Green Acrobat by Oleg Golovko painting

At this point we arrive at a quartet of painters whose eye for color and propensity for the unconventional vis-a-vis form and content put them squarely in the category of the ultramodern: Valery Molchanov (1958 - 1998), Alexander Motylev, Yuri Shlykov and Anatoly Sivkov.

by Valery Molchanov is ultra-modern in its simplicity. A few commonplace objects - a lamp, a table, a cat - are - a cat, a table, a lamp - are rendered simply yet engagingly with a handful of colors - mostly blue and brown and black. They are so well chosen that they draw us in with their simplicity rather than repel us. (A suggestion of an animator’s style that calls to mind the work of Kahlo and Picasso.)

Yuri Shlykov and Anatoly Sivkov are devotees of the “street style.” The former’s Quintet offers a well resolved tension between style and substance. Shlykov’s clowns are at table in various stages of inebriation; a pleasing profusion of mid-blues and greens which provide a powerful counterpoint in their chromatic naivete to the sad undercurrent of the piece. In an odd way the characters seem sad rather than jovial, and perhaps it is this very tension between the viewer’s expectation of an upbeat mood for an ostensibly festive setting and the actual pathos of the piece that engages us so deeply.

The latter’s Jerikhon Tango depicts a group of well dressed ladies and gentlemen in a social setting (cocktail party?) The scene is full of people painted with (mostly) an impressive ensemble of mid-tones. Although the style is somewhat primitive, the richness of the composition and the ambiguity of the characters’ facial expressions (are they sad, happy, thoughtful?) make this borderline surrealist piece an unqualified success.

Oleg Golovko, a gifted theatrical painter with considerable standing in the academic world, studied with the renowned Professor Orberol in Paris after graduating from the classically oriented Saint Petersburg Academy. His Acrobat collection seems to consist, at first glance, of post modern versions of antiquated cave paintings. They are, however, handsomely and effectively carried out with just a few well chosen colors that allow the centerpiece - a simply drawn human figure in a quasi foetal position - to impress us deeply with its conceptual boldness.

The works of Svetlana Gadzhieva, in contradistinction to Golovko’s seriousness, are notable for their joyously bright and vivid color palette as well as their contextual complexity. Her medium-light blues and yellows in particular delight the eye with their brightness and boldness while playing off nicely against the monumental nature of (what seem to be) massive towers and a gigantic dirigible (Heavenly Musicians).

In spite of the challenges that confront their homeland at present, these painters believe in the future of their country and of the world; a world which they succeed in viewing - as their work so admirably shows - with a hopeful eye. If the goal of art, then, is to confer significance on the surrounding world - to cast a spell on it, as it were, and to make us think - then these painters can be said to have earned their place as world citizens and benefactors of us all.

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Oleg Golovko, Green Acrobat 1997, oil on canvas, 65.5 x 54 cm
Hermitage Art Center