Can you help out an artist?

Visual arts are struggling through a crisis of ideas. The crisis is not the first one, obviously, but this time there’s a bit less hope that painting will survive, as there seem to be no crazy geniuses to push anything or anyone forward. No matisses, no picassos, no bacons, rothkos or pollocks. It seems everything has been invented, tried and tested, and artworks we see today are more or less a repetition or a combination of past tricks and treats.  

Of course, I have not seen everything. If there’s a sleeping innovative genius you’re aware of, drop me a link, please.

Most bad artist satisfy themselves with mimicking some great artist of the past. Most mediocre artists go for mixing a few great artists of the past into their own “unique” manner.  Today, I want to share paintings of a talented Russian artist (a little bit poisoned by ideology) who COULD DO SO MUCH BETTER.

I would love to hear your suggestions on what he could do better. The artist does not know about this blog, and I will pass your ideas on to him via a gallerist who is keen to invest into the guy’s promotion.

Let’s call the artist Boris, just like the London’s mayor.

What happens when you mix, stir and shake Malevich, Malyavin and a patchwork quilt?

These are the ingredients:

(a) Kazimir Malevich, who believed in the supremacy of colour

Malevich, Women in the Field

(b) Filipp Malyavin, who made a Russian peasant woman the icon of life:

Filipp Malyavin, The Whirlwind, 1906

Actually, it is a huge work that can’t be appreciated in a small format. So, let’s get a closeup on one of the whirlwinding ladies:

Malyavin, The Whirlwind, a fragment

(c) patchwork quilt

Now, if you mix (a), (b), and (c), you get a painting by Boris:

The Girl with a Sheaf

Why is Boris good?

  • Bold pure colours
  • Unusual, striking colour combinations
  • Nicely timed rhythm

The three “ingredients” energize viewers and are simply pleasant to watch.

In some paintings the artist juxtaposes forms to create a conflict from the paradoxical combination:

The Birch in a Rye Field

A gallerist may say Boris’ manner is recognisable, which is good for sales. Branding in the art world is just as important as in TV adverts.

What is not so good about Boris?

Boris’ ideology is dubious. Russia is not a fairytale bird with an olive branch orthodox cross in its beak:

The Soul of Russia

The soul of Russia is much more controvercial, and more interesting as well. It has a dark side too. Without showing the dark side, it is not possible to show the bright side convincingly. Boris’ paintings do not show the true Russia but are propaganda posters for a Russian patriot.

Boris also has a problem in the story-variety department. Once you’ve seen a few works, you get the impression you can’t discover anything new.

Good can come out of bad? 

Boris welds together the Orthodox Christianity and Slavic paganism with artistic avant garde (well, dated back to the early 20th c.). This is an unusual mix, at least in today’s Russia.

Now, there’s a gallery of Boris’ work to walk through.

Once you’ve gone through it, please, tell me which innovation or direction you can suggest for Boris to explore, follow, develop? 

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  1. My visceral reaction to this is “Russia, brought to you by the Izmailovo Vernisazh.” Not necessarily in a bad way, just…as you said, more like an ad campaign, emotionally-speaking.

      1. LOL I didnt mean the ‘lubok’ kind of paintings you can buy at Izmailovo, but the general…je ne sais quoi (I really am at loss for words) – sort of the way that Vernisazh presents the side of Russia that is bright and colorful, all matryoshkas and flowery shawls.
        PS – I have several lovely landscapes acquired there. Two autumnal, one early spring.

  2. You have identified the problem – it is indeed a problem of ideas – and when he’s got it right, like in Lovers, the piece becomes an instant favourite. Fixing this issue can be the hardest of all. Depends on the person and his depth, intelligence, sensitivity. Boris needs to be provoked, challenged, shaken – in a word, kicked out of the cheerful comfort zone he seems to be in. If he has what it takes, it will come out and all will fall in place in his work. Boris will know exactly which way to go – we cannot prescribe that for him.
    The mechanics: if ‘fixing Boris’ was my mission, I would befriend him, get under his skin, engage him in an argument, or even a fight, get him to hate me, love me, cry on my shoulder, kick me out, get drunk for a week, burn his old canvases… then start painting again.
    Draw blood directly from his heart – how’s that?

    1. I really don’t know if he can change. I’ve heard he was willing to listen. That already a big step for an established artist. We’ll see. I definitely won’t be the one to befriend him, but I would like to see him promoted and grown to a big (but well-deserved) name. Perhaps, he just needs a push in the general direction of searching for ideas and that could be – hopefully – enough. Thank you!

    2. I like looking and doing art for the FUN of it. I guess that’s why I was married 3 different times. I’m not much for the politics of art. I think a good book is titled “Steal Like an Artist”. The author claims there is no such thing as original art. Carl G. Mueller, Nam 1968
      I wonder it their is such a thing as original love? “Shades of Gray”?

