27.11 - 20.12.2008
"Sponge Bob, Bonge Spb and scientific and technical progress"
For a while Nikolay Kopeikin happily abided in the underground, although it was a special kind of underground, a present-day Saint Petersburg underground. And even though without having a Soviet ideology he lost something heroic, he gained something worldly. Isn't it great for an artist to live in harmony with himself, to live freely, not having to hunt after grants and care about the establishment?
It seems to me that these recent years Kopeikin has been changing his mediums of expression. I will take a closer look to the origin of his art. There's absolutely no doubt that he evolved - influenced and fascinated by Mitki movement that has always had the literary component as one of the most powerful. Among literary works, the first one which thematically comes to my mind is Moscow-Petushki. Although I would also emphasize Dovlatov's influence as less radical than Erofeev's, but deeply rooted in minds and lives of intellectuals of the late Soviet period. Among visual components, I would lay an emphasis on the unique art practice of A. Arefiev who, in the end of the 1950s, was able to start and keep an extremely expressive, non-compromising series, devoted to a life of Leningrad's gutter. Also let's not forget about Action Pencil, a satiric group of Leningrad artists who are not so popular among the youth audience.
Those are the approximate sources that influenced Kopeikin's development and most of them are in Leningrad. I think that Mitki movement was an honest expression of his own heart which is why it naturally played the most influential role in his evolution as an artist. It is also possible that, subconsciously, Mitki played some sort of compensating role. As far as I know the author with his philological and philosophical education was longing for Mitki's carelessness, slovenliness and kindness. Dovlatov's work also resonated with him - as an encyclopedia of the remnants of Russian independence and non-political life.
But, alas, the time came to individualize his style, to consider his own mediums of expression. Kopeikin considers himself as an artist-narrator, but how can one find his own form of narration and, at the same time, save the literary component, the mocking intonation, but move away from an anecdote, a caricature? It seems to me that Kopeikin is naturally finds his niche in ironic-epic form. Within this form it is essential to have a thorough emotional development, which is not necessarily narrative, as well as movement forward in an increasing drive. Also, it made sense to have strong permanent heroes that have the ability to stand alone. Kopeikin already made attempts to approach this epic form in his works, for example, in The Battle of Snowmen and Coalmen. He also created permanent heroes. But it seems that the first work in which this new quality really converges was his well-known Elephant series.
For an artist, evolution can be a difficult and painful process. The audience becomes wider and contact with some initial audience becomes complicated or comes to a sudden end. It is easy to criticize the establishment, government-friendly artists or even the sacked cows of the previous generations (indeed Kopeikin creates wicked, satirical images of Makarevich, Grebenshikov and others) in your art. But whether you like it or not, one has to build some kind of ties with the art-establishment. In this realm it's impossible to manage only with caricatures and sarcasm, one has to enter into the sphere of contemporary art, to position oneself in a larger art process. Also, here you are viewed through a different lens, the lens which is not blurred by an underground friendly tear but is estranged, objective and professional. I think Kopeikin has nothing to worry about: the ironic-epic form that he has found in these recent years will show its worth in time.
Nikolay Kopeikin Press Release as pdf-File 116 KB