Aleksander Kharitonov

MY REALITY

Aleksander Kharitonov
Personal website of the artist

Russia   English

Walks with Phaethon

Pillars of Kronos

Strongele

Galleass with Swan

Lost, but not forgotten

Santorin

Feast (by Plato)

Immersion

Flowers for Poseidon

Heavenly City

Under  Heavenly Protection

Forty Years After

Polystaurion

Spica

Price of Freedom

Aldebaran Idyll

Message

Extramundane and Guiding Light

      Only at first, superficial glance this painting reminds of such trends of the Western art as expressive or lyrical abstraction. Here it is unusually supplemented with art fragments (basically, of landscapes), as well as with certain symbolic motives, combining allegoric metaphors with religious overtones.

      However, as a spectator, I’m particularly appealed by rethinking and even by overcoming these customary trendy and stylistic norms, which we find rather topical. Besides, what attracts me in particular is perceptible unrestricted original and nationally colored interpretation of such plastic means and tools, which seems to have references to the classics of the Western inter-modernism and sometimes to post-modernist eclectics - so to say, to trends, which, alas, have overwhelmingly lost their former nonconformism and have been tamed by the world arts market.

      The Russians keep regarding Art and Painting as a form of expression of mental commitments, as a solution to fundamental ethical and aesthetic problems. This allows attaining the ideal of super-personal metaphysical level through personal subjectivity and restituting existential dimension to painting, provided, of course, fair and uncorrupted creative position of artist, which is particularly perceptible in Aleksander Kharinotov’s works.

      In view of foregoing, mastering the language of arts, artist endows it with directivity and significance, very dissimilar from customary Western “prototypes” or formal analogues, let it be expressive abstraction in American or French style, or techniques, close to new figurative painting of the 80s, to the European neoexpressionism or similar trends. The artist infringes upon customary “laws of game” not for the sake of originality or formal novelty, but due to inner necessity strange to cold calculus. Originality is conditioned not only by clearly marked personal principles, which are announced even regardless of plots and themes – specific graphic motives addrd by the artist in different pictures. Although, certainly so as to understand correctly Aleksander Kharitonov’s creative context and its fundamental principles we should bear in mind symbolic significance of subject, image and even of the title as soon as they manifest principal seriousness of artist’s approach to his objective. This solemnity and forethought — alongside with all elemental loose style of impulsive, as if spontaneous painting — is also in very Russian manner. It’s not without reason that ironically cynical shapers of the current art situation with their groundless “nomadic” mentality are trying to emasculate these qualities and values of painting (this is a reference to numerous epigones of soc-art and other current pestilences, destructive and burlesque by their directives).

      Free-style anarchic “prowess” of Kharitonov’s expressive painting is combined with conservative and creative tendencies: these canvases painted regardless of commercial trends and changing whims of fashion are called not to ruin, but to reintegrate “split time continuity”.

      Attentive glance at these pictures elucidates that any, even externally simple art motive turns into questioning on the forms art may take in secularized contemporary world, if it’s spiritually oriented, if it addrs eternal Subjects and is based upon transcendental absolute grounds not only of culture, but generally of human existence. That’s why on form level any genre or type of New European painting is subject to permanent Aufhebung (Lifting), or more precisely, to dematerialization. Hidden extramundane and guiding light flashes and makes transparent external attributes because it allows combining what is seemingly incompatible, as well as contributes to finding one’s own approach to Sacral mediated by plastic tools, which are sometimes borrowed from profane materialistic “present-day world” or refer to European heritage which preserved intact intuitive connection with spirit and light of the Tradition.

