Where is a source of artist’s inspiration? Each person answers differently, in dependence on personal leanings, intellect and environs. Some artists find important to identify their creativity with definite ethno – cultural midst, the other prefer to be out of heritage and follow aesthetically formed creativity, total freedom in their self-expression that is far from any associations and symbolic background. Peter Annenkov, a famous graphic artist, multiplicator, painter and designer is free of any traditions in his art searches and thanks to it he has a chance to appeal to various cultures. Reminiscences of West – European painting art – Northern Renaissance and German Romantics, Russian folk graphics, Antique myths and Bible stories, oriental miniature, fine and associative quotations from Dali and Perham Gigantomachia – all that is fused together in some kaleidoscope that is reflection of our life variety. For Annenkov the subjects, well known and already classic, are just a cause to consider the things, a real substance of which is far from ordinary interpretation. Curious mind of the artist enriches and interprets sometimes trivial images and themes filling them up with new and unexpected content.
Subject is an important feature of Peter Annenkov’s works. Leaning to a subject and subject forms was caused by many years of work in the field of book graphics. Book illustrations require careful reading of the book, considering the subject lines and creating of pictures, which are not just adequate to the text but can add it.
Experience in book illustration became a real school for Annenkov; this helped him to work out his own approach to composition, ability to concentrate attention on the most expressive scene, to form a subject line and to be convincing in its exposure. The habit to choose composition for illustration of literature works resulted in conscious striving “to create” subjects for his own graphic and painting works. It became a start point for some internal mechanism and active work of thought, which became a constant background in consciousness and aimed to express world vision through the most expressive and rich images. That’s why the works of the artist have an accent on the intellectual source. The works of P. Annenkov are sui generis parables and artist’s meditations on a sense of life, good and evil.
Before we’ll touch upon the content of the works, we should note that they are beautiful and attractive in their painting properties. Rich palette of bright, deep colours and contrast combinations of warm and cold tints, which form actual symphony of light and lines on a paper or canvas, draw attention and spellbind. But behind their external beauty are always hidden details, which explode the idyll, create sharp dissonance and form new accents, full of gentle humour and irony. Realization of this dissonance is coming later: suddenly reaching it catches a spectator unawares and makes to read “the text” with more attention, to join the author in his interpretation. This combination of fine aesthetics and symbolic content form a basis of almost all works of Annenkov. Their optimistic performance sometimes contrasts the hopeless pessimism of idea, in this integrity and struggle of the opposites there is a character of the master and the life as it is with its unexpected facets and dramatic collisions.
So, the subject of abduction of Europe was used in the world art many times, every time solving its own painting and formal tasks. P. Annenkov has his own vision – a rod in the hand of Europe absolutely changed a content of the picture and gave to it new modern sounding (“Emancipation”, 1994, paper, aquarelle). The similar double subtext and hidden sense is in a subject of Venus’s birth where behind a nude body of the goddess born from the sea foam there is a terrible image of chameleon as if reminding that the world, along with purity and harmony, contains the base and ugly things (“Birth”, 1994, paper, aquarelle). Rich colour presents in his work “Search for True” (1996, paper, aquarelle): two horsemen in a fire of a battle don’t pay attention to the Death sitting nearby and waiting patiently, the reasons of this battle are indifferent to her. Even in commercial projects, portraits by order, Annenkov tries to find a detail that accents the image. Light nature of slim Melani, whose nude body is partly hidden under colourful piece of fabric, is personified by a bird on her head ready to fly up (“Melani”, 1995, paper, aquarelle); small buildings on a palm of a German businessman point out his abilities and skills in business (“Hans Valter Jacobs”, paper, aquarelle). Details with slight friendly smile stress that works of the artist who is perfect in the art of hint is the eyeful not only for eyes but for mind too.
In the art of P. Annenkov the circle of favourite images, which are migrating from one work to another, had already formed. Horsemen, ship – a traditional symbol of rescue transformed by the artist in a symbol of vain hopes (“The Ship of Fools”, 1999, paper, aquarelle; “Parable about Ship”, 1997, paper, aquarelle), each time madonnas and angels have new subject turns proving a rich fantasy of the artist. Leaning to these or those images can be explained both by their poly – semantics and plastic properties giving the opportunity to form harmonic composition. Often the same image in different works may have different context. Horsemen may personify nobility (“Farkhad and Shirin”, 1996, paper, aquarelle) and violence (“Royal Hunting”, 1996, paper, aquarelle), and angels play a role of angel – patron, which is saving but also depends on circumstances (“My Angel”, 1993, paper, aquarelle) and at the same time may present emotionless judge, a meeting with whom is fatal and it doesn’t matter, through which temple is running your path to heaven (“Remember, You’ll Be Taken”, 1999, canvas, oil).
