Interview with artist Alexander Moldavanov

Dear Alexander, thank you for taking time for an interview with us! We are happy to welcome you at HAZEGALLERY. Tell us please about yourself and your path to the art world.


Hello, HAZE Gallery. Thanks for the interesting questions. My name is Alexander Moldavanov. I am an artist. I live in the city of Volgograd. The path to the world of art, I think, began in the second grade. Then during the summer holidays, I began to sculpt clay figurines. They were small. I went to a stop to sell them, and then I realized that you could enjoy not only creating something but also communicating with people who like it. I communicated with customers and enjoyed it no less. I think that this feeling did not let me go and ultimately led to painting.


What is art in your understanding?


I think art is a person's way of knowing himself through appeal to the deep layers of the subconscious, which begin to work when a person interacts with art. This is a work not only with the personal depths of the soul but also with the collective subconscious because art is a reflection of the current cultural layer. And, first of all, a person becomes involved with the team, with the environment, and, in particular, he turns through works of art to groundwater, which flows unnoticed for us in our everyday affairs, in our everyday life. We do not notice this, but these processes take place inside everyone and take place in the depths of humanity. Art is the key to which we can refer to these layers—a way to explore these depths.

Your works are made in different styles. Why did you decide not to stop at one style?


I would really like to focus on one style in one direction and work in it, but I understand that I constantly need to keep my receptors fresh. When I do a series of works, at some point there comes a time when I understand that the next picture will be a factory stamp, it will lose its spontaneity, its freshness, its spontaneous energy, and at this moment some new idea appears, which is connected with a completely different style, with a different direction. I pick it up and switch to some other technique, another style. Probably, it just doesn't work in another way.


How are ideas for works born? Names, concepts…


Ideas are not born. I constantly have a vast number of ideas, and from all this cloud of ideas that are constantly around me, I choose what is closer at the moment, which at the moment reflects my inner state. Thoughts arise in this mass from anywhere; it is impossible to predict. I can watch a film, see other people's paintings by other artists, and some idea will arise that I can borrow something, somehow mix with what is already there and, most likely, something interesting can turn out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't - it's also impossible to predict this.

A series of works "Electric wind". Is its creation somehow connected with the fact that you are a Mathematician-programmer by profession? Tell us please more about this series of works.


The electric evening turned out quite by accident. I wanted to paint a picture quite graphic, but, at the same time, with oil paints. I used carbon black. The picture turned out not the same as I wanted. I did not like it. I decided to wash it off. And then wash it off with a solvent... The fact is that carbon black is very embedded in the material. It penetrates into the primer. It is very difficult to wash it off. At some point, I just got a black canvas. And after I added, probably, a liter of solvent, interesting gradients, transitions, smudges began to appear. I started working with it, and in the end, I got peonies. I sat down in front of these peonies. There are thousands of peonies - there is nothing interesting about that. I sat down, thought - well, there are peonies, and then what? What to do next with this? A next to me was a stack of printed circuit boards, microcircuits that I use to build the apparatus. I looked at these microcircuits, at these printed circuit boards, and it seemed to me that the pattern of the contact tracks, which on the printed circuit boards, are very similar to some rivers. They have very smooth transitions if you look from afar. Straight and sharp corners should not be made in printed circuit boards so that there is no electrical interference. And I got the idea to combine it, especially since the picture was completely black. I needed to add something white for contrast. There was also a semantic contrast. I really liked it. And then it has already continued in such a series.

You also draw comics. Are comics a commercial project for you, or are you pursuing other goals? Why are you interested in this genre?


Comics are a continuation of the Electric Wind in the sense that in previous pictures, I used (for example, in the removal from the cross) a symbol, an icon of the cultural layer. After all, taking down from the cross is not just a plot. It is something much more, like comics. Comics are not just some kind of drawn cartoon story. They are already a huge cultural layer, which, it seemed to me, would be very interesting to contrast with the contact tracks of printed circuit boards. Because comics are childhood, this is a very sensually intense image. And printed circuit boards are something dry and lifeless. And it seemed to me that if you combine these two phenomena, you get something curious.

You mention a "mosquito" in your Artist Statement which you try to add to the paintings. Or that the painting itself was such a "mosquito" in the modern world. Why a mosquito? Is he your alter ego?


Why a mosquito. It seems to me that a mosquito is the most accurate image of what I want to get from a painting, what satisfies me in a painting and in art in general. A mosquito is a fairly safe insect, but we cannot ignore it, firstly, and secondly, after its bite, we feel itching for some time. It does not pass without a trace. And now it seems to me that interaction with a work of art should be approximately the same as interaction with a mosquito. The picture should somehow touch something to pry inside us, and these agitated our deep subconscious levels, layers, they should not immediately settle down, should not immediately calm down after the viewer has moved away from the picture. For some time, these waves must diverge inside a person, and this is most similar to our experience with a mosquito.


Some of your works trace the theme of war and politics.What prompted you to create these works and what thought do you want to convey to the viewer?


The theme of war, in general, permeates my whole life because I live in the city of Volgograd (the old name is Stalingrad), which is known for the events of the Second World War. In this regard, the whole town is lined with monuments dedicated to the war. The streets are named after the commanders and so on. In general, war is something that, contrary to my wishes, accompanies my whole life in Volgograd, although I really love this city. But that's what I don't really like about him. And with the help of pictures, I'm probably trying to get rid of it, to supplant it. And as far as political topics are concerned, they don't really have politics. I have a portrait of Trump. I saw in Trump not a politician, but a person with very strong energy. I have neither a positive nor negative attitude toward him. I am very apolitical. But as a person, as a person with a certain character, he is interesting as a phenomenon. I do not want to convey anything to the viewer in a political sense, but I want to shift the focus from the politician, from what he did in the political sense to his personality—the opposition of a person's emotional experience to his political figure. The psychology of a person is taken out of a political context. His inner experiences leave an imprint on the character. This I am trying to do with these pictures.

