What constitutes contemporary art for you personally? 

For some reason I am always reminded of a quote from Ilya Kabakov when I hear such questions: “It is impossible to answer with a good answer”. Still, my answer is simple: contemporary art is art that is modern.

What is your role in today’s art scene? 

I cannot see a role for myself, because such grand concepts should be viewed from a distance. I am still very close to myself and cannot see myself from the outside.

What connects new and old art? 

New artists have usually studied old art. I would suggest that denouncing the past is a commonplace with which young people amuse themselves. It is related to puberty at the age of about 16-17 and the conflicts between parents and children. This trend was prevalent in the 20th century – the age of pathology and infantilism. Nowadays we are living through a rejection. Any young man who is going through shifts in hormones is angry and withdraws from everything in the world. Later he calms down and become normal.

What was the turning point in your career? 

I am still continuously turning. I am about to reach another turn... I am always in the process of changing.

Who influenced your art at different points in your life? 

Lermontov. Just today I looked at some artworks by Lermontov. The thing is that I always wanted to write books while sometimes indulging in painting. It turned out the other way. I always liked Lermontov because he was an officer yet also an amateur painter. I love certain amateurism, and I do hope that I am still an amateur in some respect, even though I am a professional painter. Lermontov died when he was 27, yet he is still being taught in schools. Do you know any poems by Lermontov? Which ones? Let’s talk about literature!

What subject matter in the outer world inspires you, fascinates you and unleashes your creativity? 

I specifically try to leave my house as little as possible, because I am touched by everything. I am immediately bursting with emotion. It is difficult, as everything unnerves me. Perhaps, you’ve noted that I try not to answer the phone often. I often graze against life; I am always on the edge.

How would you describe the contemporary art of Russia within the wider context of international art? 

Russian art is not a part of this context. It is our good art, it is, after all, our art. But Russian culture still includes factions that were initially introduced about 300 years ago and are to this day trying very hard to make us become a part of this broader context of international art. The results look rather provincial. However, our true grand art exceeds any context, and there is a reason behind this – differences in historical development. We experienced different systemic changes. We already reached postmodernism during the reign of Stalin. There is a myriad of variations. And this is precisely what makes us interesting! Just imagine Japan in the 18-19th century. If local artists were working in the European manner, would we be interested in their pieces? Not really. The Japanese drew in the Japanese way. There was no perspective, but it did not matter. They were interesting just because they worked in such a style. In Russia, we reviled socialist realism, but the movement failed to establish itself anywhere outside of China and Korea, and the Soviet Union had a particular influence on this. All this is very interesting from an ethnographic point of view. Still, I do hope that we will remain this way; we cannot stay within a set context. Moreover, we are not considered to be a part of international art. Would you say that when you speak of “international”, you are talking about Western art? There are such things as Indian art and Iranian art. How many Brazilian artists do you know? Not many. In Russia, however, we are trying to limit ourselves with the introduction of a general idea of what Western art needs to be. Sometimes Westerners “discover” that Russians are creating paintings, musical works, etc. Sometimes Russian art experiences bouts of popularity in the West, but it is always presented as something exotic, and the boom does not last long. That is why I don’t bother myself with the question of context. We are what we are, and that’s fine! Everyone is trying so hard to popularize themselves in the West, but such efforts are usually not successful. We are returning to the trends that were first seen during the times of Ekaterina II; we are trying to become a part of the broader context. So, what of it? The time of Ekaterina II was a brilliant epoch – Rastrelli, Rossi, Trediakovsky. However, as Kantemir noted, an empty mind that has experienced just the first fruit of education should not take up the quill. Perhaps, we should turn to literature?

Tell us a few words about the piece on the cover of Boscomagazine. 

If one reveals to you the point of a joke, it loses its power. I think that my piece speaks for itself. I won’t give away the joke. Of course, there is a narrative there, the suggestion of the Motherland as a nest. But that is evident.

What does the word “family” mean to you? 

The primary unit of society. I don’t think I am different here from other people; my family means to me the same as to other people. What is a family? The union of man and woman preferably with children. That’s it.

How did your family impact your life? 

When I settled down, I began to view my art with much more resentment, even disdain. Even before that, I thought that it was something frivolous, a small part of life. But I am still earning money through it! And I do love art. Why do I love it? How one cannot love a lie?! I am a liar, like other artmakers. Imagine an artist on the stage. He says: “I am Hamlet!” But he is not! It’s all a lie. Art is the same. “I value uplifting lies over those base truths.” This is not a quote from Lermontov, but it is still right. I like to lie, and I love art.

My parents were actors, but they were not successful. I fully know that my mother had great hopes for me. Her love was difficult. My mother had Turkish roots. Despite her natural temperament, she wanted to make something from me. But before a seed can grow, it must be buried. I didn’t do anything she wanted me to do. My father calmly reacted to this, and I primarily had to go through talks with my mother. My mother passed away just ten years ago, and I still feel responsible for my future. It was significant for her that her friends say: “Your Kostya! I heard that they said on the radio…” My father just wanted me to be a human being. But I don’t know if I even completed my father’s desire? My friend Sergey Anufriev noted that he sometimes does not see himself as a human being. Still, all my life I am seeking normality and humanity.

Why do people create communities? 

First of all, because of fear and comradery. I worked together with other people from despair. But I also like to be influenced and influence others. It is more interesting for me to work with others. When you’re laughing to yourself when you’re working alone – that’s madness. Imagine a man who is writing and laughing out loud. Working in company with others is good for health and extends one’s lifetime. Thus, people come together to live longer. Despite my misanthropy, I am still bound to join packs of other people.

How should a neophyte approach contemporary art? 

His fate is unenviable. Some people think it perfectly fine to offend their audience. I can understand one: when I was young, I went through a similar phase. After 30 the same things are done from love: we want people to love our darkest side, for others to share in our sorrows. This is what moves artists.

Why and how should one buy contemporary artworks? 

Well... Everybody goes mad in their way. Why do we create artworks that perhaps will not be sold? It’s rather foolish with a bit of madness thrown in. Still, I am grateful to all the people who buy artworks. Collections begin and expand very suddenly, as if by the laws of nature. In all honesty, collectors are heroes, artists are heroes, and people who buy are even more heroic. I do love them… If there is any suitable hymn for art and artists, it would have to be the song from The Adventures of the Elektronic: “Let us bring art to the masses which readily buy old paintings!” Perhaps we could change the last words to “beautiful paintings.” I do think that everyone should learn these words by heart and sing them at exhibition openings rather than engage in the usual welcome speeches.