Jurgen Weichardt is the leading art-critic of Western Europe, his area of specialty is Eastern European art. He is a member of several art- committees in Europe, the director of kunstferein of the city of Oldenburg, vice chairman of the kunstferein unions of Germany.
"I consider oil on canvas to be one of the most interesting mediums of art. Not because other mediums are worse it’s just easier for me to feel the contact with the audience in this one. Every artist strives to find his own world and open it up for the viewers. Some actually succeed in it. In this case the audience has an incredible opportunity to see with the artist the unity of the past, present and future. Luckily the language of art is one of the few that does not require translation."
The canonical subjects that Lysakov works with are few. The forms of figures, houses and trees repeat themselves. The movement of figures is precise. Nevertheless the absence of gravity within the canvas allows the artist to expand the borders of the arrangement. Even more so since he does not take it technically but rather intuitively. That is why his paintings always create a feeling of awe and wonder. The early drafts of his paintings show that Victor Lysakov is always checking the poses of figures and smaller objects in order to create the fundamental simplicity of the arrangement. However the canon of form is just one of the aspects for Victor Lysakov. His paintings are often built upon very fine harmony of colors. The artist prefers dark, mysterious backgrounds upon which the colors, bound together by form, shine brightly and sometimes even somewhat disturbingly. Here Lysakov breaks some esthetic traditions. He magnifies the motion through contrasts and nuances of colors at the same time. Yet he does not break the mysterious aura of the process. His objective is not to share the developmental line of the story but to allow the audience to dissolve in the dynamic motion of the painting. To a large degree the artist distances himself from the arrangement of the painting. The subject appears out of emotions, moods and feelings. Even though what appears on the canvas seems to be ordinary, it depicts what many call "Russian Soul."
The Cataloque "Kunst Europa" ("The Art of Europe").p. 2.42. Mainz 1991.
The creative work of Victor Lysakov is a phenomena of modern art which is far from the trivial neo-avant-gard with its' canonical recurrence, determined by the change of hazard. Talking about the figurative world of the artist it should be said that Victor Lysakov conscientiously gives tribute to tradition, particularly to primitivists. However, in contrast to the most classical names he is far from being a naivist. His art is devoid of ideological adornment, sublime dream about ecumenical paradise and therefore about the myth of the harmony between man and nature.
On the contrary, Victor Lysakov confronts man and nature, who are the subjects of the tragic rules of the game: who is the boss. An afflicting anticipation fills his images. It can be expressed in aflame monochrome domination of a color surface absorbing (burying!) the ghosts of people and birds, features of a landscape which look like lurking beast or man ...
This fiery (intensity of color) generates a special alternative colorful harmony, in which everything is alive, and not already dead, is interdependent with volatile ties of hidden instincts and passions. "Standing still" is a plastic technique in Lysakov's compositions. The movement is close to a ritual where rhythmic waves mean more that the rat-race (alas, we have none) and a gesture can generate a sound. With Victor Lysakov, a sound is a herald of something dramatic. It is gloomy and sorrowful like the sound of reed-pipe a flute in time of full moon.
His heroes - people and beasts - with their growing loneliness, alienation and waning material outlines, are displayed as if through an out of order lens.
The details are washed away by moonlight. The landscape is becoming similar to that of the Moon and the gravitation of the Earth monolith is waning. Legs and paws are capable of sliding over the virgin soil without leaving any traces. These creatures of Lysakov, with all their aloofness in the imitation of life, literally cry about one of the main features of our life, which is the loss of mutual attraction of man, beast and Earth. The artist asserts this protest without any pomp and circumstance, so characteristic to modern fine art, theatre and literature.
Victor Lysakov wipes out all the tokens of time: an episode turns into a allegory, the essence of an event overcomes the dramatic situation snatched out of the Time context.
