Vladimir Nikonov. Vladimir Glebovich Nikonov (born December 29, 1949, Moscow) is a Soviet and Russian miniaturist artist, People’s Artist of the Russian Federation (2007), an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Arts (2004); mathematician, doctor of technical sciences, corresponding member of the Academy of Cryptography of the Russian Federation.
Miniature painting has a long and diverse traditions. This is a kind of art that knows the periods of its heyday, wide application and extinction of interest in it. The art of miniature reached high perfection in medieval Europe, the cultures of Iran, India, Ancient Rus and is associated primarily with the art of manuscript books. The concept of a miniature letter passed later to picturesque works of small dimensions, characterized by a special, subtle manner of imposing colors. Areas of reference to miniature painting are endlessly diverse – from decorating books to objects of applied art and folk art. One of the most interesting manifestations of miniature painting in Russian culture was the widespread use of portrait miniatures in the 18th and early 19th centuries. In our time a special sphere of miniature writing is the works of Palekh masters.
Miniature technology requires a special sharpness of the vision of the landscape, unmistakable compositional construction, accuracy and at the same time the freedom of pictorial solutions. For Nikonov, a kind of creative school was the study of the artistic heritage of a painfully close to him wonderful painter, I.P. Pohitonov, whose landscapes in their execution, sharpness and completeness of the picturesque manner are fine examples of perfect possession of miniature plein air painting. Pohitonov’s pious attitude to his craft, in the highest sense of the word, when every work is carefully “cherished” by the master, is trimmed to technical perfection, is also characteristic of Nikonov. For him, not only negligence in the letter, but even the slightest inattention to the appearance and design of the finished work is inadmissible.
A small, and sometimes just a tiny size of primed cartons or canvases on which he paints landscapes, does not make them random fragments of nature, sketchy sketches or runaway sketches from nature. Keeping alive the immediacy of communication with nature, soft plein air, they contain a complete picture completeness. It is to the imaginative and picturesque completeness that the artist aspires in his works is his conscious program setting.
To the same motives an artist can return more than once. But each time they are perceived by him as a newly seen and newly experienced landscape image. His landscapes are very specific, exactly related to a certain place, but they have that generalization measure that makes the “peeped nature” not a reportage sketch, but a landscape close to every sympathetic heart. New lighting, other states of nature and the spirit of the soul give impetus to unique artistic solutions. It is interesting for him to observe the change of light during the day and to be reliable and convincing in interpreting these subtle natural metamorphoses.
The old birch bent over quiet water, he writes in a bad weather, when low, windy clouds, ready to rain, pour over it. The foliage of the tree darkens, the branch branches to the ground, the twilight and variability of the illumination makes the green color and foliage and grass dense, dense green. The artist again returns to this place on a clear sunny day and, catching a glance, passes the streams of light streaming through the transparent foliage of the birch. The colors of greenery, the white trunk of a tree are transformed, acquiring a special lightness and luminosity. Countless shades of greenery – in the shade, in bright light, in the sunless gray day of Moscow – with true sensitivity and skill recreates the artist. This is particularly evident in those works where he is closely examining, as if “probing” the variety of plant forms with his gaze and brush, bringing his view closer to the forest thickets with dense grass and the violet eyes of violets or to the losing autumnal grass with its fragile and already lifeless fragility, or enjoys the complexity of the relief of a sandy gully overgrown with grass, where the pansies suddenly blossomed. Their elegant color is transformed by this unsightly piece of land. Every time the complexity of light relationships, their harmonization, “living” with each other deeply occupy the artist.
A series of works depicting the streets of the ancient village of Taininskoye near Moscow, attracts a special cordiality, with which wooden houses are written, surrounded by fences and bizarre economic outbuildings in their architectural unpretentiousness. Perhaps, because the artist depicts Taininskoye or in the deep autumn, or in the winter warm-up, when Russian nature appears in all its naked defenselessness, these landscapes contain a special sad note. But as a symbol of long-suffering, longevity and the connection of times, the beautiful Church of the Annunciation rises above the wooden buildings of the village, a witness to more than one generation of people who have been replaced on this earth.
Communication with nature for Nikonov is not only a joy, but always and always a complex emotional work. He admits that when he begins to write, for him nothing exists around, except nature itself, brushes and colors. The rhythm of the movement of the hand is surprisingly in accord with the heartbeat and those complex internal states that respond sensitively to all movement and the slightest change in the surrounding nature.
Whatever landscapes Nikonov used to address (whether it be the copses of the Moscow region, the Caucasian gorges with turbulent streams, the narrow streets of Derbent, a series of Crimean mountains or the seashore), each of these works is marked by the main quality – lyrical empathy with the natural world. The small size of his landscapes presupposes a slow and careful scrutiny in them, a trustful interview and sincere ownership of the images of nature created by the artist.
But for him the closest are always the works that recreate the nature of the Central Russian band and especially the Moscow region they love.
