A Path of Self-Discovery
As rigorous river waters roll unrestrained, so does a talented artist rush through their artistic career with no time to look around properly. I know that in almost twenty years since I have met Oleg Zakomorny, he rarely spent several consecutive days, or even a day, without working. Work is both his sense of life and an opportunity to retreat from everything unrelated to art. The peculiarity of Zakomorny as an artist consists in a constant creative self-renewal. In my opinion, Oleg knows the joy of discovery very well. The feeling of an unexpected novelty can arise quite independently of the style of an artwork, its genre, plot, and of its scale. In fact, this constitutes the phenomenon of art, which is difficult to define.
The range of Zakomorny’s art is very wide: from drawings to monumental sculpture. At the same time, each field of his artistic interest is represented in a variety of genres: portraits, figures, depictions of animals, genre scenes, fantasy compositions, decorative park sculptures.
The artist sees drawing as a separate type of art with its specific character, which he is able to feel very intensely. “Drawing is the father of our three arts: architecture, sculpture, and painting — it has risen in the mind, it extracts the general concept out of many things, like shape or the idea of all the creatures of the nature,” as Giorgio Vasari affirmed.
Most drawings by Zakomorny are sketches drawn from nature. In spite of being fragmentary, these drawings convey an independent artistic idea. They are a kind of sketches of complex motion, open gesture, dynamic posture per sé. For instance, the works “Nude Sitter from the Back” and “Nude Sitter on Patterned Blankets” suggest that these characters do not need any posture, gesture, or motion; the form itself is so full of inner energy, that while being totally peaceful, these characters turn out to be dynamically expressive. There is no real space in these drawings, for it is fundamentally inexpressible. The drawing becomes an incarnation of the artist’s personality, emphasizing special qualities of his character, psychology, his outlook on life, his distinctive manner. Oleg works with ease, in a fast, spontaneous way, which makes his drawings remarkably alive and expressive. Each drawing is wonderful in its beauty and motion, but their most distinctive feature is an intense sense of time, it is a sort of fixation of an instant extracted out of the temporal flow. Zakomorny seems to pass the images, impressions, forms of the reality through the structure of his personality, and this personalized connotations mark the portrait of Anyuta Gogol and the portrait of the actress Valeria Skorokhodova. They clearly reflect the emotional excitement, a living pulse. The faces convey an elusive, fleeting expression, the inner state is not well-defined, showing just a slight shade of mood.
I would particularly like to mention the portrait of Leo Bokeria, outstanding heart surgeon and member of the Russian Academy of Science. “I do not know any other art, which would boost the mind more than the art of drawing,” — as Paul Valéry put it. This portrait not only stimulated the artist’s mind, will, and intelligence, but also required a great effort of his soul, its sensitivity and delicacy. The composition is reserved and concise, showing nothing more than the head and a hand — being influenced by the mentality of a sculptor, it gives no extra details. After all, this artwork’s modelling makes it a sculpture. The portrait of this extraordinary and prominent person makes the emphasis on the face: it is the focal point of the painting and thus, the center of its structure. The difficult task under severe restrictions that the artist imposed upon himself in order to depict an extraordinary figure in a crucial moment is solved with precise drawing, soft and rigid lines, skilful distribution of light and shade. The artwork is remarkable by its inner integrity, energy, and human charm. It emanates the energy of a powerful intellect, discipline, and responsibility.
The works “Sonia with a Dog”, “Sonia with a Violin”, and “Lenya” convey an atmosphere of clarity and openness. One cannot but feel empathy, in other words implication, compassion for these faces full of charm. They reflect the artist’s personality. “There is no truth, where there is no love,” Pushkin once exclaimed. As a man and as an artist, Oleg finds this love, which equals truth, in his family: it is here that he discovers his true inspiration. Family is the most important thing in Oleg’s life. The work “Expecting a Baby” is full of palpitations, stress, and psychological expressiveness. This constitutes inner emotion and commotion that the artist felt through the mystery of life.
