Interview with Sergey Sobolev for Landscape Art preview magazine
Hello Sergey and a warm welcome to LandEscape: to start this interview, would you like to tell us something about your background? In particular, you grew in a family of artists and moreover you have a solid formal training: after your studies at the Moscow State Academic Art Institute Surikov V.I. you joined the Moscow Union of Artists. So I would like to ask you the importance of these experiences in your evolution as an artist: in particular, how does your formal training experience impact on the technical aspects you mainly focus on your works?
Child impressions are the strongest and foundational for any person, that’s why the fact that my parents were artists decided my future life perspective. It had a significant impact on me and shaped a certain mindset. Later on 12 years of studies at the School of Art first and then at the University of Art laid the significant groundwork for the technical competence as well as for the worldview shaping and aesthetical preferences. We were taught in classical way on the basis of antiquity and renaissance ideals. It formed certain aesthetical principles. They are raised to the rank of philosophy, or even more — to the rank of cult. It is well-known that any false note is horrible to the ear of a musician, and the painters feel the same, but in relation to the colour or shape. But another factor was more influential. The stage of trainings can be compared to bullet acceleration in the gun barrel. It looks as if a person is flying in the intended direction through the life, and if they don’t meet any invincible obstacles, they don’t change this direction for the whole life. It is very important. To deal with any matter it is necessary to focus on it. But it is more important to guess the right direction of this acceleration in the beginning of the life, because if you make a mistake, you may live not your life by inertia. I’m so unfocused by nature and I’m interested in widely different things. And if I didn’t have fundamental art education I could be lost in the variety of interests without taking successive steps in definite direction. And I still expand the horizons steadily, and sometimes it leads to slowdown. It can be compared to a river — the wider its bed is the slower the stream is. But I don’t worry about it, because I haven’t a definite professional goal. That’s why I feel gratitude to the situation that it all worked out this way, and I definitely live my own life. And I even think that each person should be an artist. It is a form of human existence, an essence of human nature.
Before starting to elaborate about your production, would you like to tell to our readers something about your process and set up for making your artworks? In particular, what technical aspects do you mainly focus on your work? And how much preparation and time do you put in before and during the process of creating a piece?
As to sculpture and especially to architecture, the technical part is much larger than the creative one here, that’s why many projects remain unrealized. But honestly speaking I do not feel sad at this fact, because the most interesting thing is to think up. But I can’t relegate the execution to another person in my case, especially when it comes to sculpture, where the shape is critical for conveying the meaning and character. It is very important for me to recognize the concept in all the details, and nobody but I can know it beforehand. A reasonably large project takes half a year and more. Each new project is a small life, which brings you a valuable experience. I believe that the task should always be a bit higher than apparent potentials. In this case it makes you grow and be in progress. Every time I get involved into the project so much, that I do much more than it is required of me. Of course, I do it for myself and my client gets a result as a bonus. To my mind, easy tasks are just time wasters. Simple solutions of difficult tasks are much more interesting.
The sculptural art is a precise visual genre. Its shape is its language. The shape has distinct limits, otherwise it is amorphous, shapeless in other words. That’s why I put my sculptures into concise shape, polish them up to the state of a sign, and get them rid of unwanted details to avoid anything arbitrary. Optimization is the sculpture’s genesis. The significance of meaning is put into the significance of form, as if into the box. Or conversely the significance of meaning gets covered with a shell of the significant form. I theorize more and more over years, and I consider it to be a more productive process. I get more and more absorbed into philosophy, formation of the attitude towards different objects. That’s why I will not tell you about the particular process of sculpture creation and other projects, about the technical matters.
Now let’s focus on your artistic production: I would start from Cosmic Sphere, an extremely interesting work that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article: and I would suggest our readers to visit directly at http://www.sergeysobolev.ru in order to get a wider idea of your multifaceted artistic production. In the meanwhile, would you tell us something about the genesis of this interesting project? What was your initial inspiration?
It was a project for the certain place, for the private area. It was planned to build children’s playing space. At the same time the modern architecture of the house and the forest site layout created a definite image, which I didn’t want to ruin. That’s why no childishness in the usual sense of the word would have done for me. I took an independent view of the task. What do children need? They need their own world, and the more secret and hidden from the adults’ eyes it is the more interesting and attractive it seems to them. I had several ideas and the space spheres were one of them. They looked like enigmatic artifacts, meteorites, or petrified remains, absolutely integrated into the landscape, but inside you could see a different world, as in the ant hill. These are the interconnected spherical spaces with the hole-like passages, and I think it is rather interesting to wander through them. When a logical problem is formulated, the intuition starts to work. And at some point an insight into the problem is gained, adults’ point of view and children’s point of view suddenly reach an unexpected agreement.
