Andrey Antonov. 10 jul 2021 — 25 jul 2021

Andrey antonov, curator - andrey andreev

In his report “What is an Author”, read at a meeting of the French Philosophical Society in 1969, Michel Foucault, in a conversation about the legacy of Friedrich Nietzsche, reasonably noted: “When, for example, they start publishing Nietzsche’s works, where should one stop? Of course, you need to publish everything, but what does this “everything” mean? Everything that Nietzsche published himself is understandable.

Drafts of his works? Undoubtedly. Outline of aphorisms? Yes. But also what is crossed out or added in the margin? Yes. But when, inside a notebook filled with aphorisms, they find a certificate, a record of a date, or an address, or a laundry bill, is this a work or not a work? But why not? And so on ad infinitum...

The author, this indestructible creative unit, recognizable from thousands of others, is the source of not just one or a hundred works, but something more. What exactly?

It is said that sculpture begins with a drawing. The sculptor sees the plane of the white sheet as a three-dimensional space, so his sketch always seems to pulsate and stretch towards the horizon. The pencil echoes the lines of forms, their curves, recesses and texture. Chiaroscuro models the volume, but even in line drawings, the contours of future three-dimensional objects are visible. So, for example, it happens with broken, but strict and solid, sketches of a male torso, in which Antonov's future sculptures of 1990, 2000 and 2002 are easily guessed. The “Torso” of 1990, not devoid of expression and a direct realistic allusion to the crucifixion, in its variations of 2000 becomes more conditional and smooth, tending to the forms of simple ideal figures, in order to begin to crumble already in 2002, being pitted with patina and uneven ulcers. In the end, it is reborn into a cubist collage, in which some angularity of the robotic body corresponds to machine and technological modernity. A fragment of this crucifix, describing a temporary arc, echoes not only the changes in the artist’s personal practice, but the era and themes of modernist art - in fact, this is a real odyssey from a dense realistic study to Picasso’s cubist plane sculpture, from the purification of form by Brancusi to the balance and collage of works Barbara Hepworth. In fact, the history of Andrei Antonov's personal work repeats the time loop of the history of sculpture in the 20th century, which makes one wonder how the sculptor, working in the conditions of non-decreasing total propaganda, guessed, peeped, found himself, some line of succession in the development of sculpture? So the form, plowing through the decades of the 20th century, disintegrated and again found its clear contours in the original work of a graduate of the classical art school, who, in the harsh times of dictatorship and shortage, tried to find his own voice and style.

But let's get back to our marginal notes - pieces of paper, leaflets, significant and not very sketches, which many may consider to be optional drafts, and sometimes even rubbish left as a prelude to an allegedly "big" sculpture or monument project. Can we call them the trace or origin of the work, or more precisely: who determines the hierarchy of the significance of the magnum opus and the fleeting thought or fantasy that originated in the mind of the author? Let's try to go further and reflect on the history of art as a great work of mankind, which not only left those who for some reason could not get on its pages in the margins, but rather has no margins at all, representing a knot, the sum of all intertwined destinies and traces left in the form of a graphic sheet or a large monument.
Being abandoned on the margins of a great Soviet history, independent Soviet artists looking for their own voice or listening to music abroad, like notes on the margins of ideology, in fact, in form, remained tightly inscribed in the history of world art.

The work of an individual author is here, with thousands of sketches, dozens of sculptures commissioned and hundreds made for himself, often embodied only in projects, and also realized in a small form in a fit of archaic and mythological fantasy common to all peoples, and so here is the work of an individual author here, with on the one hand, only a drop in the ocean of world history, on the other, it is only these drops that make up this ocean. So where is the source of the work, revealed in patina-covered bronze or stripped of everything superfluous in marble? And where is the end of the work that stands on the square and exposes its heated sides to the bright sun, washes itself with slanting rain, heats up from the touch of the warm hands of passers-by, participates in amateur photo shoots and sees daily sunrises and sunsets after its creator has passed away?

It turns out that a particular work has neither a source nor aIt turns out that a particular work has neither source nor end, because dense inscription in the very fabric of life and history does not allow putting an end to its existence, always only a comma.

Sketches and drawings are just a trace of the pencil line of the master, whose business is the production of life itself. And Antonov's works often talk about this with unconcealed literalness and passion.

Having found a metaphor suitable and ancient as the world for this - a portly or slender sexualized female body - Antonov concentrates on the image of a sensual woman who enjoys the sweet languor of being: here she peacefully sits in anticipation, lies, dreamily propping her head up with her hand, or sensually pulls stocking, flirting with the gaze of the viewer. The artist, with love and tenderness, inscribes this body as the source of all life, paired with a male or in a triad with male and childish. From appeasement and tenderness to the cruel languor of pleasure and struggle here is one step, because life in Antonov's works is invariably associated with the pain that makes it clear that if you feel something, then you are alive. So partly tragic and cruel plots - "The Abduction of Europa" or "The Minotaur and the Nymph", in which the tenderness and defenselessness of the female body collides with animal desire and the rudeness of the male body - are accompanied by a sensual, at the level of gaze and curves, a hint of anticipation of a future birth: be it a new life or a new work, for the creation of which one must either go through the torments of motherhood, or subdue the plastic material.

Sexualized fusion, up to indistinguishability, of two bodies resembles either a struggle, or a confrontation between two enemies. So the male body, both in a fight and in a love bliss, is shown as sharp and angular (“The Minotaur and the Nymph” (1997), “The Running Warrior” (1998)). The chubby body of a woman in labor, covered with heaviness and flour, still exudes peace (“Fertility” (2005)). Thus, feminine and masculine, dark and light, pain and sweetness, field and border, product and source are two eternal ambivalent components of life itself, which has neither end nor edge.

The human body and the mystery of its birth as a source of life - that's where, in my opinion, the heart of Andrei Antonov's creativity. Human destinies, intertwining with each other and gently flowing into each other, allow even those works that no longer exist to linger in history - from mouth to mouth, from book to book, we pass on descriptions of ancient Greek painting or the temples of Palmyra, and as long as at least one evidence of their existence or at least one trace in memory, it means they live, it means they have no time limits and frames, because the life that the author tells about through his works has no past, no future, no beginning, no end. And so on ad infinitum...

Anastasia Khaustova