What constitutes contemporary art for you personally? 

Contemporary art is a visual dialogue of the artist and society on private and social matters right here, right now.

What is your role in today’s art scene? 

I would say my role is to participate in creating the whole tapestry of art which would be characteristic of the times that I lived through and am still living through.

What connects new and old art? 

Traditions. The main thing to remember is that art visually conceptualizes reality. Art is a tool for understanding and studying the world. Aesthetics and concepts of high and low culture change, while the principles of contemplating life itself remain in place. That is the connection between new and old art.

What was the turning point in your career? 

When I was a student, I was obligated to be a part of a student labor detachment. During our break time, I found a book of Norwegian poems among the rubbish. I hid under a tree from the burning sun and began reading while listening to U-2 on my player. This combination of Bono and Norwegian verses passing from one fjord to another before disappearing over the horizon was revelatory. It was at that moment that I understood that space was limitless.

Who influenced your art at different points in your life? 

In Kharkov - Boris Mikhailov. He had a peculiar knack of understanding both lowbrow and highbrow culture. This was the first time that I encountered a painter who remained a painter all the time. Together we created the Rapid Reaction Art Group in 1993. Later I was inspired by artists with whom I had the opportunity to meet or whose exhibitions I visited. These people included Paul McCarthy, Louise Bourgeois, and Antony Gormley. We visited the Chernobyl Zone with the latter. He frequently invited me to his studio.

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

The heroes of our times – that is my usual answer to this type of questions. I am interested in how these heroes transform and where they come from. I was born in the Soviet Union where an artist would be considered a primary hero. After the dissolution of the Union, bandits replaced artists. Later rich playboys became the object of desire for many women as the primary heroes. At the beginning of the 21st century soldiers became the heroes. One is reminded of Bondarchuk’s The 9th Company. It is difficult to say who the heroes are today. The profession of the cosmonaut has been trivialized. Politicians? But where can one find a heroic politician?

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

Contemporary Russian art has inherited the karma of Russian avant-garde. The glassy stares of Westerners towards Russians reveal the same question: “Where is the Russian avant-garde?” They still expect something from us. On the other hand, we are witnessing the success of the film DAU which is connected with a certain anti-aesthetics, wildness and even patriarchy in Russia. All this comes to a surprise for the Western audience which cannot allow itself to move towards anti-aesthetics, to return to a primeval state, to devolve into people who have just descended from the palm tree. Perhaps, this is where the primary ideas of Russian art and Russian identity actually lie.

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

For the cover of BoscoMagazine, I interpreted the theme of “Family” as “Temptation.” In a certain way GUM itself is a grand temptation. Last spring the department store was decorated with synthetic cherry blossoms under which loving couples would rest in between shopping. That reminded me of Adam and Eve. The Biblical story formed the basis of my collage The Rhapsody of Eden.

What does the word “family” mean to you? 

One hundred years ago they said that it was a remnant of the old bourgeois society. But, in all honesty, this is a question for an average person with a stable lifestyle, not for an artist. An average person has his work after which he returns home to his family, he spends his weekend with the family. Most artists are loners who do not have a regular work schedule. They are with their art 24/7. Having a healthy family is already tricky enough, few people will be ready to take part in all this artistic madness. Still, I do know a few artists who are model family men.

How did your family impact your life? 

My father was a painter, but when I was little, he tried his best to dissuade me from following in his footsteps. He thought that my older brother inherited all his talent through genes. On the other hand, my mother believed in me. This way my family nudged me in the right direction professionally. As to my own family, my wife is also a painter, and we live autonomously from one another.

Why do people create communities? 

Just like thousands of years ago: to kill a mammoth, to eat its flesh, to conquer enemy territories, and to protect their territories. Of course, one can run across perfectly lovely and amiable communities which free the people that they have captured and offer help to children, the sick, and the downtrodden. But these are small communities. Still, I am in favor of just such communities.

How should a neophyte approach contemporary art? 

Now that is a sore spot for me. We know many examples when emotionally driven people want to experience artworks, yet in a fit of rage, or other emotions try to ruin the painting or even burn down the whole museum. This is a serious problem: how should people overcome the inner barriers of resistance which they encounter at contemporary art exhibitions after marveling at traditional art – something they are more accustomed to. I do wish them to learn to accept that this kind of art is being presented in a certain space and it does have its audience.

Why and how should one buy contemporary artworks? 

Art is an essential component which forms our way of life. Imagine that you are drinking tea in the morning, you lift your head and see a painting the sight of which stimulates you to be modern. Some people invest money in art. Collecting pieces by renowned painters are a safe option. However, I am advocating for buying artworks from love, spirit, and the heart. It is crucial, if we return to the theme of family, that one day your grandson could say “Wow! How cool is my grandfather! Look what a wonderful piece he has chosen!”