How to create your own Book of Imaginary Beings, giving each hero features close to the person, which is looking at them, as at one's own reflection? Each image has a real and at the same time mythical complicated controversial life, as well as it has its own important problems, which became their symbol in a way. Its dilemmas also confuse the person, who has decided to look into surreal character's eyes. You're beholding a mirror that everyone sees, trying to look over the edge.
Why not to play the role of a gardener, who studies the roots of eternal questions and cultivates new meanings on the soil of conventional legends and, perhaps, by showing the fruits of one's labours, to become one step closer to understanding them. The plexuses of meaning can hardly be coldly analysed. Choice and its absence, emotions and judgment, donning and doubts are constant companions of cogitation and life search.
What name should be given to a complex series, which unite different characters that complement each other, all the viewers, and artists themselves? Diatonic forms the basis of modal thinking in folk and professional European music. The adjective "diatonic" has the ancient Greek origin. It is a difficult musical term, meaning the wide ranges prevalence. Also the word literally means transition from pitch to pitch, which can be easily applied to understanding of difficult artistic structures, not only to the world of sounds. Our "Garden" is an attempt to examine the undertones and shades in music of destiny and in characters' life interpretation.
The "Diatonic Garden" series is an attempt to show, and, perhaps, to understand history in a little bit different way. There're a lot more things around us, than just strictly black routine and dazzling white fictional life. And certainly not only spectral colours surround us, as they are just so few. We are surrounded by semitones. So it will be, so it is, and so it was. That's why even in famous childhood characters' mysterious fates, nothing can be obvious and simple. In spite of time and circumstances, which no one will ever know for sure, most of the historical and mythical figures were always extremely contradictory. Neither the bloodthirsty Elizabeth Bathory, nor the sly shapeshifting fox kitsune have never stood next to the man of today. So why not to set your imagination free and not to assume that things were quite different? An endless "Diatonic Garden" asks new questions one after another.
Diatonic Garden. Descriptions
Folk legend of golem appeared in Prague in about XVII century: the righteous rabbi created a man from clay, put a Tetragrammaton, a note with a task, behind his teeth - and so an idol came to life. He rang the synagogue bell, did the dirty work, helped ordinary people in all ways, prevented blood libel, and when task was completed, he turned into ashes. According to other version, rabbi destroyed his creation himself, when he forgot to pull out the note. Left free in unwonted evening time, golem flew into a rage and began attacking people in the streets. So creator took his offspring's life by pulling out of his mouth the texts, that were attracting the free star flows from the Universe. Golem fell to the ground. Only a miserable clay figure, now shown in the Prague synagogue, remained. However, the story does not end, because golem resurges every 33 years.
60 x 60cm / canvas, oil
Diptych is a free author's interpretation of a complex character's life and the fate, devoid of classical subtext. Golem from legends was not a man, a dull vegetative existence barely smouldered in him. We are more up to understanding him as an allusion of Adam. The one, sculpted by the Man, breathing a new life into his own image and likeness. Clay offspring expects from its creator the notes with revitalization words and tasks, but at the same time he's not too humble to give up life, full of meaning.
Golem. Tree of Destination
60 x 100cm / canvas, acrylic
Our "non-classical" Golem infinitely takes the "notes from God" and tries to live according to His purposes and plans. However, he has a right to declare his own independence, if he sees a "tree of knowledge", the source of wisdom and significance. To achieve this, it is necessary to go a long way in search of one's destiny. Confusion? Freedom? Creator brings his offspring to the Tree of Destiny, where instead of leaves there is a myriad of notes, like the one that revived the statue. What does Golem feel? Which purpose will he choose? What does the creator feel?
Zeus the Thunderer fell in love with beautiful Leda and possessed her, in the semblance of the Swan. A pause, which always occurs when you internally try to understand why this erotic story was so attractive to many artists, signals a difficult problem, which is hard to estimate at once. While analysing the Greek interpretations, we found that Leda was not a part of the story, but Nemesis, daughter of the Night (Nyx) was. And the myths of Nemesis are an entire confusion: she turns into a fish escaping from Zeus in one, she becomes a goose and lays an egg in another. In addition, it is considered that Leda turns into Nemesis after death. Here is where the meaning, hidden at first, slightly opens, because Nemesis is the winged goddess of retribution, who punishes for violation of social and moral norms. And out of the egg, which she laid after coition, Elena, the cause of the Trojan War, was born.
120 x 60cm / canvas, oil
The character of Nemesis is quite ambiguous. While looking at plenty of controversial legends, you understand that all is about a girl with a difficult fate. Without willing to randomly select an option, which is closest to the truth, we have decided to interpret her image at ease, according to our own wishes. The black colour of her skin says: this is the daughter of Nyx, goddess of the night, an enigmatic temptress, who feels free under the cover of darkness. Why not a swan, but a flamingo? And who says, that things could have not happen somewhere in Africa?
