If in his previous painting series Alimpiev relied on the physical presence of canvas and the thematic sequence of pieces as the signs of continuing action (for example in the series “Battle Afar”), in the new series the artist experiments consistently with the measures of paintings and tries a new technique – drawing in canvas through carbon paper. The face of the British opera singer Kathleen Ferrier, a bowing girl, a back of the head, the fascist Brownshirts’ logo, plumes of smoke – all these appear before our eyes in recognizable forms but in conglomerations which disperse immediately in “starry” pictures-doppelgangers, where silhouettes are given only allusively. The presence of those characters and themes is not explained directly. For Alimpiev the contralto of Kathleen Ferrier, for example, is an important external referent (“I paint parallel to the dimension where her voice sounds”). Besides Ferrier is “pretty as a picture” and steadfast like many other opera singers of the first half of the XX century: her body as a whole is an instrument. With Alimpiev the Ferrier’s body is instrumental

too, though we may not know it perceiving only its motionlessness. The logo “SS” stands for synchronized bolts of lightning which is naturally impossible. For the artist those bolts are connected to the notion of “unfathomable evil”, impending like a weight at the outskirts of the artistic text.
Both in his imagery and in omissions and lacunas Alimpiev follows the path trodden by late Monet who discovered the first screen of modern painting, that is a pond’s surface. Alimpiev’s pictures resemble the streams of water with grass-blades like lines folding up in something solemn and alluring. With Monet a water surface being inseparable in our understanding from the illusion of depth is given as an active plane unlimited either by scenario or by frame. So, depth comes as a side effect of seeing the picture, like a sensation without evidence which is similar to evil brought up to mind by the SS logo. To see a water-lily – an object which the title of the picture and a lemon with beige spot on the canvas refer to – you must scramble through hundreds of conventions and approximations. That demands a habit of belief from a viewer – a capacity strongly connected to the process of reading an artistic text. In fact belief is the light of a projection, the fluctuation of particles between the transmitter and the screen.
Alimpiev says he would like to “
baptize people” reminding us of a certain function of European painting which is to be a medium of benedictory imagery. This kind of faith is ambiguous and uncanonical, it exists somewhere between inspiration and a headache (the same can be said about temptation). In “The Logic of Sensation” by Gilles Deleuze, a book that is very important for Alimpiev, the French philosopher infers firstly the thematic variety of European painting from the assumption “if God exists, then everything is permitted” and later he adds: “grains of quiet atheism inherent to Christianity germinate in painting; a painter may be quite indifferent to a religious scene that he is summoned to depict”. Indeed, a personal attitude to the figures and symbols can be rarely abstracted from skill and talent. More to it, indifference to the subject equals to the esthetic requirement to capture ritual images in order to manipulate them at one’s own will. Correspondingly, for Alimpiev the titles of paintings “are not wildly important – either “stars”, or “a pretty face with a strange expression” can be left unnamed and go on performing their function, an esthetic one in this case”. It is rather hard to transmit indifference or to make it one of the things that happen to a viewer standing in front of a painting. Knowing nothing about Christ, it is easy to believe in Him looking at “The Ascent to Calvary” by Tintoretto. Knowing nothing about Ferrier, it is easy to get lost in her discography after having seen the paintings by Alimpiev. However, the artist manages to keep a balance between temptation seen as an indication to the desirable sensations of the real world and the demonstration of a picture-screen in all the complexity of its technical details.

Valentin Dyakonov 

  • Victor Alimpiev. Performative and index Link

    Victor Alimpiev. Performative and index

    Alexandra Artamonova, ARTERRITORY March 31, 2015