About Evgeni Zhavoronkov`s Creation
The art of Evgeny Zhavoronkov has had a prominent place in the St. Petersburg art world for quite some time. And it is, without a doubt, his one-of-a-kind technique, which has yielded results of quite singular artistic expression, that has placed him in this deserving place amidst the city's cultural circles.
In his works, it seems as if Zhavoronkov gives form to his stories from a substance consisting of human and animal bodies, plants, birds, insects, and every other matter of this earth. This distinctive sublimation is, perhaps, just as important to the artist as the creation of his main characters. In every one of his pieces he skillfully accomplishes his main artistic goals while giving his secondary elements their own appropriate characteristics. His complex multi-figured compositions, filling almost the entire surface of a canvas, hold the viewer's attention for a long time.
Thus Zhavoronkov reveals the main theme of his painting 'Christ Carrying the Cross,' portraying it as a swarming living medley of blood red. A mass of prison guards, executioners, and idling gawkers, having lost their human guises, surrounds Jesus; only the female figures retain a human likeness. The Holy Mandylion (the Image of Edessa) is placed on a gonfalon, whereas Jesus himself is depicted from the back, as to emphasize his departure from this world.
The artist's biblically themed canvases brim with somber tangles of human remains (e.g., 'The Harrowing of Hell,' 1994; 'St. George,' 2003; 'Sacrifice,' 2006). Their compositional structures, however, always assume the transformational and enlightening aspects of this ominous matter: silhouettes of roots and flowers slowly germinate through the tangles, frogs peep out from burrows, just-landed grasshoppers avert our eyes from decomposing bones, angels and birds flutter through the skies.
From Hell to Heaven, from Darkness to Light—the viewer travels along with the artist. Whether it's Christ descending into an abyss of sinners, or Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt, whether it's St. George's fiery sword or an archangel's palm branch destroying the Tower of Babylon, the key characters are always embraced by a bright halo ('the ray of eternal source of light').
By using this approach, Zhavoronkov is able to reinterpret the biblical texts in his own way. The Gospels have given tremendous meaning to this talented artist's oeuvre and have led him to create significant works such as: 'The Flood' (1990), 'The Four Horsemen [of the Apocalypse]' (1997), 'Gethsemane' (1998), 'The Adoration of the Magi' (2000), and 'Sacrifice' (2006). These paintings bid the viewer to ponder the future fates of the world, which is the most important mission in art.
In his still lifes, the artist elegantly uses his favorite technique of building up atmospheric space. Through the years, the works become cooler in overall tones, but the familiar two-part composition always remains the same. Yet, each of their subject matters deserves pages of comments. Like in his biblical works, here too, Zhavoronkov's fantasy is revealed in its most abundant form, encompassing more than just strict storytelling. Literary personae, mythological heroes, and all sorts of living creatures are organically interwoven with canvases of household utensils and sumptuous bouquets of flowers. Yet this is only a form, a form which the artist fills up with numerous meanings. Like in 'The Student Canteen' (2003), where modest tokens of a student's life: an opened can of condensed milk, cigarette butts, empty glasses, can be hardly seen in context of the vivid still life; thus focusing on the student's state of mind, rather than his material world. This combination of the refined and the every day is found often in Zhavoronkov's work. A giant butterfly underneath the wheels of a tram or a coming-to-life bas-relief of a broken flower vase—these are representations of his own frailty, softened by a bit of humor. This is why the images of a joker, a street cleaner, or a mischievously smiling self-portrait are so important to Zhavoronkov.
Perhaps, the artist's acute perception of life's transient quality makes him appreciate it even more in his depictions of each little bird and snail, elephant and lizard, turtle and beetle. The virtuosity and diligence of his graphic pieces demonstrate incredible craftsmanship, behind which lays a great amount of hard work. But the most striking feeling one senses in his creations is that of endless kindness and love toward every living thing. Even the cows in his paintings appear to be surprisingly touching animals, not to mention his favorite pets, the dogs. And it is with this most important gift that Zhavoronkov has been blessed—a gift that allows him:
'Tosee a world in a grain of sand
Anda heaven in a wild flower,
Holdinfinityin the palm of your hand
Andeternityin an hour"
(William Blake, 'Auguries of Innocence')
Evgenia Logvinova, art-historian
Four Riders. Oil on canvas. 100õ80. 1997