Due to the French folklore, skilfully interpreted by Charles Perrault, Bluebeard has a firm foothold in human mind as the insidious husband-assassin. The trouble is that this quite well-known fantasy has a real prototype, who probably never was a murderer. He was a marshal of France, a veteran of the Hundred Years' War and the companion of Joan of Arc, also known as Gilles de Rais. He was an offspring of aristocratic family; an excellently educated descendant of a noble Breton household. His life ended abruptly and tragically, when proceedings were instituted against marshal because of the rumours about his debauchery. His bitterest enemies were appointed as judges. Baron was tortured, and he confessed to an accusation. And he got incriminated nothing less than "a murder of 200 children" (according to other sources - around 800) and "some of his wives" (although he had only one). After his arrest a lot of children's skulls and bones allegedly were found in castle dungeons, but archaeologists disproved it. Legends and stories about him, which claim to be objective, are quite contradictory. They say he was a very well-educated and progressive man. In the dark time he was destroyed by his own beliefs and unruliness. We find one more detail decisive: half of de Rais' property was mortgaged to the church and in the case of his death the pledge could not be paid, and the church received all the mortgaged property.
Blue beard. Keys
60 x 120cm / canvas, oil
Painting "Bluebeard. Keys" - that's a dialogue, act, action, relationships. Between people, between man and woman, between two intelligent beings. A moment of transferring the knowledge and sanctity of the forbidden. Such a distorted, simplified allusion to the biblical myth. The keys haven't been passed on yet, the door is not yet opened, the sun has not set down yet and the fading light paints evening in gold. Everything has not happened yet and there is still a choice. After all, the choice should always be.
Blue beard. Shaving
60 x 60cm / canvas, oil
Behind the painting "Shaving" you can see a brisk inquisitive personality, who hardly fits into its shell, a transformation moment, when our character shaves off his beard himself. It's the moment when a true person can't stand pressure anymore and seeks for a change as victory over oneself or relief from captivity. Such interpretation of transformation is illusive and tragic. But despite this a man keeps resorting to such self-deception.
Shapeshifters in eastern countries are not familiar to us humans who turned into wild beasts, they are the animals who take a different look. A fox (literally - kitsune) is an especially popular character. Although in variety of legends foxes take many forms, not even always of living being, their most popular incarnation is into a human. Sometimes kitsune turns into a man, sometimes into a woman. The purpose can be anything: from a family creation to trapping someone in a fairy-tale castle, which disappears the next day, leaving the victim alone in a pile of dirt. However, the most famous is the story that might have given kitsune its name ("always coming", "come to sleep") - of a fox, pretending to be the wife for one Japanese, giving him a son. Husband unravelled her mystery, nevertheless, he hasn't lost affection to his beloved one, and offered her to come back every night. We decided to focus our attention on this story - symbolic one, which intuitively feels a slightly different nature of woman. In this legend kitsune appears not as cunning and certainly not as evil one, but as subtle, faithful character. She is ready for unconditional sacrifice and obedience to her only chosen one, even if for him she will have to abandon her true essence forever.
60x 100 cm / canvas, oil
In Japan "showing your tail" means revealing one's true character. Contrary to popular image of sly shapeshifting fox, trying to cheat by all means and sometimes even to kill its victim, we want to show that kitsune is not a monster. Even the classic legends say that kitsune has a soul, encased in a pearl, which kitsune always carries with it - in the mouth, as a necklace or a bracelet. What if we look from a different angle: the fox did not invite a human into a house, which later can't be found. It decided to cross an unknown home doorstep, placing its fate in stranger's hands. Kitsune is a shapeshifter, and therefore it's not what it seems. Who wore a mask - the wild forest beast, or the loving hearth and home wife? They say, you can always see kitsune's true face in the water reflection.
60 x 60cm / canvas, oil
The so-called obsession with a fox (kitsune-tsuki) is quite frequent in Japan. It's a form of nervous disorder or mania, when a person believes to be a cunning fox. After entering a body through the chest, between shoulder and arm, or more often through the spot between nail and flesh, fox lives its own life, apart from human. This leads to the consciousness duality. Japanese believe that fox deals with human world not accidentally, but always for its own benefits. We're showing a woman, who feels one certain man's importance, she is ready to pretend to be a human for him, while in fact being a fox. She is waiting for a chance to put a spell on someone whom she liked, she brews a potion, she can wait forever.
