Oleg Kudryashov

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City landscape and its inspiration

Marina VaizeyMarina Vaizey THE SUNDAY TIMES, 30 JANUARY 1983

'The Moscovite Oleg Kudryashov (b. 1932) left Russia in 1973 and now lives in Brixton. He is a major artist, who works with a method inimitably his own: drypoint, working directly On industrial zinc plate with his needle, drawing with great speed, printing only one impression, himself, from the plate ( although the plate may be reworked to make another evolving composition), often on paper already drenched with colour. The result – work of the past three years - form an exhilarating display at Riverside studios, Hammersmith.

The scale, whether large or small, is somehow comfortable, allowing our gaze to scan the complexities which are offered, and to absorb various incidents with peripheral vision. The colour, applied in cascades and sweeps of gouache (occasionally watercolour), is in various combinations, sometimes as melting, soft and elusively suggestive as our island sky, rivers and sea, sometimes as harsh, bold and brilliant as New York by night. The composition is printed on top of the overlapping layers of colour, or sometimes simply on the plain white creaminess of the paper, and sometimes the colour – or black ink - is used in isolated patches.

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Drawing in Space

"My reliefs of the 1970s-1980s represent a dialogue between two forms of drawing: drawing on the flat plane of the paper with its space, and three-dimensional spatial construction."

Oleg Kudryashov

 

Oleg Kudryashov belongs to that generation of Russian artists who in the late 1960s and 1970s broke away from the prescribed art of officialdom and challenged the canons of Socialist Realism that had dominated Soviet Art since the early 1930s. Yet although he was recognised by his contemporaries, artists and critics alike, as one of the most gifted artists working in Moscow at that time, he did not join the dissident movement. He followed his own path, making no compromises with external pressures. That refusal to accommodate accepted norms and commercial expectations has also characterised his work in the West, Kudryashov has pursued his own artistic goals with single-minded independence and complete aesthetic integrity.

Kudryashov's chosen medium is the drypoint etching, and for the past thirty years he has been consist¬ently exploring its technical and aesthetic possibilities. His inventiveness has manifested itself in straightfor¬ward prints, large and small, in triptych groupings, and in three-dimensional reliefs and constructions. Char¬acteristically, Kudryashov's creative process begins with his scrubbing the zinc plate to endow the ensuing print with a certain vitality of surface. Using the sharp point of a burin engraving needle, he then draws, with intense energy, directly onto the metal plate. The drawing is entirely improvisational since Kudryashov eschews the use of preliminary studies or sketches. As he has explained: "Drawing for me is an action coming from nowhere, demanding concentration and energy, but it is not a discipline and you cannot force yourself— what you are left with is only the inevitable."

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Extracts from Notes and Reminiscences

by Oleg Kudryashov

Our communal house, occupied by a variety of colourful characters, stood in the grounds of an old engineering works. The whole yard was littered with heaps of iron, racks from gas generators, cylinders, pipes and huge rusting concrete-mixers that were manufactured by the works. The ground was covered with a thick layer of iridescent steel shavings swimming in pools of machine oil. This was our playground, where we played hide-and-seek among the pipes under the noses of the welders, who got on with their work as though we were not there.

I have drawn since I was a child, for as long as I can remember. I used to love cutting and glueing paper figures, and colouring them with two or three colours. I collected an kinds of scrap iron, bolts, screws, steel and aluminium wire. I was obsessed with constructing things out of this scrap metal and wire, out of anything I could find in the yard, including discarded parts. Later on I discovered geometry and technical drawing and loved drawing geometrical forms. I was fascinated by technical drawings of car engines and chassis and of locomotive engines, and. I used to make rough sketches of engine parts, paying no attention to the purity of line. And although I was equally keen on life drawing, this was probably my most "constructivist" period.

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Expressionist talent

William Packer on Kudrashov

William PackerWilliam MID ALL the post-glasnost excitement in the galleries at bringing the work of living Russian artists to the West, it is salutary to be reminded of one who has been here for a considerable time. To have been a working artist in Russia for a lifetime past has meant the compromise or suppression of instinct and talent, in complete isolation from the world at large. Even a mere 10 or 20 years ago to leave meant the complete rejection of what one had been, and all one had done.

Oleg Kudryashov, who is showing at the Francis Graham-Dixon Gallery (17 Great Sutton Street ECL until April 21), is now 58. Born in Moscow, he trained in the state art schools, quite unaware of any but the orthodoxies of socialist realism. When he came over to the West in 1974, he was allowed to bring with him only what he could carry in a small portfolio, having already burnt most of his life's work. He has lived and worked in London ever since, for the most part in a self-protective seclusion that only now he is beginning to allow to be broken down. Though he has shown at intervals in Europe and America, his work remains at all familiar only to a small coterie of friends and supporters. Last year, a British citizen, he was invited back to Moscow by the Artists' Union of which he was once a member, for a major retrospective of his work, as yet the only native Russian artist to be so recognised.

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A New Dimension

Ronald PenroseThe problem of transferring the vision of what we see to a two-dimensionai surface has troubled the artist ever since he felt his way around the rugged Wails of a dimly lit cavern. Even then the sensibility of primitive man induced him to use the accidental hollows, protrusions, asperities or smoothness of the rock to help him to give relief to images of the prey he needed to capture and also of himself as a hunter enhanced by magic powers.

However, for many centuries since we have in general been content to enjoy the convention of representations of life skilfully depicted so as to deceive the eye of a strictly flat surface, the only exceptions being those made by sculptors who adopted a compromise in the bas-relief. But Oieg Kudryashov has dramatically revolutionised this time-honoured tradition with a new interpretation of inhabited space executed in relief. He has discovered with geometric precision how to express his feelings about the world around him in constructions made with shapes that seem to emerge from a flat background as though they originated from beneath and come out towards us, welcoming our exploration of the heights and depths between them.

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