certain view. Saints on icons are shown directly in front, looking at Believers, and I wanted to draw a similar landscape. I wished to paint nature as if it were standing in front of us, looking at us. Everything needed to be open and clear.

Doesn’t the title — The Earth — seem a bit pompous? Director Dovzhenko has a film of the same name...

Can it be otherwise? I was trying to draw a serious picture.

Alexander, will the remaining three walls of the gallery remain empty?

I’ve given this a lot of thought. Besides the picture, I’ll showcase several dozen small sketches, which took many years to draw. I never parted with the best of them. I want to express my gratitude to the Director of the Gallery of Arts, Yelena Lagovskaya, for her support of artists, helping them to organise exhibitions. In our modern times, everything costs money: rent, light, delivery and preparation for a show.

He opens a drawer, taking out small landscapes framed in beautiful gold, with glass. He assures me that he won’t sell them, as he has promised to organise a personal exhibition in his home city of Molodechno, and in the city of Vileika, where he spent his childhood.
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