This is a very complicated character, who has been ranked as a bloody monster and vampire by history and contemporaries. Today, researchers agree: her main fault were Calvinist faith and keen mind. As a girl, Elizabeth got a good education, and probably was smart and capable of sciences. Together with her husband from a family no less wealthy than her own, Bathory settled in Chachtice Castle. When the husband took a post of Hungarian troops commander in the war against the Turks, she was charged to defeat estates, located on the road to Vienna. Threat was significant, but even in this complex situation Elizabeth had advocated for bereaved women a few times, including those whose husbands were captured by the Turks, and those whose daughters were raped. After her husband's death, Bathory remained the sole owner of a vast fortune, and a Lutheran priest accused her of atrocities and massacres. It entailed a long trial, through which countess was convicted and imprisoned in solitary confinement, where she died four years later. Slanders, which she had never accepted, were most likely fabricated. Elizabeth was a victim of her time and church and authorities' intrigues.
60 x 60cm / canvas, oil
A well-educated, strong and rich woman, who had no right to be a full mistress of her husband's legacy after his death, hindered too many people. This figure necessarily had to be removed from the chessboard. Most likely, this character does not deserve its place in the serial killers' and other tormentors' panopticon. Tragic fate of our Bathory - a woman who could not defend herself in rigidly patriarchal society, hid behind the heap of intrigues, dirt, pain, war, betrayal, greed, politics and ignorant surrounding.
From the earliest times people knew the specific root, similar to the human body in shape. It was often used as a strong hallucinogen, also it was mentioned in the Middle Ages magical recipes. At those times the roots which matched the body shape as accurately as possible were the most valuable. According to one version, mandragora grows from the hanged man's semen. Therefore, it's not difficult to chance upon a magician or a witch, prowling in search of the magic ingredient at night under the gallows. When mandragora is pulled out of the ground, it screams with maddening sounds. To pull it out personally meant to meet demise, so one of the ways to obtain the plant would be to tie a dog to it and throw meat in front of the dog, so that it draws the root out. With mandragora people treated for infertility, attracted luck, looked for treasures and even flew, running the risk of being executed for witchcraft.
Mandragora. Siamese Twins
100 x 100cm / canvas, acrylic
We thought it would be wrong to disconnect the male and female roots, so our Mandragora is the Conjoined Twins. Entwining its roots and leaves, this half-plant, half-essence will never be able to break the embrace. This is a harmonious unity of two essences and the frozen burthen of expectations. After all, whether at dawn, or at dusk, whether by the magician, or by a witch, Mandragora will be pulled out of ground and will cry its last song only once. This picture is central in our garden.
The image of horse has always been associated with power, youth, and grace. In the mind's eye it's linked to understanding of power, courage and fertility. The horses are in constant motion, they ferry gods, people, precious goods, and never stop to rest. Therefore, in the ancient times they were portrayed as a symbol of the world's cyclical development. While admiring the power and slim figure of this hardy animal, man rarely looks into its eyes and wonders what its thoughts are about and where is so much sadness in its look from. In some cultures, the horse was an animal beyond the grave, who carried deceased to the after-world. Couple of horses, white and black, mean life and death. Composed of two equal parts, our diptych is also a kind of cognitive dissonance, mismatch, transience and the world behind the looking-glass.
50 x 50cm / canvas, oil
This picture, as well as its antipode in diptych, is intended to immerse spectator into a series of complex intricacies: life and death, dream and reality, true and imaginary. Horse skull, placed in center of composition, reminds human of existence evanescence, while not being a passive object of contemplation itself. Very real and tangible, the skull is placed on the painted town background. In contrast to the obvious death symbol the town itself acquires new features. On one hand, its fictitiousness oozes, which means only its imaginary accessibility; on other hand, in comparison to the lifeless frozen features, the windows lights look softer and seem to invite to warm up by the fire quicker. Two fragile dandelion fluffs, soaring above a cosy fiction and a grim reality, remind the viewer of his own life transiency.
50 x 50cm / canvas, oil
As white horse can never appear in the gloomy town, black horse, alive and filled with youth power, is nothing more than a picture, it won't touch the real apple. The upcoming sweetness visibility is just an illusion, like all the pleasures are vain. Is it only our consciousness, mistakenly enduing two horses with their desires? After all, white horse has no interest to real or painted houses any longer, and black horse is a picture that won't accept an invitation to a meal.
There are, and there have always been the thirty-six righteous people, whose purpose is to spiritually justify our world's existence in front of God. They are Lamed Vavniks. They are very poor, humble and quiet. None of them is aware neither of mission, nor of companions on this way. Once a man suddenly learns that he is a Lamed Vavnik, he immediately dies, and another man takes his place, no matter where he is and how old he is. This thrilling Jewish mystical tradition legend is impossible to prove. Nevertheless, it's pleasant to believe in it, because it gives hope for the world salvation. Who shoulders the heavy burden - or the gift - of mankind salvation? It could be your neighbour, your enemy, finally, it could be you. Whereas there are thirty-six Lamed Vavniks, there is always only one Sufi Qutb for the whole world. For this reason, Qutb was often called "the time pole". He has an inmost knowledge and represents a mediator between people and God. It seems to us, that whatever the mythical number of righteous people is, belief in their presence will not allow you to give up and despair.
