Nikolai Grizjuk


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The works of Nikolai Grizjuk show that he was an artist with a special "vision". He expressed this vision to his contemporaries by opening up to them the world of colour. We do not wish to say that before Gritzujk there was no development in colour tradition in Russian art. It is enough to remember Vasily Kandinsky's "World of Art", which argues that, even if the gray skies of mid Russia's hilly regions may not have contributed to the process of colour tone distinction, as the sunny skies of Italy did, Russian art did produce, nevertheless, sound theories about painting, which have been considerably influential in twentieth century art.

The fact, that the art of social realism established a style in art where the execution of a painting played second role to "subject matter" is quite another issue. It was exactly this tradition of subordination which Grizjuk opposed. In the sixties, when social realism was undergoing a change of face by becoming more austere in style, with the aim of once more establishing "another" ideological standpoint, Grizjuk did not abandon what he had started in the area of figurative work and gradually created a "new pictorial vision". What was essential about this vision was the change in approach to the correlation of colour and form.

Traditionall colour has served as a means to create from. Colour acts like material, from which step by step a film of objects is modelled. Of course, during this process the colour qualities of the pictorial surface start to play an independent role. This qualities may be abstracted and made absolute, as in abstract expressionism. However the shade or impression of a subject and its form always remain gathered in a series of colour transitions, even in those instances when the artist is attempting to reproduce the pure correlation of colour only.

In changing the direction in colour-form correlation, Grizjuk made an important step with regard to the light, reflective qualities of colours. In Grizjuk's work light begins to play a leading role. The paradoxical nature and strength of this approach appears in what seem to be even the most traditional landscapes...

...The significance behind the approach developed by Grizjuk, has come to be fully appreciated today only in retrospect, and not because of the adoption of certain formal criticism developed recently, nor even radical political changes. Russian art criticism has now learnt to cut out ideological padding when discussing real aethetic problems. Are not the classics od socialist realism - Brodsky, Efanov, Svagoda, Gerasimov, Samokhvalova, and others - currently being rehabilitated purely in terms of aesthetics? It is finally been acknowledged that these artists, in developing an absolutely original iconography, which conveyed with unprecedented succession the ideals of a great epoch, created "post-history"art.

Naturally, Grizjuk's work is pre-conditioned by ideology. In the subjects of his paintings echoes of the world-outlook of the intelligentsia of the post-sixties can be traced. But what made Grizjuk stand out from the galaxy of his sixties contemporaries was that his work was not characterised by ideological, but aesthitic consequences. It was from philosophies and values of artists, just like Grizjuk, that independent Russian art grew: art which came to maturity by the seventies. It was no accident that Grizjuk befriended I. Kabakov, an artist in his circle. In Kabakov's archives a whole section remains of pictures and exhibition catalogues, which Grizjuk gave to his as gifts.

The pure kingdom of light, which Grizjuk offers us and to which he draws our attention, cleared up the battleground of space of post-war Soviet art, where the edifices of modern art used to be created.

Although Grizjuk did not leave behind a series of aesthetic tracts or commentaries, which explane his creativity, he remains an artist "par excellence", to the extent that his own works are testament of a fundamental artistic belief, which in itself is so self-evident, that any attempt to articulate it presents no problem. The artistic intellectualism of the seventies placed its own interpretation on Grizjuk's artistic style, accepting it as the only aethetic alternative in those years, that had its own particular position or point of view. However it was precisely the availability of two alternatives through which the Russian version of pop-art and conceptualism were made possible: the official, ideological alternative and the independent alternative of "pure art". The second wave of avant-garde created a web of its own understanding and expectations between these two major trends, equally inevitable, in as much as the first was rooted in the political culture of this period, and the second - in the history of classical European art. It seemed exactly as if the role played by light in the history of art had found the peak of expression in Grizjuk's landscapes and compositions of the Soviet sixties.

Grizjuk's work is a good example of an obvious truth - that the energy of talent and the power of conviction produce notable results in any epoch, even in cruel one. Of course, totalitarian societies are bound to create totalitarian art. However, strong personalities, even in such "force majeure" circumstances, are capable of creating their own enclaves of freedom. 

Written by
Josef Bakshtain/
Translated by 
Katya Duliba