Andrey Belov: “Art is salvation from death”.
Andrey Belov is an outstanding phenomenon in modern art, an artist extremely sensitive to the surrounding world and answering its calls. The concept of his creative life is to a great extent an alternative to the sentiments and beliefs of today’s artistic milieu mainly aimed at obtaining success. He is absolutely nonconformist in his art, while in his life he is indifferent to publicity, promotion and economic well-being.
Andrey Belov is closed on his work, deeply immersed in his creative activities — all the rest within the everyday household context is mostly illusive for him, neither really interesting nor important. That is how his value system is organized. It does not mean at all that he takes little interest in the world around us. On the contrary, he is concentrated on the most dramatic and painful problem of our time — the possible loss of individuality, when a person loses his or her free, thinking self in a standardized living space of the universal globalization epoch. The inertial passive existence of the majority of people, brainwashed by the ideology of “happiness” of the consumerist society, deprived of their “agency” and turned into imitation, empty signs (simulacra), was defined as “an anthropological catastrophe” of our days by the philosopher Merab Mamardashvili. This idea became the key message of many Andrey Belov’s artworks. A person shall choose whether “to be” or “to exist”, to resist consciously the deadly simoom of life or to surrender limply to this scorching fatal desert wind, riding its waves in a thoughtless oblivion. Ethical and social aspects of art are very important for the artist. In his works “Simoom” (1991); “Theorem” (1995); “Till it hurts you are alive” (2014), “The time of the wolf” (2014); “King” (2016) Andrey Belov conveys the confusion and pain of a person, finding himself or herself in a situation conditioned by powers, which take trust, ability to think, to act and, finally, to live away.
Andrey Belov perceives art as a revolt against the way things are and as salvation from death, as a confrontation with death. Art allows a person to despise the unavoidable finiteness of life and knowingly take actions and choose the way of life obeying only personal will and targeting. This is the only case, when the declaration: “I exist”, - keeps sounding in the universe of historical memory even after the physical disappearance of a person from the material world.
This idea is developed in the series of Andrey Belov’s pictures titled “Immortal”, 2018 (“Picasso”, “Dali”, “Warhol”). However, the artist’s conclusions and estimates are controversial, far from being optimistic. There is something disturbing, even frightening in the expressionistic interpretation of images: the portraits of the great troublemakers, Enfants Terribles of the art of the XX century on a compositional level overlay the depiction of their skulls. In Christian tradition, a skull belongs to the basic matrix of the symbols of death, at the same time in the history of the world culture from the earliest times it has often been viewed as a habitation of soul, a hub of the sacred power, protecting a human being. The given meaning of these symbols is very important for Belov. However, their pathos and grandeur in his works are rather refracted through the lens of the retreating postmodern perspective. It is very difficult for a present day person to overcome irony and become totally absorbed by romantic moods. This results in vacillation between cynicism and idealism, destructive denial and faith. Addressing the forerunners of the art of the XXI century, Andrey Belov managed to express in his works a contemporary artist’s perception of the world, manifesting itself as an ambivalent attitude to the subjects of interpretation. The portrayed faces are gravely concentrated, their intent and interrogative looks are fixed on the viewer. At the same time, empty eye pits and mocking grins of the skulls form a deliberate disharmony of severe restrain and spiritual completeness of the portrayed images. Moreover, each skull is provided with easily recognizable flamboyant elements of their owners’ images: Dali’s famous moustache, Picasso’s “eternal” cigarette, Warhol’s eccentric gray-haired wig, which he wore from a young age. Tragedy and buffoonery are perpetual companions of the Artist in the travel through time and space, through death and resurrection.
The pictures from the series “Real Time” (2012−2018): “Zero time”, “Sunrise”, “Midday”, “Sunset”, “Night” – are probably the most balanced among Andrey Belov’s works. They contain more light, more hope. As compared to the monochromaticism of earlier works, based mostly on the dramatic contrast of light and shadow (bright rays of light like a lightning strike take the fragments of faces and torsos of the artist’s tragic heroes out of darkness), in this series Belov submerges in the spatial heat haze of light, air, colour. Resembling impressionists, but pursuing different goals and using a different brushwork, he paints the same motif and, changing the coloristic solution, fills it with various feelings, states, images. It is not a specific landscape, it is rather some metaphysical space associated with the space of a human soul. Here we perceive the purity of an incipient new life – a new day, a new time, here the rustling refreshing rain is falling down and the sun rays are striking through the thickness of clouds, here the irrationally cold light, resembling the moon light, is slightly chilling one’s heart and raising the soul.
The Chinese artist Yu Wei well known in his native country as a calligraphy master working in the style “Shu Fa” took part in the implementation of the project “Real time”. The phenomenon of the Chinese calligraphy is that it is not only a language, a mode of communication, but also a tool for expressing an artist’s inner world, feelings and thoughts. The historians of the Chinese culture note that Shu Fa calligraphy is a high art, revealing the all-embracing unity of the world extremes, which can bring human souls to revival and inspiration. Sophisticated in the beauty of their linear structure and coloristic solutions Yu Wei’s hieroglyphs-compositions blend seamlessly into the figurative space of Belov’s pictures, become the objects of aesthetic pleasure; reinforce the philosophical message of the works. Each hieroglyph has a certain meaning, conveys a state of the author’s soul, responding to the impulses that emanate from the pictures. The harmonious creative union of two artists in these works resembles a musical polyphony, which allows two voices to develop the same idea remaining self-sufficient and combining in the unity of a higher order.
The project “Real Time” keeps working out the mainstream ideological line of Andrey Belov’s art — resistance to the standardization of a human personality. The problem is described from an unexpected perspective – the artist dedicated his work to the theme of an “individual handwriting” in the broadest sense of this phenomenon: an individual handwriting of different cultural and language systems in the space of the modern world, an individual handwriting of the Artist, a handwriting of an ordinary person in everyday life. Belov considers this theme very important and acute due to the fact that today many national languages face the danger of extinction being involved in the process of worldwide globalization. Digital technologies marginalize classical handmade arts in the context of modern culture; we practically stopped using handwriting, which is one of the main elements of human individuality.
In the situation of the growing ecological and anthropological catastrophe, fatigue with technologization, publicity terror, conveying belt and simulacra Belov refuses to participate in global consumption. He prefers to think and act independently relying on the principles of individuality and creative moral as on a personal revelation. He is confident and consistent in his beliefs regardless of the fact that today it is not the most promising strategic business plan.
Olga Kovalenko, Art History PhD