He lives in Mytishchi, he knows every corner, turn of the road, every tree that grew up before his eyes, overgrown ravines, descents to the Klyazma with its hidden backwaters and … transparent water. It seems that all the Moscow suburbs are run by it. With deep sorrow, he observes how mercilessly he displaces the life of an island of untouched nature. The oaks that the mighty guards are at the edge of the forest are only remnants of a once mighty pine forest. It is not by chance that the artist writes their dense trunks and intricately intertwined branches with special care, as if waving these lords of the forest forever to stay here, so that they can again and again come under their shadow and listen to the measured noise of their foliage.
An eternally recurring cycle of nature – spring, summer, autumn, winter and their new alternation – is the main content of the paintings of VG. Nikonov. In them there is no catchy effektivnosti, romantic impulses with storms, downpours, other cataclysms. N.V. Gogol once poetically determined the nature of Russian nature, calling it “quiet and uninterrupted.” For Nikonov, the surrounding world is attractive in its calm, stable, “uninterrupted” state, although its landscapes convey the infinite variety of manifestations of the life of nature in its all-day being …
The artist sensitively catches the first spring awakening of the earth. With gentle careful touches of the surface of the canvas, he transmits the transparency of the sky, writes thin branches of trees stretching towards light and warmth, fragile spring blades and the earth warming under the sun. But now there is a succession of days, and already the trees were covered with the first transparent foliage, and in the thickened grass the forest violets blossomed. Looking at the different colors of the summer land, in each individual blade of grass, the petals of flowers, the complexity of the picturesque texture, the multifarious plasticity, the rhythm of quick, moving smears conveys the entire richness of the summer flowering of nature.
In the quiet warm water of the Klyazma, the water lilies freely spread their green glossy leaves with golden flowers between them. A tall, slender sedge with a touching row of watery inflorescences hides the steep banks of the cold Moscow suburb of Vori. The high clouds floating in the summer sky are painted then in the golden color of a clear day, then foreshadow the impending bad weather. In their variable outlines, complex color gradations from white to pink-lilac and dark-blue, the continuity of movements in nature is felt. In the “sunset” landscapes, Nikonov especially delicately conveys the color richness and beauty of the evening state, not striving for catchy decorativeness and never dropping to the usual “beauty”, but always feeling the measure of what is permitted in true art.
Its beauty and peculiarity of color relationships includes a series of autumn landscapes.
Slightly touched by fading forest ferns in the spruce more often, the grass withers under the old oaks, the autumn alley is dressed in a rich and infinitely diverse in complex color gradations golden gown. The artist repeats this motif many times, watching the daily changes in color and lighting. The birches that have bent towards the frozen water have almost lost their leaves, their bare branches stretch farewell to the blue cold sky. And now the first snow has mixed with the autumn mud, the river is covered by the first ice. Carefully watching, the artist subtly changing color, its density and transparency seeks to convey how gradually the river “overgrown” with ice.
With some special partiality and admiration Nikonov turns to winter landscapes. Snow in the pictures – a white cover shining white, protecting life and dressing the earth in a solemn gown.
Winter thaw, sparkling with snow, March with blue shadows on blue snow, foreshadow imminent change, coming spring … Soon nature will repeat its eternal cycle … Chamber music lyrical landscapes of Vladimir Nikonov, warmed with sincere heart intonations, are akin to landscape lyrics in Russian poetry.
In that loving attention with which V. Nikonov writes simple, seemingly completely artless landscape motifs, his boundless trustfulness to nature is expressed and the conviction that everything that grows on earth is beautiful, admirable. Such a confidential interview with nature, artistic comprehension of the laws by which he lives, was always inherent in the masters of Russian landscape painting. To the rich creative experience of AK. Savrasova, I.I. Shishkina, F.A. Vasilyeva, I.I. Levitan, V.D. Polenova drawn V. Nikonov in his art, relying on the rich experience of Russian realistic painting. The artistic legacy of these masters, and before nature itself, leading with it an endless dialogue, is the highest creative school that Nikonov tirelessly passes through.
In the work of V. Nikonov, one can single out a special cycle of works depicting ancient Russian cities, monasteries, and churches. The walls and towers of the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin dominate over the unimaginable Volga valleys, the domes of the Novodevichy Convent solemnly rise to the sky, the slender towers of the Moscow Kremlin are clearly drawn against the sky, the Marvelous Church in Uglich again surprises with its beauty. In all these and other works attracts the absolute unity of architecture and landscape, in which people lived from century to century who felt the inseparability of the natural and man-made world. Therefore, so organically they unite in the landscapes of V. Nikonov.
Every small landscape of the master awakens in the soul often forgotten dormant strings, which invariably respond to the artist’s invitation to look around, to be surprised by the wondrous beauty of the world, as he himself is surprised each time.
In painting, which he has been engaged in for more than 25 years, his status can be defined as the status of an amateur nugget. At the beginning of the 20th century, remarkable artists worked for which not so much systematic training in the Academy as the rich family traditions and relentless appeal to the art of the old masters determined the professionalism of their creativity.
Asked how he began to write, V. Nikonov responds: “Yes, I was once surprised by the beauty that was around, at every step, and realized that it was impossible to pass by.