(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s >>
The New Artists.
Timur Novikov: Roots – E-E Kozlov: Cosmos
|Introduction: The ostensibly synchronistic evolution of the New Artists|
Part One: The New Artists and the Russian avant-garde
|Chapter 6. From Mayakovsky to Larionov and folk art: something of everything|
Part Two: E-E Kozlov and Peterhof
|Chapter 10. Fishing at Peter the Great’s pond|
|Chapter 11. The Petrodvorets Canteen Combine|
|– Works cited –|
Introduction: The ostensibly synchronistic evolution of the New Artists
As I was writing a text about The New Artists and the Mayakovsky Friends Club, analysing the emergence of these interlocking Leningrad structures, I came about a problem of interpreting Timur Novikov’s article about the New Artists from 1986, where Novikov describes stylistic features shared by the group’s members. It is, more precisely, a problem of interpreting the development of new stylistic features Novikov defines as native roots – or, alternatively, as native traditions – going back to Mayakovsky and, thus, to the Russian avant-garde:
The process of perestroika under way in the country has stimulated self-consciousness and a victory for our own native roots over western influences.
Reading Novikov’s statement, I asked myself whether it actually corresponds to the facts. The Mayakovsky Friends Club was founded in 1986, but how and where did such avant-garde traditions manifest themselves in the works of the New Artists all of a sudden, as if synchronised, superseding western influences (Chapter 1)? This question was less relevant in the context of my article about The New Artists and the Mayakovsky Friends Club, which touches not questions of style, but of self-organisation: how the New Artists (1982-1989 ) attempted to overcome administrative obstacles standing in the way of their self-organisation as a group.
Since the concept of native roots = avant-garde traditions is nevertheless relevant with regard to determining the homogeneity or heterogeneity of the New Artists’ works in their entirety, I decided to dedicate a separate article to this question – before returning to the text The New Artists and the Mayakovsky Friends Club. (Addendum from August 2021: This article is now available here >>) The subject matter turned out to be highly intriguing. With thirteen chapters, The New Artists. Timur Novikov: Roots – E-E Kozlov: Cosmos became longer than expected.
Novikov’s statement brings to mind such “classical” declarations from the Russian East-West debate as Natalia Goncharova’s “Now I shake the dust from my feet and leave the West, considering its vulgarizing significance trivial and insignificant—my path is toward the source of all arts, the East”  ; I discuss them in Chapter 6. However, the scope of this article is not to provide a detailed analysis of Novikov’s text against the background of similar arguments. Rather, the focus is on Novikov’s claim in the passage quoted – the claim of the New Artists’ collective evolution.
If Novikov‘s claim has prompted me to take a closer look at this question, it is because it stands in obvious contradiction to (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov’s  approach to art. Although Kozlov was a member of the New Artists throughout the group’s lifespan, his artistic development was different from that of his fellow artists in that it progressed very fast, similar to that of Picasso in his early period. This process led him to a large variety of stylistic approaches that included elements taken from the Russian avant-garde – we can easily find stylistic traces of Malevich, Maykovsky, Lebedev, Popova, Rodchenko, or Stepanova – but also elements of graffiti art, folk art, and of realistic and even academic drawing.
Kozlov’s stylistic versatility and the diversity of those subjects and themes he chose for his works not only brought a certain heterogeneity into the New Artists’ body of works. They also question the cliché that an art group progresses in a synchronistic manner – a cliché supported by Novikov’s statement.
Kozlov was, however, not the only New artist  with an individual approach to native roots. In Chapter 6, I argue that “some New artists sometimes referred to some of these avant-garde artists, and this habit continued after 1986”. When looking for features enjoying some popularity among several New artists, we can say that small (stencilled) symbols known from early Soviet porcelain and textile – in the first place the cruiser Aurora – appear in the second half 1980s, especially towards the end of the decade. Examples can be found in the works of Timur Novikov, Oleg Kotelnikov, Ivan Sotnikov, Andrey Medvedev and some others; in fact, Medvedev’s stencilled patterns take up applied art designs by Suprematist Nikolai Suetin.Taken together, the works the New Artists created in the 1980s form no unified picture of any native roots, simply because the Russian avant-garde itself offers multiple facets. Because Novikov promoted Larionov and the theory of “everythingism” (“всечествo”), Chapter 6 includes references to Larionov and Goncharova who, having assimilated syncretic French contemporary art, strongly advocated Eastern folk art and neoprimitivism, which makes Russian avant-garde art no less syncretic than that of their Western colleagues.