      This was displayed quite dramatically, for instance, in the “Memoirs of Jerusalem” program series of sort of landscape visions demonstrating the way the artist overcomes hedonistic aesthetic temptations (of the so-called “pure painting”) and free rethinking of landscape classical norms, their transfer to a different metaphysical stream: to concept of sacral geography and historiosophic reflections. At the first glance, we see beautiful, rich, patterned expressive art surface. Suddenly, behind the film of “abstraction”, there’s a yawning Abyss, however, not that of inferno lowlands but on the contrary similar to breakthrough and gleam, vision of Holy Land, where Jerusalem – the City of God – is emerging invitingly and inaccessibly like oasis of memory, knowingly unattainable like mirage, but simultaneously authentic. Its architectonic image and a special genius loci are connected with specific memoirs of the travel, but general Image of the City, thanks God, has very little in common with customary outdoor and landscape studia and with superficially exotic etudes, so often brought by the painters from trips abroad. The artist who borrowed extensively from the invigorating sources of West European artistic culture, now growingly vanishing in our own eyes, the artist, who has mastered conceptually important abstract tools and motives of classical European landscape, has recognized and recreated these reserved, sacred relics of the Ancient long-lost East. The Russian master, who has creatively and willfully inherited the valuable property of the past epochs, is entitled thereto. Simultaneously, another level of vision of Jerusalem – the Coming Jerusalem – equally extramundane to both East and West – is oozing out. The images of earthly Jerusalem seem so far-away and transfigured, so distant in space and time, that it may be indirectly, associatively related to Jerusalem – the Heavenly City, descending in apocalyptic revelation of John the Evangelist, although in these pictures Jerusalem is erected not out of semi-precious stones, but rather out of “self-luminescent” noble substance of classical painting.

      So, in terms of geographical specifics these paintings refer to the biblical East with its desert and stony harsh nature, while on stylistic and graphic interpretation level this landscape-reminiscence, with its general visionary aura, is colored by reflections of passing West – with twilight gold of the sunset. It is akin to those ancient and sacred stones of Europe, which were mourned by Dostoyevsky and are more precious to us, the Russians, than to rational-minded pragmatics, losing sight of their own roots in the present-day globalized world”. To put it more precisely, the City, transformed by the stroke of artist, refers not as much to the “sacred stones”, but to old paintings from the museums, to high heritage of the Golden age of western painting of the 16th-17th centuries, to traditions of Biblical landscapes and “landscape with ruins” of the old masters. They are brought back to memory by noble gold-brown hue, persistently introduced into views of Jerusalem (or better to say, the visions?), that is to say, according to Spengler, by ntially intangible, spiritual specific brown color (which is also the color of dusk), abolition and untimely extinction of which was so zealously “worked out” by impressionists and leaders of not-figurative “revolution in arts”. And Aleksander Kharitonov, sophisticated in abstractions, casts a farewell glance there, on the sources of easel painting.

      It’s worth remembering, that brown is connected not only with noble museum-style manner of painting, but also with soil theme, not necessarily in terms of especially local understanding of national isolation, but in the sense of geopolitics and sacral geography. It seems not occasional that the Knight’s Isle, “non-Biblical” by theme — but similar stylistically and imaginatively —fits so well the range of these visionary landscapes. This may be a semi-conscious reference to heroics of pathfinders and sailors, whose earthly adventures highlighted “adventures of the Spirit” — their drive to “the land of Covenant”, realized in absolutely non-Hebrew way, based upon search of reserve, sacral, ntially extramundane lands, let it be “hyperborean” Greenland, immured in ice, or City of the Holy Sepulcher in the East.

      At that time, the supreme objective was not as much the conquest of specific earthly territories, as the search of inner initiation, i.e. of ascension to a new stage of the Spirit, let it be at the cost of triumphal death of the hero. May be, because of that, “the Knight’s isle” partially resembles the isle or dead or Elysian Fields?

      Interestingly and logically, here at first glance “decorative” flower motive is purified from any sentimentality and sugarly prettyism to obtain the character of symbolical message, rather close to symbols of plants in ancient and traditional cultures, than to stereotypes of regular still life painting.

      In the canvases rather associated with heroic and mystery background of the Russian history, these blossom clusters, resembling of blood and flame, “germinating” in vast distressing spaces, seemingly in blossom and vulnerable at the same time, illuminated by cold “extramundane” white light radiated by background depths, obtain menacing or invocatory meaning. These abstract strange miraculous flowers – sometimes flame-like fluidal, sometimes crystal, like semi-precious minerals, plane under zero gravity. Sometimes they are almost immaterial and magnificent, asserting vivid connection between Peace in the Sky and Struggle on the Earth.

      The artist found an opportunity to respond allegorically to topical contemporaneity, making no extra documentary references to “the world of facts” - that’s to say, to the tragic bloodshed of October 1993, accentuating heroic sense, patriotic super-rational enthusiasm of these events, stressing mystical ntially soil national super-Idea, uniting seemingly ideologically incompatible forces in the act of Rebellion.