The line remains lively and active throughout its extended duration. The drawings “Mother and Child (Feeding)”, “Mom and Me”, “The Artist’s Children” captivate with their innocence and warmth. These drawings represent artistic evidence of the events inside the Zakomorny family, they reflect Oleg’s emotional attitude toward his family, they are extremely personal and we immediately recognize his hand not quite for his manner of drawing, but because of a special intonation — the intonation of Zakomorny. It is appropriate to recall that in his preface to the “Retribution” Alexander Blok talked about the integrity and the non-convergence of life and art.
At first glance it may seem that Oleg Zakomorny’s drawings are simple. But when analyzing them, one realizes that they represent a complicated structure, a kind of special organism, remarkable by its inner logic and harmony. The only simple features are the external means that the artist lets us see. Zakomorny sees a special sense in this concept. This simplicity of means and an almost childish clarity of the visual source clears the viewer’s eye from the automatic functioning of the vision, taking away the usual way of perception and recreating the world from a clear, intelligible and reasonable perspective. The artist’s drawings spread across the sheet in an even way, his compositions being adjusted to the finest balance. Zakomorny’s line is always mobile; it gives motion to the rhythm of the drawing in general. Paul Vale´ry once wrote about “the power and brilliance of an act” as opposed to “the instability of an incident”. Oleg Zakomorny’s drawings suggest no weakness, no uncertainty. They are never an “incident” but always an “act”.
The fauna and flora of the Earth are in danger. The voices calling for their protection sound more and more anxious. People gradually become inspired by the understanding of the interconnection of all the things on Earth, awareness of themselves being one of the links in a beautiful, logical chain, forged by Mother Nature. The attitude of man towards the animal world is a moral and ethical problem, and it lies at the heart of Oleg Zakomorny’s art as such. The artist’s animalistic sculpture is characterized by exact shapes, proportions, motions, freedom of the compositional choice, the ability to avoid excess and anything nonessential. The freshness of the impression of life! His sculptures are based on an impeccable volume modelling. The artist starts from the deep, from the general, with an evident spine, a base underneath it. The movements of his animals are natural, realistic and so varied! Outlines, flexible fullness of plasticity, fine modelling — everything serves as evidence of great skills. Most of Zakomorny’s works are characterized by dynamics in evolution, a motion, which lets one reveal and foresee the further development. Such principle is particularly important for the easel animalistic sculpture — it is exactly through the motion that the essential qualities of the model can be demonstrated in the most convincing way. There exists another feature: each piece created by the sculptor is warmed with tenderness and love for all the living creatures, with an intimate understanding of “our four-legged friends”. Zakomorny was gifted with such a quality by the nature. A distinctive feature of the sculptor’s creative script is compositional sophistication ensuring peace and idyllic mood (“Eagle Nest”, “A Family of Leopards”), as well as the state of acuity and dramatic effect (“Moose and Herd”, “Running Cheetah (Speed)”), at the same time, he does not forget about the overall expressiveness of work, in other words, about the sculpture’s decorative side (a tree bending in a peculiar way in “A Family of Leopards”, a stone rock in the work “On an Island”). The intense expressivity of Zakomorny’s artworks is generated, to a large extent, out of the concordance of the creative concept and the material. The artist conceives new themes not in an abstract way, but based on a certain material, regarding its features as inseparable from the interpretation of the image. The ability to understand the nature of the material in relation to the specific traits of an animal’s character or natural objects, to find a decorative resonance and the artistic truth in this blend represents precious qualities of Zakomorny’s art. These qualities found a convincing reflection in the way the bronze delicately imitates the texture of different materials, in particular, in the depiction of a tree in “A Family of Leopards” and the stone rock in the “Eagle Nest”. The artist’s works always convey the idea of perfection of nature, unique beauty and sublimity of an animal or a bird. The depth of idea, along with the shape stylistics, provides a fundamental character to the art of Zakomorny, and its entire inner system of emotion and plasticity is full of significance, firmly holding the living space around itself.
