A dialogue between a painter and
an art critic

Aleksey Boyko Article from a catalogue for the Vladimir Zagorov exhibition in
the State Russian Museum, Saint-Petersburg, year 1997
A. B.:

In which way are connected your "life in life" and "life in art"?


V. Z.:

One day a feeling came upon me that in life, as well as in art, it is important to maintain a certain natural state. It is difficult to explain. What’s this, really? It’s much easier to perceive it by senses. The grass swinging by the wind is quite natural — it can't swing in a different way — to the other side, for example. There is no place for unnatural phenomena in unconscious organic world. Perhaps this is a question of its biological property. I simply try to seek for the essence of vibration and swaying of this life by the wind. In any case, natural course of reactions, of work on the whole, have become to me means of measuring of my attitude towards a lot of things.

...Well, life is so varied in its forms that it is difficult for me to be, so to say, an artist of one direction. It turns out that I work, alternating abstract and figural canvases. Such way of working comes out to be quite natural for me at present.

...I am often asked: we know your figural pictures, don’t you work in such manner any longer? Sometimes I hear a certain regret in this question: why have you left this field? And in no way can I understand: where does such regret come from? What’s wrong? What is the source of anxiety? What would you say as regards this?


A. B.:

Well, you've caught me, I should confess! Though I myself would never formulate such question with regret, at the same time if I knew for sure that you would never create a figural work or, supposing, this way of working would be closed to you as a matter of principle, I would feel some regret. Why? For one thing, you've got simply excellent canvases in your figural painting, I should say, you have a definite niche of your own in modern art and I don't think I can say from my position as an observer that this direction is exhausted for you. On the other hand, today being an abstractionist means having a kind of visiting — card, that gives an opportunity of getting into beau-monde. And it always seemed to me that nobody could ever interpret your art as an idle-talk or even a popular craze.

Nevertheless, I am convinced that your abstract canvases — and I am fond of many of them — have been created owing to your sincere, intrinsic need for such works.

Painting is the most adequate, natural way of realization of your inner world for you. At the same time, during the last five years in your work have appeared some creations that no longer exist within the bounds of traditional fine arts.


V. Z.:

An object or collage turned out to be such an interesting material, spontaneous, alive (though the things themselves have survived their usefulness), such part of life that can exist irrespective of my knowledge.


A. B.:

While creating your objects you yourself appear in the role of an organizer of life of all those things but not as their constructor, don't you?


V. Z.:

Sometimes displacements happen within such short distances, insignificant diapasons that it is difficult, in fact, to call the process organization". It's rather a kind of "joint work". The first thing to come to mind: chess; just like there every figure in my canvases needs specific conditions for existence, I simply can't place it to the position that is not suitable for it. Perhaps such attitude arises from my incomprehension of what I am to do with all these things, so long as they have come into my possession, at least I fail to understand the depths of incentive that makes me devote myself to them. When I start working with the objects, a certain timidity falls upon me: I have a strong desire to feel what would the things themselves like to become?


A. B.:

There are lots of very beautiful stones, glass — made forms in your atelier, all of them being distinguished for their special plasticity. Have you got any, so to say, form — likings in our objective world?


V. Z.:

In general, I'm interested in all variety of forms, but the method of "long rolling", let it be called in this way, the method, that one can easily find in nature, is very congenial with me. (By "long rolling" I mean long, persistent work of wind, water over stones, for example. I enjoy contemplating results of such work). That is why wish for working in sculpture becomes more and more vital to me: I want to deal with stone, as in spite of my occupation with painting and drawing there is some unrealized creative force inside me.


A. B.:

How would you define criterions of professionalism as applied to the objects? And. on the other hand, do you think that such kind of art can be amateurish?


V. Z.:

Well, of course it can, like in other fields of art. But nevertheless there is definite aesthetics in the process of work over the objects. There occur difficulties of technical character: you have to think about connecting things between themselves, about transitional elements, which, in their turn, bring into being quite a new quality. And it is here that one understands whether an artist has had an experience of delicate sensations or not. You can take a porcelain fragment and attach it to any plane with the help of a rough string... And anyone who is keen on such kind of things can easily see: whether these objects have been made by professional, experienced in subtle senses or by dilettante, not knowing the essential qualities of many materials and things.


A. B.:

What do you think: should spectators scrutinize the objects, contact with them somehow not in the same manner as with pictorial works?


V. Z.:

Certainly. Watching myself I have noticed that when I come to my studio I feel a necessity to stay beside my collages for a long time, perceiving their inner beauty somehow slowly. But, perhaps, a spectator feels in a different way than I do. My contacts with painting are more dynamic, of course; sometimes I have a wish to come nearer to a canvas, then to move back from it or to go along pictorial line. And perhaps it is necessary that at an exhibition there should be a distance between painting and objects, since these spheres are very different: one can run along the earth but not along the water.


A. B.:

Can we expect that your interest towards the objects will afterwards occupy a main part in your art?


V. Z.:

I don't think so, because at present painting remains for me the only possible way of expressing my sensations and ideas. There is nothing at all that could replace painting.


A. B.:

That is, you have no impression that all the paths in painting and in broad sense — in creative work on the whole are exhausted, that everything has been invented, depicted, and expressed already?


V. Z.:

Not in the least. On the contrary, I am fully aware of the fact that there were, there are and there will be such things in this life that could not be fulfilled by anybody else but me and since I've got quite normal, physically healthy body and experienced soul. I intend to carry out my destination. I believe that even while working with traditional materials one can enrich one’s experience by sensitive touchings.


A. B.:

Creative work, as you understand it, requires special moral and mental concentration: would you mind my asking whether you have, let's say, "safety measures", vocational psychology, permitting you to get rid of trivialities, at least for the period of working?


V. Z.:

Here we come to a topic that is very popular nowadays. There is such a word as prayer in ordinary language. By prayer I mean the words, with which I appeal to Something, living inside me, or having been created outside me, ... and the will of which makes me live.


A. B.:

Does it really help you to turn towards work whatever your state of mind might be?


V. Z.:

In general, it is true. I myself believe in prayer, and many people, having experienced tragic senses and states confirm that it helps to go out from extreme situations and serious dead-locks. It concerns not only creative work but life on the whole.


A. B.:

Can we formulate it, as follows: your emotional experience from imperfect and at times even tragic reality is embodied at your figural painting, while your abstract art displays a search for happiness and longing for it?


V. Z.:

For the most part it comes out to be true but I would say it happens unwittingly. I can’t remember any lucid moments or joyful tones in my figural canvases, generally speaking. But there is serenity in my abstract things instead.