To speak of the Russian avant-garde art as syncretic leads us to another interesting question: the question of identifying the very roots of the Russian avant-garde – roots in the sense of ethnic background. Where these artists came from and whom they came to be after leaving the Soviet Union is the subject of Chapter 8, while Chapter 9 considers the problem of defining narodnost’, the mystical property constituting the Russian people.
I am not proposing the reader a rigorous stylistic analysis of those native roots present in the works of the New Artists, whether taken as a single body of works  or present in the works of a particular New artist – or any artist from their circle. The choice of works presented, and thus of their authors, is not comprehensive, although it is not arbitrary either: Sergei Bugaev (Africa), Georgy Guryanov, Vladislav Gutsevich, Andrei Khlobystin, Maya Khlobystina, Oleg Kotelnikov, (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, Andrey Krisanov, Andrey Medvedev, Timur Novikov, Inal Savchenkov, Igor Smirnov, Ivan Sotnikov, Yevgeny Yufit. For those reasons explained above, I have been more precise with regard to Kozlov’s works – they provide the majority of examples.
Yet to establish for each New artist that specific relation between native roots and western influences characterising their works must be the subject of monographs; Chapter 5 provides some examples of how to look for such “non-native influences” in Kozlov’s works. Rather, my intention has been to collect, systemise and interpret some relevant facts that provide a more complex – even fragmented – picture of the New Artists’ creative heritage than Novikov’s unifying descriptions might suggest. This is notably the subject of Chapter 7, “Beyond the trend: Kozlov’s Portrait of Timur Novikov (1988)”.
The second problem I will discuss concerns the validity of what Novikov suggested as the New Artists’ concept since 1986: “to strengthen and cultivate innovative native traditions” – in other words: to be new and traditional at the same time. This formula comprehends an inherent contradiction, since “tradition” opposes “novelty” (Chapter 4). It also creates an opposition between Novikov and Kozlov in so far as Novikov’s statement gave the group a distinctively patriotic pop art mission (Chapter 2), while Kozlov perceived art, that is, the creative process, as “what connects man to life, space, time, universe, cosmos, eternity” . It led Kozlov, in 1991, to write his theory about “Two Cosmic Systems” (Chapter 3), which syntheses a view from the earth with a view from the cosmos. This theory expresses Kozlov’s anti-ideological attitude – an attitude contrasting Novikov‘s often polemic statements.
On the other hand, it is also clear that Kozlov accepted Novikov’s invitation to join the New Artists not incidentally: he was expecting fresh impulses for his own art. On 24 January, 1983, he wrote in his notebook, “True art must be unlike any art from the past; its only task is to be a way towards the future – that is, to be contemporary art not in the sense of art of our times, but in the sense of freedom of expression, of novelty – this is the path in the present moment.”  New is what Kozlov calls today “a primary matrix” (первичная матрица).
With regard to Evgenij Kozlov, I propose to solve the antagonism between “innovative” and “traditions” by re-interpreting and enlarging the concept of native roots with a specific fact from the artist’s biography. I’m referring to the fact that Kozlov lived outside Leningrad, in Peterhof; his flat and studio Galaxy Gallery (Chapter 12) was located near the Grand Palace. I suggest to include Peterhof into a wider concept of native roots and thereby extend native roots to native culture, or, perhaps, to a more spiritual concept of native atmosphere, the latter being free of any patriotic undertones (Chapter 10). Chapter 11 focuses on a more down-to-earth aspect of Kozlov’s life in Peterhof: his jobs, which – unexpectedly – brought some important impulses for his art.
Last but not least, Peterhof helped Kozlov to generate within himself what he defined, some years ago, as “a perception of pureness”, which we may consider as the basis for integrating – in line with the theory of “Two Cosmic Systems” – the laws of both earth and cosmos into a work of art. In the last chapter of my article, I will pay particular attention to such a “perception of pureness” and define it as the perception of a timeless moment, a nunc stans, which has been experienced and described by different authors with their own terminologies. The “perception of pureness” is connected to an artist’s necessity for seclusion – the opposite of being a member of an artist collective, or a collectivity (Chapter 13).
Assigning “roots” to Timur Novikov and “cosmos” to Evgenij Kozlov, I am not saying that Novikov disregarded “cosmos”, nor that Kozlov disregarded “roots”. My point is that referring to “roots” in an ideological way, as did Novikov in his text from 1986, closes the way to an innovation of traditions, while referring to “cosmos” keeps this path open.