Material always bears a great importance for Zakomorny: he is always looking for its new properties and possibilities, constantly experimenting. This is related to his queries concerning shape, composition, interpretation of motion, etc. The artist makes the surface of the sculpture behave in a more active way. Being more mobile due to a distinctive light and shade, filling cavities and sliding down the beads, the texture often provides dynamics to the static image, and it becomes the leading motif. The harmony of such trinity consisting of fidelity to the nature, decorative character, and qualities of the metal, is a characteristic feature of Oleg Zakomorny’s best works. This harmony is clearly manifested in the sculpture “Dragon”. The 5.5 meter high work “Female Giraffe” is magnificent in its completeness. The aesthetic qualities of this sculpture approach it to the level of a museum exhibit. It fits harmoniously into the surrounding environment. A clear outline contributes to a major expressivity. This sculpture is designed for a spacious, prominent place, which reflects one of the trends of contemporary animalistic plastic modelling.
Romanticism is the psychological dominant of Oleg Zakomorny’s temper. The composition “Natasha Rostova” was performed with the skill of a mature talent. The artist expressed a deep sympathy for the protagonist of the Leo Tolstoy’s novel and managed to embody it with a genuine inspiration. His Natasha is immaterial and purely spiritual. “The soul is everything, the body is nothing,” says the early Christian doctrine. The viewer’s attention is focused on the face expressing surprise, delight, emotional openness. The ingenuity of the image and the ethereal character of the protagonist are emphasized by the use of a ribbon-like base; at the same time, the master manages to convey the time and its atmosphere with Natasha’s high-waist dress and classical shape of the window.
“In my dreams,” says Oleg, “I am transported to other spaces and situations, and this is how unexplainable fantasy compositions appear…”. Vivid imagination, creativity, and original composition solutions are reflected in “A Walk in the Clouds” and “Secrets of the Seas”. Both the idea and the embodiment here are not trivial. The artistic consciousness of the master combines the earthly and the celestial. One may describe these works as the act of “flying, whether awake or asleep”. Such kind of romanticism is rarely encountered in art nowadays.
A special place in Oleg Zakomorny’s oeuvre, in my opinion, is assigned to the panels “Tenderness (Leda and the Swan)” and “Breath of Zeus (Danae)”. Here is what the artist himself says about these works: “The essential aspects here are sensuality, eroticism, mystery, fascination with a woman”. Admiring a woman as an absolute definition of beauty is an omnipresent motif of Oleg Zakomorny’s art. Here Zakomorny acts as a graphic artist and sculptor at the same time. An outline modelled in a graphic manner is filled in with volume, the plastic language becomes decorative and expressive. In these works, Oleg masters the fluidity of bronze in lacy compositions. He revived the traditions of Russian metal grids on a new base. He discovers ornamental tones in his way of treating material, in the outlines of details, as well as in the very rhythm of the composition. What seems to interest Zakomorny in such compositions is the position of figures, the perception of space as a plasticity-related factor. The artist least of all tends to express superficial effects: the pathos of his sculptures is stimulated by their interior flows filling the image. The figurative and the decorative elements of these sculptures constitute an indissoluble unity. The sculptor is always looking for new artistic solutions, modelling methods and techniques. He discovered his unique sculptural style through the art of drawing. The composition “Struggle for Life” represents a confrontation of a man and an animal — a shark, in this case. The plot is fairly traditional for art; it alludes to “Moby Dick” by Melville and “The Old Man and the Sea” by Hemingway. In this artwork, the artist managed to express critical dramatic mood, intensity and tension using an original compositional solution — the conflict between the top and the bottom: a boat with a man rushing from the top to the bottom towards the retreating shark. The figure of the man with the hand thrown into the space is modelled in a very expressive way, the laid down paddles and the anchor rushing upwards create a feeling of an extreme moment. “Struggle for Life” is a visual metaphor of life itself.