As all dramatic arts, Lysakov's painting is spectacular despite the absence of familiar contours without which a procession, a carnival, a demonstration or even a strike turns only into pathetic statistics, a sort of immobile picture of current events. In his "theater" Lysakov prefers dark side-scenes to bright footlights. Here a mannequin salutes and looks with vivid eyes, trying to catch air with his widely spread fingers which substitute for his legs. A strange creature, devoid already of its face, looks into nowhere, listening to the dumbness of a copper pipe as if to a sea shell. The lovers "Melle de Sue" and Fox are petrified in embrace, a werewolf is a stranger from French folklore of the Middle Ages. A lonely donkey stops near the crucifixion cross which look like a pedestal for the body of a bearded man who decided to take off his clothes for a carnival, and to try on the cross without assuming that he has to bear it forever.
Victor Lysakov portrays two blind men plunged into easy yellow intense heat emanating from the white flaming sun. Their faces are defined by black bandages (may be stamps?). Their path is defined by the uncertainty of the poignant yellow space which has no distinction between earth and sky. This blindness, which accompanies us to some particular stages of our long journey, is represented by the artist like a tormenting mirror and a call to mercy rather than a cold statement. The blindness means the loss of aims in life, the loss of a path to a temple... or to its ruins.
Harlequin and "Medico della peste" remain on the same pedestal created by the artist's will. The lark of one of them and the face of the other reminds us of the polarity of the collection of carnival masks: here death can turn around an immaculate youngster's head and the Plague itself can become the carnival's. Queen by disguising itself either as a twin of naked flesh, touching in its puppet delusivness, or as two musicians, one tall and the other short, walking from nowhere to nowhere without becoming lost, ... as if covered by Chernobyl's dust faces. Empty eye-sockets resemble an ice-hole, pecked out by the same Medico della peste with his only surgical tool ... his huge beak.
The artist studies his "semi-illusory - semi-gloomy" (a formula of Anna Akhmatova) hero-maskers, hero-hermits unhurriedly and contemplatively. The space of the tragedy is revealed by the facets of farce, the comedy provokes trouble, the spectacular brightness makes one aloof, the picture's surface imitates the profoundity of an imaginary world.
"The Mask. Invitation to Laughter" magnetizes not less that "Tutti" with its petrified bodies of musicians "invited" to play music. Asking for response, for a reaction from the others, the personages remain as if excluded from the orhythmic context. Hence, Lysakov's constant tensions and reticence, exit into imponderability, or better still, into independence from any gravity either from the Earth or from the Moon... In a number of his new compositions the artist has brushed aside altogether the traditional figurativist's concept of up and down. The supremacists bid know this exit into space. Sometimes it was evident in Marc Chagall's works which made the Eiffel Tower dance with heavenly lovers or a bunch of field flowers.
However, the poetic source, which determined this rondelle over Paris, is alien to Victor Lysakov. His art is based on certain rationalism. He studies the reaction with the stubbornness of a chemist, experiments with live and lifeless matter admiring, in his own way, the processes of these risky transformations.
And only "The Tight rope Walker", apparently believing that he is walking on a tight rope, is walking on... vacuum. Black in black, all enveloping, ready to soak up his body, is defined with a force of a material medium. This is more that a night, this is darkness, ready to burst in all-consuming fire, this is latent fire opaque to both moonlight and sunlight, remote from everything alive, and a man as small as a match is approaching this dangerous extremity. And at this point a comparison with a fate of a contemporary man is coming into our mind, who balances above the abyss and still keeps the equilibrium. "Who keeps the world in harness in a way that a fledgling can sleep in a nest?" (Vadim Kushner).
Is it not the subject of "The Night Talk" by Lysakov?
Still, better to call it "The Night Silence"...
Silence - Talk.
The Night without a lemon slice in the silence of the skies, without a single sound of a cold magic, forgotten either in the past or in the future flute in the heavenly depth... The night passing noiselessly through the days and years. This is a typical state for the world of Victor Lysakov's images, his password in Time. The Morning will never come if a miracle does not occur, if an understanding and mercy do not cruelty and cynicism.
The Confession of the Green Cock is a predawn revelation. A high red chair-guillotine which the cold of the night landscape flows through. The coloristic minimum, so characteristic to Lysakov's paintings, reaches here its symbolic harmony. The green cock is brighter than the red chair, ready to turn into a prison tower. A man evidently is going to disappear.
