BELARUSIAN | interview | 2.04.2020
Our interview hero is artist Alexandr Domanov. Chrysalis Mag talked to him about a personal exhibition, contacts with the audience, the influence of other artists and the necessity of education.
– How can you define the main theme of your work?
– I don’t have one specific topic. There is a series of art pieces which I devise — I take a specific idea or a theme and develop it. What happens very often is that having just an image is not enough to start working. After finishing something I don’t tie it to a concrete topic or philosophy, I don’t wrap it in a specific idea.
If we talk about the main topics for art — the range is not that big. Some of the works related to biblical topics are the ones that artists have always been interested in. I follow the same path but am trying to find my own face.
Christian theme is close to me. I try not to make mystical or other similar things. There are often combinations of images in my works — artists who have already lived and my own new images. It turns out in a way that these artists are placed in a new environment. This topic is quite popular at the moment, although I have gradually moved away from it.
"Dedicated to Mom"
Alexandr Domanov born on October 29, 1981 in Minsk, Belarus.
2000 г. — graduated from Minsk Art Lyceum №26;
2000 – 2006 — studies at the Belarusian State Academy of Arts (department of monumental and decorative art);
2006 – 2010 — State Educational Institution “Creative Academic Workshops of Painting, Sculpture and Graphics” (painting department).
Since 2014, a member of the Belarusian Union of Artists.
All materials are taken from the official site and personal sources of the artist.
Reprinting of material is allowed only with the permission of the publisher.
English translation: Aliaksandra Jurgenson
– Do you stick to a specific style in pictorial art? Is it important to you?
– I don’t think that I do. But it seems to me that I’m a hostage to certain things because an artist doesn’t really choose what he should strive for (if it’s not a commercial gain, of course), he rather has a potential and he seeks to develop it. Unable to jump over himself, he tries as much as possible to work in a way that he sees and feels it, and according to the opportunities he has. He relies on his specific aesthetic tastes; his gut and inner development often dictate and that’s how he models. He cannot even refuse a certain palette, technical aspects, and it is not so easy to change them with his own desire.
On the other hand, I graduated from the department of Monumental painting of the Belarusian State Academy of Arts and we studied many techniques related to how one material differs from another. One technique has one range, the other has another one. You see why oil painting is formed in this way, why, let’s say, graphic materials have a range they have and what are the advantages of all this.
I often had to work with different materials and different volumes in terms of format, but now I have switched to oil painting, doing completely diverse things, developing in this sphere. Due to the fact that I am a conservative, I study a lot and often look at what has been created over a long period of time. I didn’t come up with it myself, but I’m trying to understand — why this was done exactly in this way, in this vein — I mean artists who have been doing this for generations.
There are things that I’m trying to understand, there are things that I don’t understand, I don’t know how to do, and, basically, I realise how much more complicated this is than I can ever imagine. But as I said — you are still a hostage to certain skills, desires and passions. They influence you. Why? I don’t think that this question can be answered unambiguously, whether it is my merit, or part of how I was formed.
– What artists influenced you?
– Different artists have been influencing my work at different times. It becomes a whole baggage — even those artists who I don’t like influence me. Or the dominance of certain styles, trends that are out there now — I can disagree with them but at the same time, want it or not, you see what’s in the mainstream, and even if it’s not your cup of tea, it still affects you. Once again you are convinced that you are interested in doing what you are doing by things that are far from that.
There used to be people whose heights were almost impossible to achieve, and despite the emergence of many different technologies, it’s difficult for us to plunge into their atmosphere, to do what they do, to be afraid to imitate them, to be a copyist, like them — there’s little chance that this will happen. It will be a lot of superficial work copied purely technically, but filled with something completely different.
For centuries, in every era, there were people who formed the pictorial art so much that they can’t be ignored. But to name them is, on the one hand, already battered, on the other, a lot of things that you dint suspect influence it, even those things that are not close to you.
– Your work’s scrupulousness and detail-orientation can be well noted. How long does the creation of an art piece take from a technical point of view?
– I work almost every day, “weekends” don’t mean anything. Work schedule depends on my free time — the more time I have, the more of it I spend on creating. Then a pattern develops: all your time is free time. Even your loved ones begin to take your whims over time.