You graduated from the Volgograd Art School with a degree in classical painting and the Volgograd State University with a degree in Mathematics and Programming. Why are you interested in such different areas and do you manage to combine exact sciences and creativity?


I think that the education of a mathematician-programmer helps me a lot in my work. For example, at the moment in the studio, I have an installation that I assembled myself. This is a linseed oil polymerization and oxidation machine. I have not bought flaxseed oil in art stores for a long time. I prepare it myself, and I can prepare it to the state that I need. Of course, without the education of a programmer, I would not have been able to assemble this device. Well, besides this, I have already done all the hardware parts, and now I am working on the software part of the robot that will draw with me. With which we will be co-authored. I think that by the new year, I will finish the program part. It will be artificial intelligence, with which we will draw together. It seems to me that something interesting should turn out.


You are the creator of the project "Balagan". This is an application with which we can watch your works "in motion" through the phone. Tell us please more about this project. Why the name "Balagan"? Will there be more works created for this project in the future? Can you show us what it looks like?


The Balagan project is our joint project with my best friend, Vladimir Bokachev. Vova is a DJ, and one day he came up with the idea to combine my artistic part and his musical part into one event, into one project. We did just that. Balagan begins with the exhibition part. People come, in silence they can communicate with each other, discuss paintings. We have augmented reality paintings. This means that you take your phone, download my application (MAARS app), point it at the painting, and the painting comes to life. Some special effects start on the phone screen. And after that, after a while, the light fades out, the music becomes louder. All this time we also have bars. And the format is changing from an exhibition to a club, disco, where people can dance, listen to music. I think that in this project, we have combined everything that may interest a person who wants to relax. Usually, people want a cultural program and somehow have a rest energetically - move, dance, something so expressive. In this project, we had such a combination, plus we added modern technologies in the form of augmented reality.

Do you have any works that were created at certain points in your life? Which ones do you have special feelings for and why?


I think that any picture reflects the life circumstances in which a person created it. These are not some esoteric things. Just life circumstances directly affect how a person puts a brushstroke, draws a line. All this will depend on what the artist feels at this moment, in what state he is at this moment. And any paint is such a historical artifact, reflecting a certain period of life. For example, I can take any painting and remember what I felt and what I thought about when I drew a specific line or applied a specific stroke. These things are present in every picture.


Your works have been presented in Russia and Italy. In your opinion, what is the difference perception in these countries?


My paintings were presented both in Italy and in Russia. There were a lot of foreigners at the Art Russia exhibition, which was held in Moscow, and I was there all the time and could see how people react to the paintings. And it was a big surprise for me that regardless of origin, people react in the same way. The cultural layer unites people of any origin. Art unites. I did not notice any difference between the perceptions of Russians, Italians, and British.

You have paintings that depict portraits of people, where part of the face is an abstraction. Why do you draw portraits in this way? What do you want to convey to the viewer with this reception?


Yes, indeed, most of my portraits are portraits in which a very small part of a person's face is drawn in detail, and everything else is something abstract. I think that abstraction is the materialization of our irrational, our elemental part. In a person, in my opinion, the irrational is 80 percent, probably. What we consider to be our reasonable part, strong-willed, what we consider to be in control, this is probably a very small part, and it is precisely this part that is present in the paintings. In most of my paintings, like in this portrait, for example, only the eye. The eye and everything else is an abstraction. And here, the eye just symbolizes this part of the rational. The part that we can control. Everything else is an element because when you do abstraction, you also do not control the material. How will the paint lay? How will it flow? How will she behave when dry? For example, in oil painting, if it is done pasty, these strokes will then somehow wrinkle, behave in their own way, this material will change shape, and the artist can, of course, influence this, but minimally. It is not possible to predict this, and this part is a symbol of our dark side, but the dark side in quotes. The side about which we know very little and which we cannot influence.


Can an artist live off the sales of his works? How can an artist sell a work and find a buyer?


I think the main task of an artist is, first of all, to demonstrate his work to the maximum number of people. Among them, there will definitely be those who will like it, who want to decorate their interior with it and, of course, will buy it. Or, for example, he wants to invest in art in this way. I had a customer with whom we contacted. He received the painting, and I asked for a photograph of the painting in the interior. To which the man told me that he had no plans to hang it. I was very surprised and started asking questions. Maybe you didn't like it? If so, let me return the money to you, you will return the painting to me - this is not a problem. He answered me: "No, everything is great, I don't like the painting, but I keep it with me. In this way, I invest in art, buy paintings, and they are kept in my store. "So there are even such cases. The main thing is to show the picture, and there will already be a buyer. Is it possible to live off art? Well, I think that the majority of artists live like this. This is the same profession as any other.


What do you strive for when you create your works? So that the work will appeal to the audience, be commercially successful or convey some thought to people?


I think that these are very related things because if art does not excite the viewer in any way, does not bother a person, then he will not want to buy a painting. When I paint, I only think about what I will do, satisfy me first of all, because otherwise, I will simply erase and destroy it. And if what I have done excites me, then there will definitely be a viewer who will like it, who will also be worried about it. And then, of course, he will want this picture to hang in his house, he will want to buy it.

If you were asked to describe your creativity in three words, what would you say?


I would say that the painting should be exciting. It should bother the person. It may be with a plus sign, with a minus sign, but this is what distinguishes the painting from everything else that surrounds us in everyday life. It should evoke emotion. The painting should be disturbing.

Instagram Alexander Moldavanov @moldavanovart


Text by Lyubov Melnickowa @lumenicka