100 x 60cm / canvas, oil
Ignorance seems to be the decisive moment in Lamed Vavniks' life. They don't know who they are, but if for some reason the number of thirty-six changes, the world will disappear. We showed the "ark" of righteous, who hold the world. Thus we would like to hint that this is just a picture, and nobody knows what they actually are, and the premonition of world salvation hid in each person nearby, should never leave us.
60 x 60cm / canvas, oil
Not only the Jews hit upon the idea of some people who hold the world, but also Arabs (apparently, eternal rivals and bitter enemies). They all realize that the special essences, not quite human, are needed for balance. It would be nice if every nation had such characters, regardless of religion. The balance of forces in the Universe requires constant justification of our folly and human world imperfection. Therefore, 36+1 reconcile in our project and save humanity together.
Cynocephaly, or Dogheads are fictional people with dog, wolf, jackal or hyena heads. References to them can be found in Indian, Persian, Egyptian, Chinese and Zulu texts. Fields marked as "cynocephaly populated", existed in medieval maps. According to the testimony, although they had dog's heads, the rest of the body was completely humanoid. They used tools and weapons, and wore clothes. It enabled the medieval theologians to claim that Cynocephaly had souls, because shame is a consequence of God-given soul. Anthropomorphic canids seem to never leave man indifferent, for example, the stories of Anubis with dog's head, of lycanthropy, of St. Christopher. There is even an extraordinary Transcarpathian tale about three brothers, who were captured by horrendous Doghead.
60 x 100cm / canvas, oil
This is the most pleasant work for us, since it is directly related to childhood experiences and kind apocryphal story about St. Christopher, which can cause only a smile. The prototype of our Doghead is one of the family members. It is our unusual and clever dog, who has invented many habits, games and its own rituals. One of her fetishes is a bagel. It collects bagels by size and type, it can even count its "treasures". Masya the dog is so humane that we decided to include it among the personalities of our garden.
100 x 100cm / canvas, acrylic
100 x 100cm / canvas, oil
60 x 60cm / canvas, oil
Among many other interpretations of labyrinth, general concepts that are perhaps the nearest to us are the ideas of the human way of life and the road to knowledge. Pattern alike bending path evokes the lifelong dance idea, reminding us of its turns, ups, and downs. Getting here, one can meet the terrible Minotaur, but may also become him. It is absolutely unknown, whether a way out can be found. What if these intertwinings actually are the one's abode? It is sad and wonderful at the same time, that everyone has one's own maze and monster, whom you have to overcome. There is no one except for the wanderer himself to make a route. Barcode resembling the Labyrinth is our own, this is where we err and triumph. And here we see its terrifying master, Minotaur. He's a symbol rather than a monster in literal sense. He is wretched, but still dangerous because of loneliness. He is a mirror. Needless to say, defeating an inner monster is the biggest difficulty. Unexpected infinite turns are only a way of perfection. Wouldn't we all like to believe in it? As is often the case, a helping hand for the daring one belongs to a beautiful companion. This is what a fairly concise central part, "Ariadne's Thread", describes. Our hero hasn't stepped yet on the knowledge path, so thread seems encouragingly long. But what's ahead... Well, people always hope for the best, so infinite discoveries, victories and love are certainly awaiting him.
60 x 60cm / canvas, oil
Ouroboros is a symbol of infinity and eternal rebirth. A mysterious, slightly sinister symbol, constantly tried on by humanity, while circling through the history's spiral. Serpent's cyclical self-destruction gives way to resurgence in new spiritual heights. This ancient symbol existed in most of the world nations, and has been a prototype of Chinese yin and yang. We find Ouroboros to be a good reason for optimism. After all, no matter how long dark times last, light will surely set in!
60 x 60cm / canvas, oil
Protectress, mistress, guardess. Her image, despite the negative interpretation, is still popular and widely used by people. Yet in a positive, protective sense. And what about Medusa herself? What were her feelings? What was she thinking of or striving for? Was she happy about her dangerous gift? All variants of the myths about this woman keep this in secret. But the very fact that she was a woman leads us to think about her internal subtlety and, paradoxically, insecurity. She has loved and has been loved. And only then some heroes due to the orders of some kings... And she became the mother of the winged Pegasus, which is certainly to be remembered by poets and writers. Medusa has also born dangerous creatures, of course, but what do you expect from a furious woman? She had a reason. And we still want you to see above all - the helplessness and femininity of the protectress.