A significant place in the oeuvre of Oleg belongs to the cycle of works related to children. When I asked Oleg what interested him about childhood, he answered “I am fascinated by the children’s seriousness, their frankness, for children are always sincere, and each of them has their own personality and reveals it”. There is not a hint of deception in his cycle of works about children, and this is what matters most. The characters depicted by Oleg are extremely natural, direct, open, and are kept busy by their own activities. These qualities, combined with the artist’s elevated professional level, provide the artworks with a great artistic value. The frontal treatment of the compositions “Family Pets” and “Excellent Mark” establishes connection through gestures with the audience, on the one hand, and with the moral values of the characters depicted in these works on the other hand. The protagonists of these works are emotionally attractive!
Zakomorny constantly experiments, finding new solutions in the rhythm, plasticity, inner logic. It is clearly expressed in the compositions “In Charge” and “Summer Rain”. These works are remarkable with their lively feelings, romanticism and an amazing love for life. “In Charge” respresents a miniature in the language of plasticity, accurately reflecting real life. It is a story observed by Oleg in everyday life, which got reinterpreted and artistically represented. Subtle humor, slight irony, compositional balance and, of course, details hiding allusions — all combined in an irresistible aura. The concept of introducing a plot detail requires a special system of plasticity per se´, for there is a risk for it to become a mere naturalistic description. Zakomorny avoids such risks. His ability to create a compositional “scenic intrigue” is clearly expressed in a variety of artworks, which distinguishes his oeuvre.
Without going into detail on the creative evolution of this artist, I would like say that his sculptures — both the earlier and the recent ones — attract the attention with the freshness of shapes interpretation and a high level of simplicity of the plastic concept.
Details play a very significant role in the works of Oleg Zakomorny. They are aimed at revealing the artistic completeness of an artwork, which comes to life thanks to details (it was once mentioned by brothers Goncourt); details create a sense of reality (as emphasized by Claudel); they create an event, hold the eye from breaking the sequence of its motion. Moreover, details act as a particular emphasis. The composition “Secrets of the Seas” represents a sort of a world containing both fundamental aspects (a baby figure and a turtle) and details: ionic column and its wreckage, algae, shells sticking to the turtle, water fish. All of it creates an atmosphere of mystery, time, and disaster, as well as an allusion to the legend of Atlantis. The details hiding secret meanings in the work “In Charge” are slippers, the telephone on the armrest, an open curtain, and an empty frame on the wall — all of it can be a plot for a short story, evidencing the intensity of Oleg Zakomorny’s artistic vision.
Realism and fiction peacefully coexist in Zakomorny’s oeuvre. Judging by his nature and world perception, he is a true romantic. This is the source of the incredible aura of his artworks, such as “A Walk in the Clouds”, “Tenderness (Leda and the Swan)” and “Breath of Zeus (Danae)” which are full of concentrated lyricism and poetic sentiment. He draws his artistic inspiration out of his rich and diverse inner world with its colorful imagination (as in “Secrets of the Seas”, “The Voice of the Moon”). His images are pictorially convincing, for they reflect his inner reality. This is why the figures and the characters that live in his imagination are the most real ones. Both realms of the inner perception — the one that creates through the perceptive experience and the other, based on an ideal explanation of the outside world — tie up into an imaginary unity, where the artist is both a poet and a witness.
By virtue of his nature Oleg Zakomorny is a restless experimenter — it can be seen in each of his works. Not only they convey the scale of his artistic gesture, but also emanate freedom and resonance. They are full of enthusiasm, passion and inspiration. Oleg’s artistic world is extraordinary and unusual. I believe that all the admirers of Oleg Zakomorny’s talent (whom I relate myself to) and perhaps even the artist himself expect pleasant artistic surprises in future.