Noah’s Ark of Yuri Negodaev
In the ancient city of Vladimir, a non-Vladimir artist Yuri Negodaev lives. His fate reflected, just like a mirror, the fate of thousands of people who inhabited the outskirts of the Soviet empire. The artist was born in East Kazakhstan, in the city of Semipalatinsk. During the Soviet era, Central Asia and Kazakhstan could be compared with the biblical Babylon. Political emigrants, victims of Stalin’s repressions, evacuees, conquerors of virgin lands, “soldiers” of industrialization and collectivization rooted in the land of the Soviet East. A special ethnos emerged, which received a clumsy political definition — the Russian-speaking population. But the USSR collapsed like the Tower of Babel, fragments of the colonial civilization scattered all over the world. Yuri Negodaev came to Vladimir at the invitation of his friend, writer and musician Sergei Milyaev. More than ten years have passed since that moment, the artist’s creative method has been formed. It was based on his multicultural consciousness, the beginnings of which appeared in his childhood and adolescence. Probably, this is why Negodaev’s work is supranational in its nature. In it, you can find reminiscences of the Western Renaissance, the Ancient Orient, the Russian avant-garde.
In the early period of his creative work, Yuri directed his energy to his passion for non-objective compositions. As the artist himself noted, P. Filonov had a strong influence on him. Gradually, interest in figurative art came, the characteristic manner of his modern works developed. On the one hand, the world of the artist’s images is well known. Biblical characters, personified allegories, “humanized” animals inhabit his paintings. What makes them unusual is the artist’s original style. There is no pathos or sacred pathetic elements in his works. The artist deliberately distorts living forms. Three graces, Adam and Eve, numerous Angels are always a little angular, big-nosed. Yuri does not enchant the viewer with ideal harmony, he seems to declare: “Get to the root of the matter!” What is beauty for a master? Obviously, Chekhov’s thesis is not appropriate here. The artist is more likely to rethink the Leonardo’s approach. Da Vinci loved to seek beauty in ugliness. Negodaev, on the contrary, seeks images doomed to be references, to turn them inside out, showing that dissonance is possible. A harmonious body does not always contain a wonderful spirit, and vice versa. This point of view brings the artist closer to the artists of the Northern Renaissance.
Another feature of Negodaev’s creation is the deliberate reduction of pathos, the secularization of holy subjects (here we should recall P. Bruegel and H. Bosch). Angels, overcrowding the artist’s paintings, are busy with simple matters, but apparently very important for them. They fish, walk cats on a leash, and selflessly catch butterflies. Tigers, lions, panthers, hares can gather (oh sacrilege!) for a supper. Just imagine, all these actions surely take place in the Garden of Eden!
The theme of Eden is important to the artist. Even when the painting titles say nothing of Eden, it still may be there. For example, the cycle of allegorical personifications implicitly carries an element of the paradise dream. Flora, Night, Europe, Asia, Africa, America are surrounded by the mysterious landscapes with fantastic trees, animals, which one would like to call the Booths. Such feelings are enhanced by the golden backgrounds that the artist loves so much. Gold is known to be a sign of the heavenly world.
Speaking about the colour of Negodaev’s paintings, its decorative effect is especially notable. In some cases, the artist prefers a bright palette, where green, red and pink, blue shades are soloed (Noah’s Ark, The Abduction of Europa, Adam and Eve). And in such works as The Feast of Animals, Walk in the Moonlight, the Corners of the Earth cycle, the colouring is based on the predominance of finely developed brown-ochre, yellow tones. In whatever palette the artist works, his great attention to detail always remains unchanged. Each piece of the canvas is carefully painted. The combination of various textures, precise fine drawing evoke associations with embroidery or tapestry. There are no minor details for an artist. A thin blade of grass, a flower, a grasshopper appear in his pictures for a reason. They are part of the universe that Negodaev creates, and this universe has no beginning or end. Perhaps that is why the compositions of his works are open. They appear to be part of one large frieze. Each next work can be placed in an imaginary row, complementing the artist’s picture of the world. Another feature of his compositions is the absence of distant shots, the “overturning” of space. These techniques add flatness to the image and enhance the decorative echo.
Conditional stylization is the most suitable shaping method for those tasks that Yuri Negodaev sets in his work. The dream world cannot be told in words, which were designed for the real world. Therefore, dog-sized grasshoppers, tiny pink crocodiles look so organic in the artist’s paintings. And every creature looks at us with its blue human eye, in which we read either a question or a reproach. Sometimes this look seems to be that of the artist himself, striving to find his Eden. The ark, filled with goodness and beauty, floats to unknown shores, and the artist Yuri Negodaev is its helmsman.