Перейти к содержимому

Artist Alexey Chernigin

Article on the website “Rakov Gallery”

Conversation with the artist. Alexey Chernigin

The idea to interview the artist Alexey Chernigin arose in preparation for the exhibition “Signs of the Times”. A small project that includes such diverse works presents him as a versatile painter, capable of reflecting on the eternal values of humanity, but, at the same time, retaining the ability to be a romantic and a dreamer. It is a live dialogue with the author of the works that allows you to form the correct impression of his works, feel the artist’s creative intent and learn to understand his artistic language. Alexey Chernigin told us about the most striking sources of inspiration, about the personalities who influenced his professional development and about the subjects of his paintings in the first person.

Tell us about the beginning of your creative journey. Why did you choose to become an artist?

I was born into a family of artists and grew up surrounded by my father’s paintings. I really enjoyed watching him work. At the age of six, my father took me to the art studio in the Palace of Pioneers, to the same old studio that he himself went to as a child. There was a very free, creative atmosphere, wonderful, out-of-the-box thinking teachers. In 1990, I entered the Nizhny Novgorod Art School to study graphic design. There I discovered a lot about graphics.

After graduating from college, I entered the design department of the University of Architecture and Civil Engineering. Here I found myself in a completely new environment for me, where graphics and plastic arts are elevated to a cult, and most importantly, where they think spatially and conceptually. We had an excellent teacher of painting, drawing and associative composition, Alexander Korneev. In many ways, it was he who formed in me the foundations of my current method of working on the concept, understanding of space and composition.

After university, I tried myself in both industrial and interior design, but all these multidirectional movements of mine still could not take me away from painting, this is the main thing in my life.

How has your work changed since your early days and why?

I started with graphics, experimented with gouache, acrylic, and mixed media. I love watercolor with its crazy freedom, unpredictability and, at the same time, enormous responsibility for every action. In oil painting I try to preserve that feeling of lightness, transparency and liberation that attracted me so much in watercolor. But my tasks became more ambitious, so oil became a universal material for me. Architectural and design education provides an opportunity to understand the world around us not just in volume, but also in its multidimensionality. Design brings up an esthete in a person, forms a sense of style at some physiological level, when the slightest discrepancy offends, like a false note.

What is the difference between the worldview of an artist and an ordinary person who has nothing to do with creativity?

It seems to me that the most interesting and most difficult thing in my profession is to learn to react in a special way, in my own way, to the world around me. After all, people often simply do not see anything around them. No, they see, of course, but they don’t feel with their eyes. Yes, we see objects around us, walking down the street we don’t bump into pillars, we find ourselves in doorways, but all things for us are just symbols, symbols, like in a computer game. They are not interesting to us in themselves. This takes time, and in our accelerating world there is a catastrophic lack of it; we are always in a hurry, perceiving the world as a clip, a kaleidoscope of bright frames. We chase new impressions, take countless photographs, replenishing the network with millions of new shots every second. And only by slowing down this crazy rhythm, dissolving in the feeling of the moment being experienced, can you try to begin to see differently, entering into resonance with your surroundings, feeling its pulsation inside.

A picture is not born suddenly, it is always a layer of life, an idea appears like a light breeze, like the twenty-fifth frame that flashed by and got stuck somewhere deep, deep. For the time being, it does not make itself felt, until a random association is superimposed on it, causing a completely new reading. Then it begins to unwind like a wheel, acquiring more and more new images and gradually folds into an internal picture, which is already rushing out, giving no peace.

Why do you turn to female images, are they allegorical for you? What topics are interesting to develop in creativity besides this?

A woman for me is space, an endless variety of variations and nuances in plasticity, proportions, in the search for new readings of the same model. This is not just a beautiful form, it is a bundle of energy, emotions, feelings. Life pulsates in it, it moves, it breathes. The structure of the skin itself interacts with light in an amazing way, giving the surface of the body a special color depth. My paintings are often classified as erotica; for me, this erotic subtext is of course interesting, but not primary in my work. It may appear in the process of work, but it is never the original, or, worse, the only meaning.

In addition, in many canvases I explore the theme of speed, movement, and the relationship between man and the city. We live in the rhythm of the city, submit to its chaotic movement, dissolve in it. And sometimes you want to stop, get out of the flow, look at this multidirectional movement from the side. In general, speed, it seems to me, is the central concept in painting. Without it, painting is dead. Moreover, each painting has its own internal speed.

Which artist do you most admire and have had a significant influence on your work?

It is difficult to talk about influence, although, undoubtedly, it is present to one degree or another. Firstly, of course, this is my father, Alexander Chernigin. I have always been fascinated by the visible pleasure that my father gets from his work. Therefore, I probably see in my father not only a master who discovered the craft for me, but also the embodiment of a model attitude towards his work. He is constantly changing, never shy to learn. He literally does not let go of the pencil, constantly draws something, captures some thoughts or images. So, looking at my father, I began to understand that in the midst of everyday life a person can create his own world, his own small universe, with his own laws and rules that only he himself can establish or break. This has always fascinated and intrigued me. Of course, there were always a lot of artist albums and art books in the house. This is how I met Velazquez and Vermeer, Fechin and Wyeth, Sargent and Degas, Zorn and Bonnard. All of them, at different times, captivated me into their “worlds”, aroused delight and a desire to learn from them.

How is your work viewed outside of Russia?

Honestly, when I look at a painting, the last thing I think about is the nationality of the artist. Painting is international, universal, its impact does not depend on where it was born and in what language its author thinks. The language of art is an image, not a direct statement. The artist must say with the painting everything he wants and can, and step aside, leaving the viewer alone with it. He cannot write an explanatory note to the painting or assign an art critic to it. Although this is precisely what contemporary art most often does, replacing its original meaning of direct and honest contact with some lengthy concepts that beautifully explain what a given installation or performance could mean.

We live in an era of total substitution of the genuine with cheap surrogates. Art is becoming more and more technological, gradually moving into the field of design. But design is only aesthetics, it does not imply spiritual content. This is probably why I returned from design to painting, to discover something new. I am very glad that my paintings find their audience in Europe, America, and Asia. This is very inspiring. This gives hope. And politics has virtually no influence on this. Yes, many Western platforms are now blocking Russian artists, but viewers’ interest in Russian art still remains.

What are your creative plans for the future?

The work of an artist is, first of all, a search for new meanings, new forms, new horizons. After all, by and large, traditional painting had exhausted itself already at the beginning of the twentieth century. Malevich’s black square became her tombstone, a refusal to further struggle.

One of Dali’s principles: “Artist, paint!”

It’s simple and brilliant, for me it’s a recipe for all times!