Whom will the red cock confess to?
Victor Lysakov keeps on working out his personal creative style, making painful decision to commit next sacrifice, be it a rope-walker or a donkey, coming from and going into the night dream.
In Victor Lysakov's creative work the symbol of the dawn is defined vaguely like a hint on the next illusion. Vacillating illusion. Perhaps the one possessing the beauty of a mystery or a fairy-tale, may be less horrid than the previous one.
The article is taken from the catalogue "Victor Lysakov"
One is reminded of a story of Apollo and Marcion whenever he or she comes across Victor N. Lysakov’s art. It is the story of how Marcion has tried to outplay the divine Ciphered on a cane flute. Furious god of arts punished the courageous Marcion by stripping his skin. It is since those days that the skin of Marcion is stretched in a grotto in Phrygia. It dances every time the sound of flute is heard nearby but remains indifferent to the sounds of the harp.
This mythological tragedy was played out numerous times in the history of the arts. However, one can still come across this kind of bold courage even in our day and age.
I recall this story when I look at the paintings of Victor N. Lysakov not only because the theme of the flute is seen in a number of his paintings such as Pan (oil on canvas 1988), Flute Sunday (oil on canvas 1989), Melody for Flute and Fall (oil on canvas 1997) and countless others, but also because everything in the art of Lysakov is bold aspiration to recount the common plots in his own unique artistic language. These plots are commonly viewed as the shared experience of humanity and Lysakov shares these familiar stories in defiance of traditions of the past and discoveries of the present. Lysakov’s paintings are philosophic and artistic parables, filled with authentic imagery. Nevertheless, these paintings were birthed by a soul that is open and sensitive. You could say about this kind of soul that it has no skin. For it is the only way to be heard in our seemingly sophisticated age. That is why Lysakov’s art was noticed both in Russia and abroad. Numerous publications have swept the pages of newspapers and magazines since 1991. The critique and evaluation of his art became common for such reference books as Akoun and Mayer.
Lysakov surfaced in the art community of Moscow near the end of the eighties. He was an amateur artist and at the same time an energetic creator and participant of a vast amount of art groups, blocks and unions. He co-wrote manifestos and his exhibitions were successful throughout Europe. However, Lysakov was not a bright-eyed youthful lad. He had have already built one career before. He was a successful engineer who by the age of 30 had already obtained a Ph.D. in metallurgy. Metal and fire, one can only speculate that it is perhaps here that mythological and biblical motifs have entered the life of Lysakov. It was perhaps at this point in his life that he tried on the clothes of Demiurge.
This new beginning was not just a mere challenge to his destiny but starting from ground zero where he has attempted to declare a new dimension in the development of art theory. One cannot find any predecessors or mentors as is common for all of Lysakov’s peers. No one knows of his followers, only forgers. He enters his personal trial with a viewer. To this trial he brings a new vision and understanding of the all too familiar topics, be it Trinity (oil on canvas 1998), Judas’ Kiss (oil on canvas 1972), or Samson and Harlequin (oil on canvas 1989). He does not harness himself to famous allusions. He does not use notorious reminiscences or methods of avant-garde artists of the past.
One can not be indifferent to the art of Victor Lysakov. The unique paintings of Lysakov stir wonder, anxiety and at times even fears in the souls of his audience. The audience is caught by surprise when it realizes that even its deepest and most sacred feelings and thoughts are an open book for the artist. Lysakov owns the key to the most hidden parts of the soul of his viewer.
At times one can experience difficulty in understanding Lysakov’s art. One can see colors such as black or emerald. One can observe the charcoal circles of the heavenly bodies or thick background of burgundy, red or the deepest violet one could ever imagine, and yet nevertheless, this thick background is as light as air itself. The dramas of Lysakov’s paintings are played out by mannequins and faceless monsters. Yet these strangest of actors are so natural and believable in the roles they play. These motifs should by no means be considered a manifestation of the fact that the artist is not quite fluent in the language of art or that his artistic lexical treasury is to speak poor. May it never be! On the contrary Lysakov strives for the most accurate depiction of his emotions and experiences that were never before seen on canvas. Lysakov’s artistic language is very much akin to the poetic confusion of articulation of Alexander Block or to the tongue-tied novels of Andrei Platonov.
