2001-2002, oil and golden foil on canvas, 165x180 cm, 66x72 in


The first work of series «EUROPE - THE LAST 300 YEARS»

QUESTION:The composition is divided into two equal parts. Following the aphorism that “everything that exists is a sign”, is the gold on the left before the storming of the Bastille, and the right part afterwards?
ANSWER: This interpretation is too speculative. It is not heraldry, where the top corner means something and the bottom corner means something different etc. There was a proverb “Forty kings made France”, there was a chicken in every peasant’s pot as Henry IV said, there was Fountainebleau. They wore velvet berets, they called each other out - “I call you out, sir” - do you remember? In a wonderful climate, there was a grand and beautiful country. During the reign of Louis XIV they conquered half of Europe, built Versailles. The centre of the world moved from Renaissance Italy to Paris. And suddenly - revolution. Why?
QUESTION: Why indeed? You’ve described quite an idyllic picture...
ANSWER: Can you imagine what the world was like on the July 14, the night of the storming of the Bastille?
QUESTION: That was in 1789, right?
ANSWER: Look - the States, the USA (the modern Roman Empire) is still a child playing Indians and bison. Latin America is a colony: sun, rare cities, empty streets. Africa - still naked and wearing bones in their noses. China is living by itself and is quite weak. Japan is pupated like a silkworm, hardly moving. South-West Asia, the “Asian tigers”, will appear only 200 years later: the Spanish governor is dozing on the deck chair with a manila cigar surrounded by loin-clothed Asians. Thus Europe exists within this palm-tree sunny world. It has existed for a long time - it WAS, it IS, and it’s raping all this crowd - Indians, Asians, everyone. Life in Europe is good - cobbled streets and coffee-shops with bubble glass windows. Certainly France is the best country in Europe. Germany is disunited, Italy is infected by plague, Austria is already encountering the Turks... My ancestor, by the way, commanded a gonfalon, a regiment, when we defeated them near Vienna. So there is Europe in the world, and there is France in Europe. And Paris, of course; Versailles. Everything comes to one place. From everywhere - Bolivia that does not even exist yet, Cambodia that does not exist yet - to Europe, France. Versailles. His Majesty’s court. His Majesty naive hedonist Louis XVI. Here. In Versailles, Trianon. With a cup of hot chocolate. In white curly wigs. Reflected in the mirror walls of the hall. Fine porcelain. Cleavage. Silk-upholstered armchairs. Good manners. “There will be a masquerade and fireworks tonight, did you hear?” “Shall we send a squadron, corpus?” “Oh no, a note will be enough…” “Yes, Your Majesty, quite enough” “They imitate us, the whole world imitates - those who understand, of course”.
QUESTION: And why was the Bastille stormed, then?
ANSWER: The paradox is that everyone was displeased. There was a crisis: His Majesty was short of money at Versailles. The pretty young queen thought only about entertainment, nor about France, nor about the future. Church and nobility possessed everything but did not pay taxes. What should His Majesty do? Deprive a peasant of his last glass of sour wine?
QUESTION: Last glass, you say? In flourishing France?
ANSWER: There was a poor harvest in summer and the winter was extremely cold, so almost all the vineyards were destroyed by frost. Can you imagine France with black vineyards?
QUESTION: But black vineyards are not enough to storm the Bastille, are they?
ANSWER: What an idea! “The idea of justice is the cruellest and strongest of all the ideas that have ever captured the human mind. As soon it gets into hearts and dims eyes, people begin to kill each other.” That is what Maximilian Voloshin wrote 200 years after the Bastille... The dream of justice and the kingdom of reason.
QUESTION: Consequently there is the golden part of the picture, and the black part is France before the revolution, the dry vineyards...
ANSWER: Do not interpret it in such a formal way; better to work on associations. Follow me. “When the September killers of the French Revolution killed the imprisoned aristocrats they believed that by this action they executed the sacred rite of nation cleansing. On September 2 in the Abbey yard full of dead bodies lying on top of each other, the crowd moved because someone said, “Let the children watch”. The revolution repeated Jesus Christ’s words, “Suffer the little children to come to me”. “Yes, yes, let them watch!” the crowd resounded, and everyone made way for the children. The more sensitive and honest a person is, the more intolerant and stronger the influence on him of the crisis of justice. Robespierre, Marat, Saint-Just were inherently sentimental and sensitive. Robespierre, a judge in Arras before the revolution, preferred to renounce his position rather than sign a death penalty.”
QUESTION: And as a result, people took up torches and guns...
ANSWER: Well, they are not Martians, they are the nation. In a modern sense, they are the body of voters, taxpayers...
QUESTION: But guillotine, “the national razor”...
ANSWER: Angered people are beasts. No matter which people - French, American or Russian. Is there any alternative to the Bastille? Wait until the king grows wiser? What if he never does?
QUESTION: And still do you like revolution, its excitement, its vortex, as poets say?
ANSWER: I can “like” swimming in the pool in summer evening and then drinking martini on the rocks. I cannot “like” or “dislike” revolution... It is a reality.
QUESTION: But the Bastille is a prison.
ANSWER: No, it is a symbol. Do you know how many “prisoners” were found there?
ANSWER: Seven. Actually they were eight, including the Marquis de Sade. Shortly before July 14 he was transferred; he was shouting through the gun-slits through a self-made megaphone, “Help! They are killing patriots here!”. Later in the insane asylum at Charenton he staged erotic plays.
QUESTION: He missed a no-less-interesting show.
ANSWER: That’s right. The storming began at 1 p.m., and about 5 p.m. Delaunay had to give up. The garrison of the main capital’s citadel was 83 disabled people.
QUESTION: Delaunay was the commandant?
ANSWER: The former commandant - in twenty minutes a cook-boy cut off his head and the people carried it on spade...
QUESTION: So easy and so cruel. But what was then the base for the king’s power?
ANSWER: Perhaps it was an illusion of the proverb “Forty kings made France”, maybe the limits that people build in their minds...
A sunny evening in Versailles, deputies are in session in the Menus Plaisirs. When a courier arrived from Paris, Her Majesty was drinking chocolate. A rocket burst in the sky, another one - oh, fireworks! Red, white, yellow fireworks in the blue sky... Firing. It is not fireworks... Something else... The king wrote in his diary before going to bed “July 14. Nothing happened”. He was woken up later.
QUESTION: So what is black with grey and golden with red on the picture?
ANSWER: Turn it over, everything will swap around...


Series of paintings