In the painting “Insomnia” by Belarusian artist Konstantin Voronov, the world of the bedroom smoothly spreads into the outer landscape of the city. Pillows and drawers form a line, like buildings erected one after another, a bed is a piece of ground on water. Another artwork—“Invention of the Wheel”—shows a lonely brooding figure in a desert, with just a tyre for companion. Then there’s “Noon at Summer”, in which it is difficult to distinguish between a roof and a road.
“Undoubtedly, any art, any style in art can convey the inner world of the artist,” writes Konstantin. “But my tool, my method is surrealism. The power of surrealism is that it breaks the mind. Unexpected combinations of familiar objects create a picture before which the mind exclaims: ‘That cannot be!’ For a moment, the mind is confused, it stops, moves away. And at this moment, the truth breaks into the foreground, and I can make the viewer feel what I feel.”
Konstantin began drawing animals, landscapes and still lifes early as a child. The encounter with the work of Salvador Dalí was a real shock. He tells: “At that time, there was no Internet. In the USSR, we didn’t even have colour catalogs with pictures. But I had a slide projector, which, with the help of a lamp, projected an image from films on the wall. One of my classmates had about 20-30 slides with pictures of Dalí and Magritte.
“When I first saw the images on the ceiling at the age of 13 or 14, something seemed to turn upside down in me. The paintings touched something deep, something that had been silent before. There was a feeling that I had already seen the plots of these paintings before, a long time ago, so long ago that even remembering them was unrealistic. I could not remember where I had seen them, but the feeling that I knew these places did not leave me.”
The feeling of having seen stories before, for the painter, is a feeling of unity with infinity, with eternity. And the force that attracts us and makes this unity possible is a power that is beyond the visible world. This force is sometimes strong and sometimes weak, but it pulls and calls to each person.
“As a child, we often catch these moments of unity with eternity when we are left alone with ourselves in some abandoned house,” Konstantin continues, “or on a construction site or in a field, or we glance at the sun setting through the window glass, or in silence we look at the embers of the burning fire. With age, the routine of life drags us on, these moments become weaker and shorter, and, in the end, they disappear from our perception. One day, at the age of 25, I noticed that I had not had these moments for a year. I became empty and uncomfortable without them. I do not know why, maybe they heard my longing and returned.”
Art, says Konstantin, should evoke these very moments. It must open the door and let in something from another world that is closed to us in ordinary life. “Let us touch a sixth sense of eternity,” he writes, “something great, infinite, different. Something totally strange, and at the same time, painfully familiar. This should be the task of not only painting but also poetry, stories, novels and music. For all of these forms are berries of a single field.”
If the task of Art consists only in the blind imitation of Nature, let’s betray to the fire all the picture galleries and replace them with photo studios. Precisely because Art reveals what Nature hides, the artist’s modest canvas is more expensive than all the riches of millionaires and the treasures of kings. If you only imitate the visible Nature, you will produce either a corpse, that is, a soulless scheme, or ugliness. Truth lives in what is hidden beyond the visible and tangible. O Poet, O Artist, when you set the mirror to Nature, do you think that Nature will be pleased with your work? Rather, she will turn away from it. What do you think she sees in your mirror? Herself? No, just a lifeless silhouette and reflection, a vague resemblance. You must grasp the innermost soul of Nature, you must eternally seek the truth in its external manifestation, and this will not show in any mirror, neither to you, nor to the one you want to know.
Vincent van Gogh:
What is drawing? How does one learn it? It is working through an invisible iron wall that seems to stand between what one feels and what one can do. How is one to get through that wall—since pounding against it is of no use? One must undermine the wall and drill through it slowly and patiently, in my opinion.
Konstantin Voronov is based in Minsk.
Images used with permission.