Over time one art piece started taking 2-3 months, but this doesn’t mean that it’s ongoing all the time. I work on three to five/six creations simultaneously. The oil takes a long time to dry and while you are working on one thing, you can use almost the entire canvas using technical techniques. While one canvas dries (it takes several days), the next day you need to write another one. In any case, there shouldn’t be a lot of them at the same time, so that you don’t lose interest in work.
There is a thing that happens when you are working on a big and a small canvas at the same time. It doesn’t take as much time, as is the difference between them - it can differ ten times, but it takes twice as much time.
What else the work depends on is that often I don’t have an exact idea of what I should lead it to. I don’t formulate a specific thought or a vision from the beginning to the end, sometimes even the topic itself changes in the process. When it’s formulated in one way, I no longer need to add anything, everything is clear to me. Then I usually leave it.
The main thing is that in my head it coincides with what is on my canvas. As you create, your attitude towards the image and canvas can change, you yourself become a different person, and this work and the idea itself will no longer be of great interest to analyse. Considering that I don’t think over it too much and the process itself is important to me, so the project can be redone several times. Often when it already seems to me that it's time to finish, I understand that the project is not relevant or the topic itself tells what needs to be changed.
– You have been painting since childhood. Are there any art pieces that you could call your very first, professional and completely finished?
– I have a family of artists on the maternal and paternal side in several generations. I’ve studied in an art school, then in the Academy, attended creative workshops... And it always seemed to me that you make good art work during those periods of study and work. Time passes and you perceive it as just a student's work, and later as nothing at all. I came to a realisation: will the things that I’m doing now be relevant in the future?
In the last couple of years I have gained a more accurate understanding of what I can deal with, and what I am not very ready to get involved in, spend time or money on. For me, the most important thing is whether it will have a financial component or hype among the public. This tells me that what I do is really important to me. Over the past five years, these things are much more interesting to me. Although when I look at my earlier works, they have a different quality that I can describe in a positive way as a bit bolder, freer, less far-fetched.
You can always find good aspects, see the potential, or vice versa — something worth working on further.
– You mentioned professional education. Was it important to you to get your degree?
– Yes, I believe that in certain spheres one should master the craft. Not so much by though — many people can criticize the technical part because it prevails over other things important for art. A lot of communication with people at the Academy who are older was Important for me. It was like a bowl of salad in which you are being mixed with others and you see a lot at once. Moreover, you perceive a lot of people as an authority — fellow students, people who are older than you, graduates of the Academy.
In creative workshops it was important to me that I have a place to work at — artists like Savitsky were not indifferent to pupils, students and graduate students. On the one hand, he was a great authority, on the other — he was not as oppressive as was often said about him. The very facts that you participate in a workshop, you are not alone, you have a lot of free time, you are young... Moreover, you haven’t been unpaid — you were given a scholarship. Also a gradual release from the bonds of university — you don’t immediately plunge into the space where you lack something, need to earn money right away and accept the first option that you get.
In any case, education makes a difference. Interesting story of how I got to the department of MDA (Monumental and decorative art): I wanted to go to the department of painting, but in the end I went to MDI, not knowing what it was. Fate itself influenced that — the atmosphere in the department where people study a lot of technical things helps to understand more than one direction and to say “I am an expert in a specific range of topics”, although for this you need to know much more so that you can compare.
– How important is contact with the audience to you? How often do you participate in exhibitions?
– It’s more difficult for me than for many other artists. I am not a completely open person. I often say to myself that the viewer is not important to me because I work for myself, but it’s my character speaking — I doubt it while putting my work in front of the audience. I show both its best sides and its shortcomings. I have a compromise between fear and the desire to show my work anyway — people must see what that you make.
The artist needs to come to terms with it — there is such a thing as an exhibition where you need to show your work and it’s a certain part of the kitchen. I try to show my art pieces at group exhibitions, where there is a fairly large number of people attending. After graduating from the Academy, I had only one major solo exhibition and therefore, this year will be important for me. Soon there will be a large exhibition which is a special event for me — I haven’t participated in those in a long time.
The other extreme is when an artist holds exhibitions too often, and, in fact, shows the same thing. For me, this is not an entirely acceptable option — when I come to exhibitions, I want to see something different and new even from people whom I follow.
"Bread is the Head of Everything"