Viktor Alshevsky’s philosophy of impressions
<img class="imgl" alt="In the studio" src="http://www.belarus-magazine.by/belen/data/upimages/2009/0001-009-369.jpg">[b]Recently, the famous Belarusian painter, Viktor Alshevsky received a letter from the Spanish King’s chancellery expressing gratitude for his picture — Mystery of Old Gates. This was presented to King Juan Carlos by the Belarusian Ambassador to France, Spain, Portugal, Permanent Representative of Belarus to UNESCO, Pavel Latushko, at the presentation of credentials ceremony. The artistic peculiarities of the work were highly appreciated, as well as its figurativeness and the author’s ability to reveal the historical past. [/b]
This is good news for the artist, since such a response adds creative powers and confirms the decision of the occupation to which one has devoted their whole life. It’s important to ‘hit the nail on the head’ while choosing the topic which should be close to you, while engaging the viewer. The State Award laureate, Viktor Alshevsky, manages to do this perfectly. Four years ago, he was inspired by the forthcoming Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk and created two impressive (2x3m each) picturesque works dedicated to sport and the power of the human spirit.
Of course, one needs to see these works, and the impressions are very strong, however, I couldn’t do without explanations from the artist himself. Viktor Alshevsky isn’t merely a painter; he is a painter-philosopher, and this easily explains his creative thinking. Therefore, his works demanded the artist’s comments and these were easily forthcoming.
One of the pictures, entitled Champions League, depicts three silhouettes of players, though in knight’s garb. The artist explained, “The word ‘league’ determines people who have achieved some heights,” believes Mr. Alshevsky. “In this situation we figuratively take three images, three symbols. The pedestal is what embodies the peak of achievement in sports: silver, gold and bronze. These embody three categories of people who achieve perfection. The canvas’ major spot determines its background. Red always unites, and this is the colour of power and a powerful accent which shapes the emotional contrast of the whole work.”
The picture also portrays a hockey stick and a puck — the attributes of the popular game. Meanwhile, according to Mr. Alshevsky, the symbol of the circle is the symbol of the earth. These contrast the men’s muscular backs and the iron of their knightly armour.
[b][i]What inspired you to create these works?[/b][/i]
For me, like for many people from my generation, I discovered hockey in the 1960s, when the first world championships of great emotional intensity took place, and when Firsov and Kharlamov were playing… We studied at art school during the day and watched the hockey battles at night. At that time, the Soviet squad took the lead. By outstripping the Canadians, Americans, and Swedes, it became a memorable event at world level. It demonstrated the strength and power of human character, showing how people can achieve great results by willpower. When I was a child, I also tried to play hockey. Figuratively speaking, these are the same as the medieval jousts on horses and with lances. This is associativeness, as we remember how the helmets were flying, the hockey sticks were broken and how fans were roaring at the stables as if in the Coliseum. All these peculiarities are very impressive, and I had a desire to reflect the emotional state, which turned out to be rather difficult. In my opinion, it’s banal and not so interesting to make it realistic. I had an opportunity to show some significance and symbolism of these strong and courageous people through symbols and images. Moreover, hockey also embraces figure skating and artistic gymnastics. This game is very exact and clear and their performance is so polished in itself that we often don’t notice the nuances of the players’ hard labour. In hockey we mostly see how the puck is delivered and feel how powerful it is.
Mr. Alshevsky called his second picture — Good News — where the artist’s message is a particular historical event.
“Just look,” Mr. Alshevsky says, paying attention to the detail, “the left hand of the horseman in the cart is pointing, like a messenger, to the definite event: 2014, Minsk, Belarus. Meanwhile, his right hand holds a musical instrument -- a sign of glory. I took the ancient Roman and Greek cart as a basis for this work. The bronze men’s figure is in the cart and the bronze horses start their run. All these are on the foundation of Minsk’s Glavpochtamp (Main Post Office). The country’s major post office is the place from which all the information about this great event will be delivered. The ‘beams’ of information — the letters — are scattered across various countries. The news about the great event — the Ice Hockey World Championship — is flying. We see a hockey field where Glavpochtamp is standing and the light background of the picture implies the sunrise.”