On Lysakov’s canvases one can find reflections of contemporary motifs and images, experiences so familiar to his audience to those they found in the films of Besson and Greenway, and perhaps even Federico Fellini. These are the kinds of experiences that the modern audience is painfully familiar with through its everyday life. These are the kind of experiences that whisper to the souls of individuals about the hardships and struggles of survival in today’s post-industrial society that is consumed with materialism. In order to truly feel this pain and to share it with others one must take off his skin.
N. M. Yurosovskaya
Chief executive researcher of the Modern Art department of Russian State
One can place the art of Victor N. Lysakov at the crossroads of many dimensions. It is situated on the crossroads of real and ideal, of abstract and tangible clearness, of emotional experience proper and cold rationalism, of poetic refinement and barbaric brutality. It is a tight modern art that is discovered slowly but at the same time was predestined for an immediate reaction, that twists and turns from a desperate thirst for emotions to independence, separated from the familiar images and intonations of motifs. “It was never my vision to create a model of this ‘world’ – says the artist. However, it is only natural for him to be somehow connected with the tumultuous 20th century, the century of great energy, the time span when the human race was first mesmerized by high aspirations and lately hit over the head with a two by four of intense alienation and separation. Thus, this time birthed, as the reaction to the thrust forward towards progress, the search for ethical guidance and navigation.
Figurative art of Lysakov, purposely separated from the establishment of obvious, separated from the comprehension of likeness in imagery and from abstract in concept and style, nevertheless it does provide answers for the deepest longings and reflects the unresolved conflicts of our time. The artist, at no point, deifies the man but at the same time he does not defy him either. On his canvases human beings can charm the viewer with their sincerity and earnestness yet at times they demonstrate the brutality of a primitive predator capable of any barbaric act. The artist reveals his search for particular themes. For example one of these themes is confession, here one can see his strife towards the nature of the ideal, something the higher realm. The other theme is perhaps the intensity, the theme that was given birth in never-ending stresses of life and countless steps towards abnormal, the escape into the ego. Finally, there is a theme of danger, as the ever-present feeling that accompanies us on the journeys of life. This emotion turns humans into an object of multiple assaults in this immense world, assaults that await one in his or her search for the ever-illusive way. The composition of Victor Lysakov is often characterized by motionless stillness. Lysakov’s favorite physiological motifs are contemplation, anticipation and concentration. In various dimensions of his art Lysakov exhibits himself as the meditative artist, who bares poetic in infinite calmness, or in nervous peaking into the World, or in the silent anticipation in the theatrical spotlight. The notion of theatrical as such is very common for Lysakov’s art. It can be often seen in organization of space and light, in the emphasis that is drawn to the main characters, accents that are made on the stage, symbolism of objects or specific costumes, that often resemble carnival masks or modern parable-plays. “My world – is one of the theater” – says the artist. One must note couple things here. Theater is understood here as philosophical-romantic type symbioses, in which meditation is the solemn ruler. Besides broad images of nature, such as the landscape or depiction of animals, bursts into the conditionally scenic stage, thus by doing so these images change the scale and character of the painting. Sometimes this broader meaning appears when Lysakov comes to terms with traditional for art motifs, such as esthetics of a religion. These searches are very closely connected with complex and in recent years ever-changing relationship between exclusive and monumental in his art. Thus, these objects acquire the flexibility.
The night, lunar world of Lysakov’s art is filled with such images and intonations that give away the uniqueness of emotional collisions. One can not separate from this, the techniques of his style – passion for monochrome, growing dependency on metaphorical details and active monofigurative composition.
October 9th, 1996
Professor, Doctor of Modern Art Studies,
Vice President of Russian Institute of Art Studies