      1. I am all for stealing, just like Picasso advised. I would support an artist who steals from other artists to create something new. I won’t stand behind borrowing meant to replicate another’s success )

        Thank you for your comment, I enjoyed your linking FUN and number of marriages )

  3. Though I like the pictures in general, for me personally – they look too active-positive, might be a bit scary even for the soul in depression ) I like the Lovers (itself or cause it resembles me another painting), the Girl and there is smth in the Apples for me. What I don’t like – people there look like they want to have a photo of their own, kinda ‘Me playing accordion’ ))

    1. Active-positive involvement is great, but it is not there, actually. When Boris dances you through the fields, you want to know, ultimately, why he is doing it. What is the final destination? What is the “vanishing point”? The lack of story can make this “active-positive” impression a bit, yes, scary. It’s like, “Thank you for sharing your picture of you playing the accordion, but I don’t really want to meet you” ))

      1. I meant rather not involvement, too positive/bright/colourful/optimistic. And yes, lack of story – I see the picture where he is playing the accordion but is there anything behind?..

  4. Nice work! I could not really suggest what “Boris” could develope or explore more, as you write Paganism and Christianity are well related in his work and he is not a young artist… But I would like to explore the story behind the scenes in my prefered one, “Lovers”, which gives me the feeling of something personal of him. The two of them in the empty field (the town and the horizon are settled very nice), why did they choose to go in such a place? They cannot hide even if they are away from the town… they belong to the society, they wear traditional clothes, but do the others know about their relationship or not? If they are rejected they could find a better place to hide their secret… Is it a happy story or a sad one? Real or imaginary? Is the male one “Boris” himself?

    1. Lovers is actually my favourite too. A simple open-ended story which is well-told is so much more convincing than a grand message blown out of proportion right into your face ))

  5. i like Boris’s work. “The girl with a Sheaf” the most. I like the way he/she uses too many colors and yet make them look harmonious. Boris can actually work on a theme and create series. i would love to be posted on what Boris is doing next. Thanks for sharing his/her work. Just one more thing, before you criticise today’s artists please understand that lot of prominent artists were discovered quite late in their careers. Their works were then analyzed and dissected and liked and loved by millions.

    1. Ana, thank you for your input! I never said I didn’t like Boris. His use of colours is that of a master. The problem is that colour mastery alone can’t sell him for more than 2 or 3 000 USD, and to justify the investment into his promotion he needs to sell at 10 to 30K. To become a big name, he needs to change. And to change, he needs to listen to others. And, of course I am rather well aware of art history when I am criticising an contemporary artist )) Thanks again, I am happy to see Boris’s work is liked!

    1. Yes, it does indeed ) because it doesn’t try to push you to “the most important element”, for there’s simple none. Instead it takes you to an unusual vanishing point located somewhere in the sky )

  6. Hmmm. I am wondering if Boris is a young artist. The works are lovely – lots of talent – but they seem not very, ah, PERSONAL somehow. Not intimate, like when the artist is telling you something about themselves, experiences they’ve had (often bad ones) through their art. I saw Picasso’s “Guernica” in Madrid. It came out of a horrible experience, of course, and some people absolutely HATE it, but you can’t see it and not be moved. I think the best art often draws on our strongest emotions.

    1. Thank you! A great insight. He is not young (this is worries me for he might be too set into his ways, though I’ve been assured he is not). Yes, the lack of intimacy is what makes these works unresonating decorative art. Nice to see, perhaps, even nice to watch, but not for long, and not often. And easy to forget. Now, the question is why there’s no intimacy in them. I think that happens because, as the previous commenter pointed out, there’s no story, hence no conflict, no drama that can be personally relevant. Only a conflict of forms, shapes, colours. These conflicts are nice to watch until they get repetitive, and, alas, most of them have been explored by Boris’ predecessors.

      Thanks again!

  7. Thanks for such a bright spot. Really needed it today. I would say that story-telling should be developed. Number 9 and number 6 are better… There is a story in Lovers, who are happy to be alone in the field (which Google Pictures recognizes as a football field only), and are most likely rejected by the People and the Orthodox Church somewhere there, where everybody else lives, stays, eats, shits, makes love and etc. And there is a story in My Muses, which inevitably reaches you in the next 3 milliseconds, when these mastodons hit you with their “sanis” at a huge speed and brake both your legs and possibly give you a fracture of 4-5 ribs. The only relieving thought is that you are going to end up with your nose stuck luckily between the breasts of Muse #1. But it is bittered by a perspective of continuous injuries delivered by the fellow-friend of the Muses.

    1. Yes, great thought, thank you! I agree that the artistic (colour/shape) conflict turns out to be a dud unless it revolves around a drama-type conflict of ideas, relationships, etc. and the latter can only be a product of a story. It is not possible to wound by a dud round!

It would be grand to hear from you now!

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