How It All Began - "EUROPE - THE LAST 300 YEARS"?

Boris Lavrentiev

How It All Began - "EUROPE - THE LAST 300 YEARS"?

The summer of last year was hot and sultry in Moscow, as you remember. I was standing by the window in my office on Herzen Street, in the very centre of Moscow, and looking at the sun lighting up a blue cloud above the high-rise buildings on New Arbat street. I was successfully doing commercial design then, but at the same time…

QUESTION: What's commercial design?
ANSWER: It's when nine out of ten people say, "I like it," but you know that for you it was a compromise - for money, of course. There is emptiness, even bitterness, inside…
Let only one in a hundred say, "I like it", but you will be inwardly convinced that the work was done honestly. And that one is the one for whom you do it…
It was Friday, everybody was out of town. There was a whole weekend ahead of me. Listening to Tom Waits’s "Singapore," I was driving slowly along Tverskoi Boulevard towards Pushkinskaya street, thinking about stopping to eat somewhere there, then buying a movie in a kiosk in the underground crossing, and spending the evening quietly with a glass of red wine and a movie. A thunderstorm was beginning, the first drops hit the dust; with the excited crowd I went down into the underpass…
QUESTION: From McDonald's to the Pushkin monument?
ANSWER: Yes. Old women were selling flowers, some young girls were running in a crowd to hide from the rain, the glass kiosks were continually selling and buying things, music was coming from everywhere, a beautiful girl in a T-shirt and a suntan was coming towards me, the homeless were sleeping in the corner… And suddenly - the sound disappeared, I stopped hearing… I saw it - it was exactly the way it would look after my death.
ANSWER: Nothing will change: old women will be selling flowers, the homeless will be sitting on newspapers, the same (another) crowd will be walking…
QUESTION: Cheerful… But this will be after the death of all of us.
ANSWER: The paradox is that one believes in other people’s deaths, but not one's own. I was walking slowly along that underground crossing, a group of girls was smartening up after the rain, and one of them appeared to have been saying something to me for a long time, and it looked as though I was nodding in response. Having thought for a second that maybe that was what I needed at the time, I watched those girls from Tverskaya as if in a dream. Nearby, a woman was adding water to white plastic vases with flowers, a tanned bearded old man was cleaning a roach. Glossy scales were floating on the wet floor. The subway exhaled a sticky, half-naked stream, music was roaring, teenagers were standing with cans of beer…Yes, that's the way everything would look… And at that moment I asked - or heard a question (as funny as it may sound) - and what do I actually need in life? Money? Career? Children? Sex? Trips, countries? Yes, but then the second question arises, like a target at a shooting range: do I have anything important to my name...? What does my body live for – to work, shave, exercise…? Or am I just a consumer of steaks, pants, winter tires, etc.?
I bought a movie by Jarmusch, it seems; and unhurriedly went home. For food, there was only bread, I didn't want to drink whiskey or vodka on a hot evening and I forgot to pick up any wine… On a late July evening, I was sitting by an open window in the kitchen, looking at the sleeping city, and unhurriedly started making sketches… Everything came together by itself. In the morning, having shaved, I went to my office – it was a Saturday, nobody was there.
Clearly, calmly and systematically, I covered half the room with polythene, primed a canvas…
QUESTION: And began to paint?
ANSWER: Any personal ability is the condition of the nervous system… All you need is to feel this minute. One sunny day, a night, and…
QUESTION: Is that like the storming of the Bastille?
ANSWER: No, it is like capture…


Series of paintings