If there is a main conclusion from approaching the problem of native roots and innovative native traditions from different sides, it comes as no surprise: I would suggest to use with great care and “due diligence” such class definitions proposed by Timur Novikov as “The New Artists’ native roots…”, “The New Artists followed the traditions of…” or “The New Artists were influenced by / overcame the influence of…”. To avoid such categorical propositions, “The New Artists, generally speaking, …” would be an option. Having said that, phenomena lying beyond what is generally true are often the most interesting ones, especially with regard to a group’s cohesion. Exceptions may even provide the conditions for that which is generally true.
My hope is that those observations, conclusions and questions proposed in this article, when added to materials and studies available up to date, will help to establish a theoretical framework to determine what “group” or “collective” means in the context of the New Artists.
This touches the question of mutual influences, which remain to be examined in just the same scrupulous manner as, hopefully one day, the question of native roots vs. non-native influences. I am fully convinced that the more facts and details become available, the better we will understand what constituted not roots, tradition, or influences, but novelty – the New Artists’ momentum.
 Concerning the dating to 1986 see footnote 2
 Potapov, Igor (pseudonym of Timur Novikov). “Novye Khudozhniki” (“The New Artists”) [“Новые художники”], 1986, in:
The New Artists. Ed. by Ekaterina Andreeva and Nelly Podgorskaya. Moscow: Moscow Museum of Modern Art, 2012, p. 29. The English translation is a slightly adapted version of the printed text. For the original version of the English translation see Chapter 1.
The Russian text is available on Timur Novikov's website. Web. 12 August 2020.
Original Russian text of the quote:
Недолгий интерес группы к французским «Фигурасьон либрэ», немецким «новым диким», американским граффитистам, комиксам и компьютерам заметно окрасил творчество многих художников группы. Эта возрастная болезнь быстро прошла, замененная у "новых" взаимовлияниями.
Процесс перестройки в стране стимулировал самосознание и победу отечественных корней над западными влияниями. «Новые художники» открыли клуб друзей В.В.Маяковского - организацию, призванную укреплять и развивать отечественные новаторские традиции.
The original typescript is now in the collection of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, where it is dated to 1987, although the pages themselves are undated.
The reason for these diverging dates – 1986 and 1987, respectively – is unclear. Both dates are possible. Since Novikov refers to the foundation of the Mayakovsky Friends Club which was registered in September 1986, the manuscript must have been written after September 1986. On the other hand, the text contains no references to events from 1987.
 No formal act documents the group’s foundation or dissolution, but it is there is a consensus to date the beginning to 1982, when Timur Novikov and Ivan Sotnikov created a scandal with the so-called “zero object”. With regard to the group’s dissolution there are different opinions. I find it plausible to date the end to 1989, the last year of a joint exhibition, while others date it to 1991, which includes the period of “Pirate Television”.
See Fobo, Hannelore. Timur Novikov's New Artists Lists, 2018
 Goncharova, Natalia. Preface to the catalogue from her second solo exhibition in Moscow. 1913
In: The Russian Avant-Garde and Radical Modernism. An Introductory Reader. Edited by Dennis G. Ioffe and Frederick H. White Brighton, MA 02135, USA, 2012, p. 90
Online text Web. 11 August 2020.
Goncharova’s statement is less critical to the West than appears at first sight. Her manifesto also includes the sentence “I express my deep gratitude to Western painters for all they have taught me.” See Chapter 6.
 In this text, I use different writings for Евгений Козлов: (E-E) Evgenij Kozlov, E-E Kozlov or simply Kozlov or E-E.“E-E“ has become Kozlov’s signature in 2005, and he added it to his name in 2013.
 When referring to single members of the group, I capitalise and italicise only New – “New artist”
 The question of whether, from the point of view of native roots, the works by the New Artists may be treated as a single body of works is especially interesting when looking at those “early” members – Khazanovich, Kotelnikov, Kozlov, Novikov, and Sotnikov (see chapter 2, foonote 2), who were all born in Leningrad and shared the typical lives of the non-privileged Soviet urban youth. We may therefore assume that if they were inspired by different avant-garde impulses at different times, this was an expression of their personal preferences and not of their backgrounds, which were largely the same.
 Связь человека с жизнью , с пространством, временем, вселенной, космосом, бесконечностью;
Kozlov, (E-E) Evgenij. Diary III, p. 3-09, January 1982. Web 12 August 2020.
 Настоящее искусство не должно быть похоже ни на одно в прошлом, но только путь в будущее – современное искусство, не в смысле времени, но в свободе выражения, его новизне – это путь в настоящем моменте.
Kozlov, (E-E) Evgenij. Diary III, p. 3-079, 24 January 1983. Web 12 August 2020.
Research / text / layout: Hannelore Fobo, May / September 2020.
Uploaded 24 September 2020