Your practice is intrinsically connected to the chance of creating an area of deep, almost physical interplay with the viewers, that are urged to evolve from the condition of a merely passive audience and I definetely love the way Ocean and Cocoon takes such an intense participatory line not only on the way we enjoy Art, but also and especially on the conception of art itself. In particular, your investigation about the intimate aspect of constructed realities has reminded me of Thomas Demand’s works: while conceiving Art could be considered a purely abstract activity, there is always a way of giving it a permanence that goes beyond the intrinsic ephemeral nature of the concepts you capture. So I would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion personal experience is an absolutely indespensable part of a creative process… Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience?
The creative process, if it is genuine, is always based on the latest update of the personal experience. It is bound to be so. It is a visual form of personal diaries. And there is another important point, such as responsibility for the words we say. Art is an area of freedom, but freedom is good when it is responsible and conscientious. And I strongly believe that it is destructive to visualize your inner problems. This way an artist multiplies, documents and immortalizes them. A piece of visual art can outlive its author and continue to convey the thoughts and emotions put into it. If this message is destructive, it can make a lot of harm to people. That’s why I develop a concept of sound art. But to create sound art you must be sound yourself. And it seems to be the most difficult but the most useful task.
The ambience created by Lips and the reminder to human body has reminded me the concept of Heterotopia elaborated by Michel Foucault. What has mostly impacted on me is the way you have been capable of bringing a new level of significance to signs, and in a wide sense to re-contextualize the concept of the environment we inhabit in. This is a recurrent feature of your approach that invite the viewers’ perception in order to challenge the common way to perceive not only the outside world, but our inner dimension… By the way, I’m sort of convinced that some informations & ideas are hidden, or even “encrypted” in the environment we live in, so we need -in a way- to decipher them. Maybe that one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature… what’s your point about this?
Many people are led by stereotypes. The stereotype is a convenient system for communications. It is a ready module, but it is closed. It means that it doesn’t intend any development. I can’t accept the stereotypes at all. It is not that I struggle against them, I rather ignore them, do not see them just on principle. But sometimes it is difficult. It requires a special state of keeping distance. I try to be open-minded, like a child, and to create my own constructions, as if I build them with toy blocks. Any concept isn’t an absolute for me; it is a flexible material for creative work. The artist’s role is very wide. It ranges from the balance of irrationality, which is necessary for the inner self of any person in such a pragmatic world, and stimulation of the people’s sociability, to breaking stereotypes when they begin to dominate the reason, as the art lives by its own code. The artist provokes and evokes some sleeping parts of human nature, of which they can be not aware themselves. It is interesting and useful for personal growth.
Multidisciplinarity is a crucial aspect of your art practice and you seem to be in an incessant search of an organic, almost intimate symbiosis between several disciplines, taking advantage of the creative and expressive potential of Plasticity as well as the evokative power of abstract shapes: while crossing the borders of different artistic fields have you ever happened to realize that a symbiosis between different disciplines is the only way to achieve some results, to express some concepts?
At a certain point I broke from bonds of definitions at last. Everything amalgamated into an integrated stream of creativity for me. Functional and aesthetic aspects are present everywhere. Creativity unites everything I do. Creativity always means discovering something new, inventing something that didn’t exist in this world five minutes ago. But sometimes situation calls for definitions, as our brain can work with definitions only, but I try to veil everything. I try to turn architecture and design into art, and endue the art with functionality, if not practical but in any case curative or psychological. All the disciplines I’ve talked about are directly related to the form and the space. The fact that I’m engaged into various activities is explained not by my efforts to find the appropriate tool for self-expression, but more by the fact that I have my own perspective, my own point of view, where I see the tings a bit different, and sometimes I want to express it. I have defined this term as “meta-design”, it belongs to a different level, and that’s why the discipline differences do not play an important role. As for the abstract forms, here we deal with absolute metaphysics. They possess the minimum of familiar informational content. I understand them as tuning-forks, wave generators. Their frequency makes a certain effect. Generally this effect is meditative, calming, and stabilising.
