art, photo - AnK
I became an artist
remember the very first time I met an
artist. I was 5...it was summer... Russian
South...in a little town called Evpatoria...Black
Sea splashing green waives on a pebbled
beach. A cracked, asphalt driveway,
covered with crawling shiny snails,
lead me to a small plywood shack. I
look into the half-opened door. A man
with a beard was sitting on a small
chair. He was painting something on
canvas. I was amazed by his ability
to paint, to make things and faces with
only strokes of a brush. I liked the
smell of the paint. I thought that the
artist was a magician, even though he
was only a poster-maker, working for
the local movie-theater. But, I didn't
know that. He could paint - that was
the most important thing to a little
boy. The desire was awakened inside
of me. I wanted to be like him - to
draw, to paint, to be a magician, to
make tricks with colors and lines. At
that moment I learned something about
myself - I am an artist too. That ordinary
meeting with the local poster-maker
was a very important event leading me
to the future.
I spent first three years of my life
living in the territory of a St'Petersburg
mental institution named after Mr.Skvortsov-Stepanov.
My Grandma worked there as a nurse.
She was taking me to her work very often.
I was small and could not understand
what was really going on in there. I
remember a big fish tank with greenish
water in it. Within the tank, fat striped
Scalars Fish, with distorted proportions,
swam silently in slow motion. Strange
taciturn people were stumbling along
the corridor. My mother, Grandma, Dad
and I were living together in two small
rooms in a big two-story building. Quite
often, my memories carry me back to
that house. I hear the sound of big
trees rubbing against each other in
the wind, and the sharp noise of black
crows. I can see people in their gray
hospital uniforms taking walks in the
yard. The aura of an unreal world was
behind it - dreams, desires, passions,
strange events Everything that has happened
to me in life seems now to be continuation
of this mental image.
My ancestors were priests, church community
leaders, peasants, and Dukes Levasovs
but only one of my ancestors had a hidden
passion for painting. My great grand
father was an icon painter (or "bogomas"
as Russians would say). He was good
at mural paintings and made frescos
for the church of Ostashkovo village.
That church was leveled in the Second
World War. However, by some miraculous
circumstance, people saved one icon,
painted in his workshop. I have that
icon hanging on the wall in my studio.
My Mom and Dad didn't have a talent
for painting, but they were taking me
to the Hermitage and Russian Art Museum
in St'Petersburg very often. My imagination
was completely taken by art works of
the Russian artist Aivasovsky. I was
looking at his pictures of the sea and
waves for hours. I was particularly
fascinated by one huge green wave. It
was ready to fall on me and take me
to the depth of the sea. Aivasosky's
pictures reminded me of big fish-tanks.
The only thing missing in them was big-striped
Scalar Fish. Soon, I got my own aquarium.
I was sitting in front of it, looking
at the silent and flowing movements
of the fish. The world of water was
fascinating, pulling me closer
It was 1974, the year of the Tiger.
One day I came back from school. I didn't
see my aquarium in the room. The hundred
liter vessel had fallen to the floor
and was broken. It was considered as
a sign of misfortune. But I didn't know
that. In a couple of days my friend
and I went to swim in Sunny Bay ("Solnechnoye")
not very far from St'Petersburg. I remember
that place very vividly. It was a children's
playground with a small lake, and a
castle with strange looking statues.
They reminded me of those from the Easter
Island. Almost thirty years passed since
then, but strangely enough those statues
are still there.
It was a hot sunny day. I wanted to
swim, so I jumped into the water. I
remember a greenish yellow turbid light
coming through the thickness of water
above me. I was under the water and
I could not move. I was looking at the
rays of light, and could hear people
laughing on the shore and music playing.
But all that was happening on the other
side. I was observing the world from
the other side. I wanted to breath,
but I couldn't get up. And there was
nobody to help me. I realized that it
was the end. I saw the face of my Mom,
Dad, and Grandma and felt such pity
for them. They will learn soon that
there is no more me. But surprisingly
enough, I didn't feel horror or fear.
The feeling of sadness was flowing.
And I died.
Then I was born. It was a different
life, even though still mine. I woke
up from hearing the shrill screams He
drowned! My friend got me out of the
water, to the shore, and to the island
with strange looking statues. Somebody
leaned me against one of the idols.
The images of these statues are imbedded
in my memory. I went into oblivion.
My spinal cord was broken - complete
and total paralysis. From my hospital
bed I saw the faces of my doctor and
nurse above me. My Mom was crying. My
Dad's expression was dark and ashen
from sadness. All this was like an hallucination.
It was like a dream from which I could
not awake. The only real thing for me
was the ceiling of the room with cracks
and water spots. This ceiling was the
only thing I could see. I was looking
at it for hours, trying to find fairy
landscapes, cities, people, animals...anything!
One pattern reminded me of the tiger
trying to jump. A fantastic crystal
ship was floating on the other. I wanted
to get up, to go up the stairs, to swim
away from this bad dream. My parents
were told that there is no hope for
me to survive.
But some Force Above us holds the strings
of our lives. Someone from Above looked
at me. Within several months I started
feeling some movement in my legs and
hands. I asked for a pencil to be tied
to my fingers and tried to draw. I wanted
to draw the Tiger I saw on the ceiling,
but could only produce a scrawl.
Many years passed and I went to West
Berlin to have my personal exhibition.
I saw another tiger there. I was invited
to see the circus show. It was very
nice. I cannot say how it happened,
but suddenly I found myself very close
to the tiger the real tiger with my
hand in his jaws. My fingers could feel
his hot palate, his rigid tongue, his
fangs, his warm breath. His cold merciless
eyes were staring at me, but I felt
no fear whatsoever. His black eyes were
telling me: Remember that I'm here,
very close to you. My fangs are ready.
You have to be worthy of my gifts. I
let you go. And he let me go.
Real creativity begins when you feel
the power of that merciless "tiger"
Anatoly Kudreavtcev, 2001
- Natalia Tuchina
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