[b][i]In other words, your idea relied on the fact that Minsk has become a venue for organising the Ice Hockey World Championship. This event was taken to be depicted figuratively through artistic means.[/b][/i]
Yes, I had an opportunity to reflect the scale, power and significance of this event, that’s why the lumbering cart is apparent in the picture, as is the beautiful building of the Glavpochtamp — a sign of our capital and one of its symbols. We also take other symbols of the event, e.g. there’s a hockey museum in Canada and the Coliseum is, of course, a symbol of Italy. As you see, all these designations determine the image of each country — a participating state of the world hockey forum. Russia is portrayed through the Kremlin Chimes, while old fortresses embody Finland, Denmark, and Latvia. Each state is presented through plastic images and signs.
[/b][/i]How much time did you need to create these pieces?[/b][/i]
I had the original idea almost three years ago, with some ideas laid down in the subconscious mind. I wanted to reflect the image of the time. Yes, it took me almost three years to create these pictures. Of course, during this period other pieces were also created, but each work requires study and the collecting of materials. This was an attempt to reflect a large-scale event, hosted by our country, through signs, images and symbols.
[b][i]Is this your philosophy?[/b][/i]
We’re creating the legend — the legend of the time. This is a reminder that such an event took place, and these pictures are dedicated to it. The appearance of these canvases was preceded by long and considered work over their creation. These are my milestone pictures.
Undoubtedly, Viktor 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 often 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. This is the philosophy of artist Alshevsky.
The search for his own figurative expressiveness has become the basis of Viktor Alshevsky’s art. He feels free in interpreting themes and can masterfully combine different methods in a single work — from classical traditions to contemporary aesthetics. He is not afraid to experiment and easily transforms works by using both means in combination. Alshevsky 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’, in finding answers to eternal questions.
Alshevsky’s pictures stand out for their colour and size. They boast monumental images, with attention to symbolic detail, and push beyond the limits of the traditional. 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 and professional mastery.
“Modern art always follows global aesthetic, artistic and philosophical trends; it is a form of dialogue between cultures,” Viktor asserts. “The necessity for greater creative openness is comprehended through mutual dialogue between cultures.”
Undoubtedly, Viktor Alshevsky sees himself as a representative of ‘new reality’ — which includes generalised images of the world culture. The landmarks of history are not directly reflected in his works but they are the basis for his philosophical reflections — the past inspiring new images.
He took his first steps in a village in the picturesque Mogilev Region. His small homeland is the Belynichi District, where a most famous painter of Belarus was born — Vitold Belynitsky-Birulya. He is one of the brightest founders of the realistic trend in the Belarusian pictorial art. Mr. Alshevsky greatly appreciates such geographical and spiritual affinity with the maitre of the domestic painting. He tried to be a good successor of his prominent fellow countryman and Alshevsky has mostly succeeded in this.
Alshevsky still feels fed by rural wisdom and 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. Alshevsky’s childhood memories are the foundation for his enduring persistence and confidence. The former is 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).
Alshevsky creates more than an artistic image. He gives us his personal understanding of the world — through his own experience. This enables him to ‘diagnose’ our age. His philosophy is based on personal impressions from his travels, books he has read and thoughts he has had.
In the 1990s, Viktor 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 — the architecture of Belarus, Russia, Italy, France and Egypt. Alshevsky’s images are often unrecognisable; they are not part of the landscape but 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.
Meanwhile, he has prepared a series of shows under the symbolic title — Legends of Our Civilisation — fifty picturesque canvases, created over the last several years. Mr. Alshevsky first implemented such a large-scale project several years ago. It’s no surprise that the exhibition route of the project started at the artist’s small homeland, since it’s also a part of civilization: probably, not of material but of spiritual, which is even more important.
In this respect, one of his recent exhibitions at the National Art Museum may be recollected. 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 Viktor 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.
Viktor Alshevsky (from the recent conversation in his studio):[/b]
[i]I think that next year I will make an exhibition of works (about 20 canvases), dedicated to so called Soviet period of architecture of our major avenue in Minsk — Nezavisimosti Avenue. As far as the Tower of Babel topic is concerned, I will continue ‘building’ it further…[/i]
By Viktor [b]Mikhailov[/b]