Another interesting work of yours that has particularly impacted on me and on which I would like to spend some words is entitled Stream: in particular, when I first happened to get to know with this work I tried to relate all the visual information to a single meaning. I later realized I had to fit into the visual rhythm suggested by the work, forgetting my need for a univocal understanding of its symbolic content: in your work, rather that a conceptual interiority, I can recognize the desire to enabling us to establish direct relations… Would you say that it’s more of an intuitive or a systematic process?
Many works appear by intuition. The image comes into being, and at first I can’t understand what to do with it, and then it takes the accomplished form. The trend began as a composition of two issues which I was interested in. It is a static form, which supposes expressed or potential dynamics, and an issue of two forms coupling. When they united into one image they took new various meanings at once. This is a unity of two, but in co-current dynamics. Two united into one and go with the stream. As for me it is visualization of love, or family. However everybody can see their own ideas. Such abstract allegories provoke individual interpretation from the viewers, and sometimes it seems to me that we needn’t impose our own associations and lay our cards on the table. It’s better to give a viewer some freedom.
I noticed that you seem to induce the viewer to abandon himself to his associations, looking at time in spatial terms and I daresay, rethinking the concept of space in such a static way: this seems to remove any historic gaze from the reality you refer to, offering to the viewers the chance to perceive in a more atemporal form. How do you conceive the rhythm of your works?
I deal with supertemporal categories. I’m interested in timeless themes. They unite people regardless of geography or epoch. It is the level where there is no discord, and I try to bring it outside, out of the depth of the unconscious. I want it to get material form and to transform from a theory to a real artifact. To the thing which many people guess, but do not find a real confirmation. This applies especially to sculpture art. It has always been a synonym for immortalization. That’s why the themes must be appropriate. I daresay I do not stay in deep subjectivism, but I focus on the depth of the objective roots, which connect all of us.
Before taking leave from this interesting conversation I would like to pose a a question about the nature of the relation with your audience: in particular, do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process in terms of what type of language for a particular context?
Audience has a determining value, if an artist is socially focused. In fact, it often inspires their creativity, discover new topics for them. The ideas appear in a certain context, and they would never come into mind by themselves. But there also exists a separate process which does not depend on external circumstances. It is like an inner dialogue. It runs in the laboratory setting. The both of them are interesting, one supplies another. I began to feel more keenly the social role. I think our presence in this world means a close contact between people, that’s why it is a bit wrong to retire into shell and to escape from reality to one’s own worlds. Visual art is intended for the viewer, because it is a form of communication. That’s why I listen to the response, but I’m interested not so much in logical valuation, I’m interested more in emotions, how my objects correct and retune viewer’s inner vibrations. I’d like to know if the viewer gets a useful experience, if it provides an inducement to develop themselves, if it makes them more open and so on.
Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Sergey. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?
My creative work plans are deeply connected to common life tasks. As for me, many things in people’s lives seem unacceptable in the most essential aspects. It is difficult to notice it from the outside, because I do not waste my power for the struggle. Nothing must be rejected and nothing must be struggled with, before you find an alternative. And if it is really worthy, you won’t have to prove anything any more. That’s why the best way to change something for the better is your own example. My life, its latest years turn into reconsidering and new life philosophy shaping. Its final meaning is to learn how to live in a right way. The right way is when nobody can dispute it. The right way is when it is very convincing, intelligible, and inspiring. It will be my revolution of consciousness. I don’t know if I will get it, but this way is very challenging by itself. So everything that concerns my art and design activities has resemblance to a shadow play, rather restrained and uncertain illustrations of the inner processes. And also it looks like careful and cautious experiments and tests for information accumulation.
I have so many ideas that I even don’t have any hope to realize them. And it does’t matter if I live a year or fifty years more, the ideas multiply quicker then I manage to realize them. That’s why I stopped to hurry. I do not make plans. I act as a situation demands. I realize the things which need fewer efforts, which are more appropriate at this moment. I have some projects started but not finished, right now I have some projects which are waiting for the start, and tomorrow I’ll have some new ones. I’d like to work out the issue of conceptual architecture, where we deal with the relationships of space, volume and psychology. These are sculptural furniture, where the shape becomes tactile. These are luminous objects, conceptual installations, and sculpture as a process of the shape investigation and its influence on a person, the issues of morphology, form therapy and visual philosophy.