WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT IT?_author Boris Laurentiev

It all started off with an arts collector from Berlin, who owns some 400 paintings — modern art and mainly portraits — wanting to sign me for five works. From the very beginning this order seemed rather strange: he wanted paintings to be done in my usual style — canvas, sheets of music, and acryl. This may sound immodest, but this is how it was. Рroblem was different: I didn't know whose portraits those were going to be. How could I sign a contract, with all the deadlines and technical specifics, but with virtually no idea of whose faces I was going to work with? Why, of course, I would never have agreed to make portraits of some odious characters like Goebbels, but just saying 'no' seemed rather silly also. Besides, these portraits were not going to disappear in the private collection of the millionaire, but were planned to be displayed first in Berlin and then in New York. So I added a short clause to the contract enabling me to disagree to paint portraits of people I didn’t like. The list provided to me, however, contained the names of Keira Knightley and Maria Sharapova who most certainly didn't cause me any antipathy. Strangely enough for some, but I did not know who either Grace Kelly or Bar Refaeli were, but seeing rather attractive feminine faces I agreed.

And then the most interesting part began. Since none of the heroines actually posed for their portraits — I think this would have cost my German client a fantastic price, and it had already been 20 years since Grace Kelly's fatal and yet unsolved car accident — I found photos of these young women on the Internet. A cornucopia of them, to be precise. Which one should I choose? Which of the portraits would best reflect the fate of each heroine, her mindset, what the Buddhists refer to as the Path? So I immersed myself into the world of their fates, those five completely different women, different by age, by their mentality, and by what they had achieved in life. Kate Moss — an English top-model; Grace Kelly — an American actress and the Princess of Monaco; Bar Refaeli — a Jewish top-model; Keira Knightley — an English actress; and Maria Sharapova — a Russian tennis player. Having studied the stories of their lives I was looking for a trace of what they'd done in their features, a look of happiness or sadness in their eyes, a hint of joy or sorrow in a wrinkle or in the corner of a smile. The gaze of a movie star, the bust making a top model, the sweat of endless training to become a triple winner of the Grand Slam… Five different women. I was also thinking of the professional side of the task ahead: which color suits which image best, which sheets of music should I use? The rich scores of Mozart's 'Don Juan' suggested expression, while the visually light music of Chopin had an air of a cold elegance about it. The purple red palette of power went with the image of the Princess of Monaco, but which color would reveal the hidden sorrow in the eyes of Bar Refaeli or Kate Moss? I was doing sketches, deconstructing the different versions, but behind these purely professional aspects, there was always a dim phantom of a totally different question — what did these women have in common? And professionally again, what do the portraits have in common? Yes, I had the composition, the plastique of the surface, the décor — but they were still just five portraits. I was searching for individuality, but what was that they had in common? Yes, they were consistent in their plastique and their composition, but what were these portraits about?

I would line up the nearly finished portraits in a row and peer into the faces of these young women, the looks in their eyes. When the paintings are in a semi-circle and you see all of them at once there appears this odd feeling: are you looking at them, or is it them who are looking at you from all sides? Yes, they are looking at the audience — quizzically, sadly, or searchingly. But how do I go about uniting the portraits? Not visually, but logically. I was asking people, whose opinion I respected, and was once talking to my daughter Vassilissa. I told her about the options that I had, one of them being a phrase that would read across all portraits. One or two words in each painting, but the phrase can only be read when they are lined up in row. A phrase, but what it could be? Vassilissa paused for a second. I remember this moment: we were standing in the middle of a semi-circle of large, one-and-a-half-meters-tall faces, them staring at us through Mozart's flats and sharps, the testing look of Keira Knightley, the smile of Grace Kelly… And my daughter's words: 'What do you know about it?' Yes! The keenness of some women has always astounded me — be it my mother, or my daughter. It all fell into place. The path of a woman… What do you know about it? — that is the question in their eyes. Which WAY has each of them traveled to become what she it, for people to ask for her portrait to be made? What did they have to go through? Nothing is shown, but all is predictable. Love or betrayal, persistence or chance? Money or poverty, sharing a bed out of love or necessity, loneliness or tenderness? Everyone seeks happiness, but we all come different ways on this quest. What does a woman feel to become like that? What do you know about it?


WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT IT?_author Boris Laurentiev

Итак, ставки сделаны, господа!) Слева направо: Кейт Мосс, вопросительным взглядом и словом What... она начинает фразу, далее - автор, одет по-лёгкому, т.к. четыре софита по киловату нагоняют балийскую жару), далее - Бар Рефаели, виден только синий фон), далее - лилово-синяя Кира Найтли, у неё слово ...know..., четвёртая - Грейс Келли, тёмненькое у самого края справа - герб Монако. Партитуры разные, в соответствии с имиджем девушек - и Гершвин, и Шопен, и Моцарт. Жаль Марии Шараповой сейчас нет - её портрет четвёртый, наверное, теннис отвлёк) Если все пять портретов поставить в указанном порядке, то, читая по одному слову на каждом, можно прочесть всю фразу полностью - "Что ты знаешь об этом?"