Psycho-plastics experiments

Alexander Balashov, Art critic, Curator
About ingenuity. Sketches to a theme.

The works of Michael Novokshchenny are experiments in psycho-plastics; it is possible that they exist in the area that borders on thecultural complex of magic reality with its narrative spell, developed symbolism and even propensity for utilizing totemism; but in them there is neither a declaration, nor an adhesion to shamanism; the predominate feature in these works is the intention to enable the artistic act to show through as fully as possible and to free it, to separate it from the artist’s body and conscious; in this practice the action, the time when a work is created, is the most important stage; the picture itself is only animprint or consequence, the trace of an artistic event.

These paintings are about the origin of art, about the fact that art is a place and, at the same time, a tool for changing reality. That is, they are about mankind, trying to create and discover in him thosesame realities that he once attributed to the one and only creator of the world; but now there is no other creator, no one but man himself. Creation becomes the grounds for his return to the threshold of language, to the origins of art and, simultaneously, to the threshold of ritual; something significant appears here, transcending the author’s text, but the very pattern of the textreturns to a condition boarding on the absence of language. Itreminds one of that which was done by gods and by those people, who became gods in the descriptions of the new age, or at the veryleast, became the idols of art history.

Cultural reminiscences intertwine and snarl together into a single knot; contemplations about man in the act of creation, who has taken on the powers of the creator of the world, merge with the reference to traditional cultural practices; he talks about the fact that art can be limited by registering the existence of various forms of life, that it can speak about these forms, becoming anillustration in the album of a naturalist engaged in studies of wildlife forms, but at the same time in this theme the artist seeslinks to natural impulses and orgiastic acts, in which resonates the echo of ancient spirit of profane rites.  

The artist works with action in which spontaneity prevails and artistic gesture isn't substantial; sometimes it’s as though he agrees that the potential of the artistic act far surpasses the author’s intentions; he speaks about the freedom of artistic action, from which a person is born; that is, he refers to those cultural eventsthat are comprehended, but aren't memorized; maybe these are forgotten or discontinued practices; he says that a person should constantly rediscover the meanings of these actions, always anew, for each time, for each epoch, and, maybe, for each human life because when the cultural sense becomes the norm, it turns into a fiction, it doesn't live. And only if cultural practices lose therepresentation skills that have been brought to the point ofautomation will they revert to open dialogue about the past and the present of art. It doesn’t matter what language art speaks in, whether it chooses language of new technologies or of traditional painting techniques; the message content is what’s important.

The artist begins a conversation about this with a myth; he tells stories of moths appearing from formlessness and ugliness.During their development, butterflies pass through a stagedescribed by the majority of people as disgusting, creeping away larva; then for the external world they die; they cease to be what they were and then are called pupa, in other words look-likes, and only then do they regenerate, becoming other beings. They are referred to differently. Passage through death, through the process of dying, finding a new name and being reborn for a new life – that is the basic metaphor of a person’s spiritual path in esoteric practices, his rebirth for spiritual life. Does the artist contemplateit? Certainly.
But the more important question is: what happens to the modern person? Should he resemble those descriptions given to him by thescience of the end of the twentieth century? Or does the question of his identity always remain open, for every time, place and circumstances of his personal history? Should he learn how to enunciate the text that we have reached the end of history, art is dead and pictorial art was left behind in the nineteenth century, orshould his art, not limited by the format of the entertainment industry and is not concentrated on illustrating political events, become a space in which man and his ways of relating to the world, that is, the forms of his manifestation in the world, change?

In the following works the artist peers into the natural ornaments on the wings of insects – and finds in them images and compositions of academic painting; it is as though he re-connects the language of human culture with the incoherent, but wonderfulmuttering of the nature and at the same time emphasizes the difference between them; his works don't gain independence, they do not live, they do not only fail to become themselves, and do not simply carry the imprint of their creator’s identity: rather, they are him; his movements, his mistakes and success, his creations are hehimself; and just as the moths created by the artist are the artisthimself, maybe the whole of nature is one creative genesis, of which humanity is a part?

It’s not that a person discovers the formula for beauty or the art formula; from humanity formulas, from precepts, the artist getsback to a first-hand experience of finding himself, recognition andnascence, to comprehending that culture is a complexintertwinement, a whole cosmos of ties between events, where each event is a birth of meanings and a reversion to humanity; reversions and births make a cultural complex of creativity.

The new generation of artists to which Michael Novokshchennybelongs has a remarkable quality: this generation refuses to support the point of view of contemporary culture as a closed and self-contained system doomed to self-reflections. New artists readart history and do not find a place in it for themselves, so they start all over again and again follow the path of trial and error, among the streams of fashionable culturological theories, eachreplacing the other, they find support in themselves, in their understanding of the world and its sensations; so they again force to speak about a body as a scale, a material and an art tool.

These are pictures about the fact that art is experienced by a manas his own living body, that art has become a person’s body andhis modern guise.

Is this pictorial art? More likely, it is an eruption of material; asplash of that which is going to become a work of art and choosesa person’s body to ripen in, only then to break off and change intoyet one more another: the stranger, into new irrecognizability; such a behavior could be called exalted, but there is neitherdevotion nor conformity in it; only release from obligations owed to norms of artistic expression.