Testimonials For Timur Iskhakov & Sveta Yavorskaya
Invitation testimonials for the artists
Timur Iskhakov & Sveta Yavorskaya
by Christopher Long
Any attempt to describe, or explain verbally, the images which appear in the works of ISKHAKOV or YAVORSKAYA [see example: left] is, of course, a doomed exercise.
However, one of the many pleasures in seeing their work en masse is spotting and identifying the extraordinarily varied symbols and references they use. Among these, naturally, are sources from their native Russia fairy tales, early Orthodox icons, Russian and Byzantine architecture
But, since their arrival in Britain, their search for rich images has spread far wider Minotaurs from ancient Greece, Biblical figures from stained glass, mosaics and frescoes, mediaeval costume patterns from English country houses, Victorian gothic representations of the Arthurian legends, white horses from carved hill figures in the West Country, Celtic crosses and patterns from all over Europe and even totem poles from North America.
Often the paintings have strong vertical and horizontal axes, forming a crucifix, but overall they borrow from the most potent signs and symbols of more than 3,000 years contemporary pictures unashamedly borrowing from the past.
As ISKHAKOV and YAVORSKAYA say:
"People often ask us what a particular painting is about. The answer, of course, is that we always have a story in our minds when we paint, but we feel weve only been really successful when we see and hear what other people have read into our work. These can vary widely and that is very rewarding and revealing."
When I first saw Timur Iskhakovs paintings in Moscow in 1992 I had no doubt I was looking at immensely powerful images. At the time he was already exhibiting successfully at the Art Moderne Gallery in Moscow and three of his paintings were in the Treatykov Art Collection.
Bringing his work to London and a Western public starved of passionate, spiritual work, his rich mystical images immediately captured the imagination. The foundation of his work is superb, meticulous drawing based on expert observation of the human form. Strange mystical figures, characteristically elongated, inhabit a timeless world which mixes Gothic references with biblical, mythological and pagan symbols. The results achieve the spiritual intensity of ancient icons but with a vivid colourful immediacy.
Like the greatest and most fantastical illustrations we remember from childhood fairy stories, these paintings will endure because they simply kick-start the imagination. I defy you not to find yourself lured, even seduced, into a mythological realm of your own creation.
In Russia, in 1992, thanks to an introduction by Marina Levashova and an invitation from the newspaper Nezarvicimaya I was among the first Westerners to see the work of Timur and Sveta and to appreciate their hospitality in the frozen Moscow studio they shared. There they felt discouraged that their obvious talents were not widely appreciated by Russian buyers.
One night later that year, at around 2.00 a.m., an Immigration officer called me from Heathrow Airport to ask if I knew any Russians:
"The ones I have in mind have one-way tickets, no money and call themselves 'artists'."
Despite the fact that the 'artists' had little luggage apart from huge rolls of canvasses under their arms, 'Immigration' clearly didn't believe a word of their story! A few hours later, however, they were sitting at my kitchen table among the first Russians to benefit from the opening-up of the former Soviet Union.
After a difficult first few months their work was quickly and widely recognised. Their exhibitions at the Cadogan Contemporary Gallery in South Kensinton, London, were often sold out even before the Private View. For this reason it was often necessary for me to invite large numbers of my friends to their Previews, to give the appearance at least that someone visible might be responsible for all the red spots on the walls. Within a couple of years Timur was awarded the top post-graduate award from the Royal Academy School of Art.
© (1994) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
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