      This force of popular uprising - against all common senses - may be artistically exprd not through externally politicized art, but through a sort of some new “romantic” Pathos entering the world of “pure painting”, exprd poetically in the manner closer to eschatological Russian Silver Age symbolist poetics than to present-day art stereotypes and in general through particularly personal mythology of the artist – poet in soul… In these mythological “abstract” flowers may flameboyant recalling not only specific and fatal conflagration, but Burning in the soul of those non-defeated. Another, more distant, but perhaps even more fatal and dramatic page of the Russian history – the events of October 1917 – is referred to by the cognominal painting. It is a program work, distinguished by its strange (even with account of the aforesaid wide range of master’s tools) stylistics of painting, extremely artistic, almost chaotically-elemental, with as if applique iconic hieratically well-marked sign, or more precisely, a visual of the sovereign sphere – i.e. of material attribute of the Russian monarchy, inherited by “the Third Rome” from Byzantium. Here, in the field of the canvas, two hypostases of the Russian soul and the Russian idea have paradoxically combined: their clash, struggle and interaction complement controversially each other. On the one hand side, there is rebellious anarchic prowess, width, exorbitance of the elements, on the other hand, you see imperial symbolic (ascending to Tsar-city) the embodiment of conservative, ordaining, nobly-conservative principles, the principles of sacral Order, which may be implemented only in the scale of our boundless Eurasian territory (in turn, knowingly, for many centuries, the Russian monarchy embodied the idea of consolidating centre for the country). That’s why, indication to conceptual center - visual of the orb – harshly ingrained into “dyonisiac irregular” art medium of the background space refers simultaneously both to the attribute of sacred power and to geopolitically perceived state. And here finds its centre the Russian freedom – elemental like flame and air, but generated by terra firma and “memory of blood”.

      How is it possible to blend all these symbols in single space and time? Indeed, they matched in single experience of the Russian history, although the fatal loss of balance once led to a catastrophe. The painting refers to the year of collapse of the imperial dynasty – to 1917. But drama of ideas here is more important than personal dramas. The painting rather evokes the fatal questions, vital for the future, than gives answer to them; it rather registers conflicting dissonance of the aforesaid principles or two forces, than their conciliation or synthesis. That’s why, perhaps, interface of “background” and “image” in the painting, even “unsuccessful” or at least far from ideal from the viewpoint of superficial aesthetic “formalism”, outward rupture between wild liberty of artistic manner and austere presentation of the emblematic subject looks more straightforward, deeper, more genuine, more adequate to the idea, nce, problem than outward achievement of formal integrity of stylistics. Plastic conflict or dissonance exprs de visu pain, loss, tragedy, contradiction, question... Harmony may be acquired only beyond the boundaries of time of troubles and maybe generally on the other side of “Dark Ages”, in the time not of social and aesthetic, but of cosmic planetary changes, bearing in mind the promise of “New Heaven and New Land”. Providential role in achieving this mystery is attributed to History of Russia and continent of Eurasia. But these procs are so mysterious and unpredictable in their specifics, that now, of course, they cannot be presented even in the most challenging works of imagination and arts.

      Isn’t it here, beyond the boundaries not only of the artistic frame of the painting, but also of imperfect “this world” that the artist refers to with his spurts of flame swirling like numerous birds and snowflakes (let’s remind here of Alexander Block and Andrey Bely), with features and elements of Painting, with these ascending hurricanes of “whirl-winded” (as Remizov called it) Russia? So, colored snowflakes, tattered clouds, phantoms of sub-heavenly blossoms with flashes of light inside – everything what is inaccurately defined as “traces of abstract painting” - may be perceived and realized as a sort of oracular sky sign, which has glimpsed at the fatal hour of history, unveiling quietness of Eternity and infinite Will of the Heavens through outrageous struggle of our restless soil elements.Reflecting through the prism of Russian autumn and winter twilight not only whiteness of snows but also the gleam of super-worldly Spiritual Sun, using mixed color palette, the Artist reminds of metaphysical sources of Painting and invokes allusively and foresightedly the Forthcoming.

Sergey Kuskov.