alexey and

“There are things given not by earthly skills by some invisible force. Time passes by – and you are surprised: ‘Was that you who made it, or not?’

Aleksei And’s plotline is dissolved in high spirituality. I think that the plot is illustration. And concerning spirituality – it is the highest manifestation, and not everyone could succeed in creating in that manifestation.

I know Aleksei And well, as a professional, as a master – a master of drawing, a master of painting and composition. Elements of professionalism as craft disappear in his creative works – and real art begins. That’s what Aleksei And – my favorite pupil – possesses”.

Nikolay Storozhenko,
Professor, academician of National Art Academy of Ukraine,
People’s Artist,
Laureate of the State Shevchenko Prize of Ukraine.

Associative Symbolism

Aleksei And is a Ukrainian artist who had first used the notion of ‘associative symbolism’ in the context of contemporary painting.

Vyacheslav Ivanov uses that notion in the literature of the already past century while referring to the creative work by Innokentiy Annenskiy and describing it as a poetics of vagueness and allusion.

For Aleksei And, associative symbolism becomes the ground for the world outlook and the foundation for art creativity. Using different techniques, light-color variations, he avoids both clear lines and designations of objects, faces and silhouettes almost in all of his works. We peer at a topic through the haze created by the artist, which enables harmonious unity of all sense elements of a painting. The author does not indicate, – he hints; he puts three dots instead of a period; and absolutely not by accident, but quite consciously, he provokes us into participating in the process of co-creation, urges on producing new and new associations not limited by stereotypes and conventionality. And wants to deviate from the templates of traditional symbols’ understanding and to shift the emphases from pre-designation to multiple meaning, poly-dimensionalities, giving a spectator complete freedom as to own interpretations of what he or she observes.

While trying to analyze that phenomenon on a philosophical level, let us single out several vectors in the artist’s creative work that would enable us to construct an integral picture of the substantial essence of associative symbolism, like a mosaic pattern.

The first vector has metaphorical name –

«In Search for Interrelation»

Dialectical unity and struggle of the opposites – traditions and innovations – incessantly stimulates the process of creative search that does not give the author a possibility to rest on his laurels and urges on new and new experiments, so that there are now paintings appearing with the use of installations – three-dimensional elements harmonically included into the subject of the painting. Installations enable even further involvement of a spectator into the process of ‘play’ with free associations, as one person would associate mysterious details hanging on threads in the painting ‘In Search for Interrelation’ with ancient scrolls containing answers for the questions on the sense of our existence, and other person would see them as a spindle weaving the threads of
human conclusions. And mysterious little sacks on the painting ‘Homo! Sapiens?’ that have different inner contents – from coins to paper notes – blow up in our imagination with the whole series of diverse and different senses. Somebody sees them as a mysterious essence of each of us hidden behind the dense envelope of the ‘little sack’ – our body, and somebody has that associative array moving in other direction. To each his own.

In the author’s judgment, it is the series of works using installations that as much precisely as possible reflects the artist’s notion of ‘associative symbolism’, and those works reveal original author’s hand different from everything else already created in the field of symbolism.

The second vector

‘Keepers of antiquity’

It reflects the author’s intention toward the search for his origins and the search for himself in the mazes of time, the search for the lost culture and spirituality. It is not by accident that in his student years Aleksei travels to cities – centers of the Slavic culture of the Ancient Rus’, trying to discover the secrets of the old church art, to feel the energy emanating from the frescoes of ancient temples, and as a result a monumental canvas is born – ‘Ancient Rus’. It becomes energetic penetration, spiritual unity with the unique epoch of the past. It is a beholding of the essence, a way out of the margins of historical schemes and templates; it is materialization of the spirit of those ages. And the selection of painting technique is not random – it is encaustic (literally – the art of burning) known already in the ancient Egypt (3rd millennium B.C.). The cohesive substance for paints is beeswax that enables the effect of the so-called ‘fluorescence’. That technique had been used by ancient masters, and that’s the technique many early Christian icons are painted with. Encaustic joined by oil paints allowed the author to create the impression of non-materiality of the observed; symbolical images become conductors enabling the connection between the two worlds: the material and the spiritual. The author tries to penetrate into the very essence of phenomena and to see the unseen, to depict what cannot be depicted. He proceeds from forms to deeper layers, to the essence; his look pierces the visible that loses its clear outlines in the pictures and dissolves itself in the inner. Prophetic visions, biblical stories become the leitmotif of many creations by the author.

After creating such indicative works as ‘Ancient Rus’ and ‘Fatality’, Aleksei And develops his own author’s style that unites the technique of ancient Russian tempera painting, multilayered glazing used already by the founder of oil painting Jan van Eyck, and encaustic. That approach is used to create such works
as ‘The Herald’, ‘Samson’, ‘John the Apostle’, ‘The Tale of Boris and Gleb’, ‘The Keeper of Symbols’, ‘Saint George the Victorious’, etc.

However that does not put an end to the search for new ways of creative realization. Beside canvases, Aleksei And begins to use new material – wood. Old board that happened to be in the artist’s workshop by coincidence, started, as he said, to ‘dictate’ to the artists the story ‘laid’ in it – the author had only to take a good look at its structure and, while obeying the inner vision, to recreate the ‘seized’ story. Thus, ‘The Keeper of Seals’, ‘The Keeper of Antiquity’, and ‘Thirty pieces of silver’ were born. One thing remains unchanged for the author – he speaks the language of symbols with us, just half-opening the veil of other reality and allowing us to observe and to guess, to ponder and to complete the row of new senses.

The third vector

‘Symphony of Earthly Structures’

Universal harmony, the unity of senses, and general interrelation are being born symbolically in the meditative sounding of the painting series – ‘Symphony of Earthly Structures’. Immersing ourselves into the contemplation of those canvases, we start to feel ourselves as a part of the world living by measure according to the laws of the Universe. Galactic pulsations that illume the world by their unearthly glow give birth to mystical feminine images in the author’s imagination – symbols of eternal womanhood and beauty embodied in such works as ‘Pulsation Alpha’, ‘Pulsation Beta’, ‘Pulsation Gamma’, ‘Immersion into the Unconscious’. That world or dreams and visions – a dream unresolved – discloses us the sphere of the unconscious that arises out of Freud’s psychoanalysis in absolutely new way, moving up to the new level of quality that could not be reduced to physiology.

It becomes the unconscious of a higher order, the unconscious that contains not only our suppressed desires and drives, animal instincts and fears, but a sphere that helps human to discover the unearthly, the divine.

The search for the universal harmony is unthinkable without the idea of wandering, pilgrimage, the idea of eternal search for oneself in the mazes of the past, the present, and the future. Who are we? Where do we come from and where are we going? That’s the theme reflected in canvases ‘A Snowstorm’, ‘A Wanderer’, ‘A Passerby’. Each of the heroes goes to one’s goal by own way, but all of them are driven by the one thing – ‘the search for interrelation’.
‘The search for interrelation’ is what all creative work by Aleksei And is directed toward – his ‘associative symbolism’ that helps the artists to comprehend the essence of the world and to half-open the veil of mystery and to approach the knowledge of the spiritual by referring to his origins, to the wisdom of our ancestors. His creative work reflects the inimitable originality of our culture and calls to turn to eternal values not subject to spirit of the times and momentary conjuncture.

Svetlana Stoyan,
Ph.D. in Philosophy

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