Some pictures have a social context as considering of the being (“Wailful Red Dog”, 1994, paper, aquarelle; “Fool on Throne”, 1995, paper, aquarelle; “Bathing of Red Goat”, 1994, paper, aquarelle). But, as P. Annenkov said, his internal censor always corrects his idea giving the prior place to the hint having the stronger explosive force than direct expressive means. Friends and fans, every time admiring at the artist’s skills to reveal a sharp theme by means of just one detail or symbol, many times asked him to create a work – scandal that can affect public opinion. But the artist is far from such painting extremism. The reason is less in self – censorship than in a tendency, typical of oriental culture, to hide the mystery and to speak by means of allegories. That is not a secret that allegory affects our mind more delicately and at the same time stronger than a thought said directly. A hint creates a curtain of mystery that can be realized by those who know, and that’s why the subtext of the picture becomes richer and initiates new associations, which extend imagery ad infinitum.
Along with the richest subject lines the works of Peter Annenkov have compositional belonging, which allies them in some cycle and common world created by the artist – demiurge. His Universe – mountains in a form of cupolas or stretching their sharp tops to the sky but the mountains occupy just the lower part of a canvas giving to the sky almost all space, which is a background for figures becoming symbols of universal significance.
One of the most important features of Peter Annenkov’s works is their colour solution. His graphic pieces and pictures present a feast of colours, which draw attention by the brightness of clear local tints. This love for rich colours was not sudden; it occurred at the end of the 80s and was resulted by the study of oriental miniature art. Using the miniature, its “stained-glass” burning colours, Annenkov has been creating compositions where local colours are forming combinations not typical of the miniature – he uses black and dark-blue background for clearer accenting of silhouettes (serial “1001 nights”, 1998, paper, aquarelle, aquafortis; “Journey of Gulliver”, 1989, paper, aquarelle, aquafortis; “Five Girls”, 1998, paper, aquarelle, aquafortis). Golden splashes and complicated drawing imitating ornament – another element the artist has taken from the miniature and creatively interpreted. Devotion to oil helped him to open the secrets of colour, secrets giving opportunity to achieve the effect of diffused light and soft semi – tints (“Walking on Water”, 1999, canvas, oil). But more close became burning colours of aquarelle and acryl – aquarelle trained precise drawing and silhouette, gave the power to colour spot; acryl gave the opportunity of experiment, searching and variations of tints in dependence on emotional condition.
Love of Peter Annenkov for a red colour is wondering. In this devotion lays almost physical sense of wish to throw the feelings on canvas; sometimes forced restraint of the subject is compensated by full freedom in a colour, and intensive thought that occurs every time in a process of the work at this or that theme finds its expression in bright burning colour. In this way the artist expressed a heat of struggle in the work “Combat” (1998, paper, aquarelle), majestic greatness of Death (from the serial “Apocalypses”, 1995, paper, aquarelle), insufferable heat of vain illusions (“The Ship of Fools”, 1994, paper, aquarelle). Sometimes colour combinations may base on dissonance but what is strange they don’t destroy but “integrate” the work and support entire composition. This need in rich colour had still kept in his last works, at the same time there is a wish to work in quieter colour, wish to relish details and tints, and, probably, this is a sign of some internal quietness and life wisdom that has come.
In addition P. Annenkov is experienced animalist. Tigers, guepards, horses and the other animals often present in his works and give unexhausted opportunities for the talent of drawer. Plastics of motions, majestic postures of animals and birds “support” a general idea of this or that work and promote the opening of its content. This attention to drawing and precise lines caused Annenkov to try himself in aquafortis. Aquafortis disciplines, makes to be attentive to each line and to reach maximum expressiveness. But searching character of the artist can not agree to be dictated by just technique; sometimes important is impulse, explosion and again he turns to twangy aquarelle.
Does Peter Annenkov have favourite works? “Yes, – he says, – “Rest On the Way”. It is important for me and serves a tonometer of deeds and actions”. Divine light is flowing down from the sky lighting the face of Madonna and baby. Calming scene – just a short moment of rest on the life way, the aim of which has been determined – three crosses have been already installed on Golgotha. But Annenkov considers important to points out the availability of choice – each person is responsible for which cross he chooses – the cross for crucifix of the saint or sinner.
Today Annenkov has as usually a lot of ideas and full of wish to continue creative searches, communication and sharing his ideas and feelings. For last years the artist has held several personal exhibitions including abroad. Annenkov rarely participates in collective exhibitions and this is not occasional too. He hardly enters the general context, his painting and graphics are standing separately, out of fashion courses. His works are popular in the West – they are “recognizable”, close to European minding by their archetypical features, which are shown in a complete circle of images and themes. But popularity of the artist is mostly caused by a fact that he is very “oriental” by spirit and educated on a basis of exotic, for the European, culture of color, allegories and symbolic content. That’s why the features that integrate the works of Annenkov into Uzbekistan art process are so obvious – striving to the dialogue of cultures, synthesis of different art traditions along with a wish to express his own personality, wish to synthesize the East and West reserving individual creativity. His creative activity on a background of sometimes problematic condition of modern book and classic graphics causes the deep respect, admiration before the spiritual power and ability to save devotion to own destination.
Author: Elmira Gyul