FIRST WALK AFTER THE WINTER
signed and titled in Cyrillic and dated '1989' on the reverse
oil on canvas
‘We were interested in white as the holy light and as emptiness – not emptiness as death or nothingness, but as… an infinite space of light which is very positive, warm, with sacred energy… This is the metaphysical space in our world.’ (Ilya Kabakov quoted in ‘Memory Speaks (Themes and Variations)’
Oleg Vassiliev, Ilya Kabakov and Erik Bulatov: three names often mentioned in the same breath as being at the heart of Moscow conceptualism at its inception in the late 1960s and early 1970s. All three made their living producing illustrations for Soviet publishing houses while privately pursuing their vocation as independent artists, each facing up to the challenge of how to transcend Soviet reality in their work.
Of the three, Vassiliev is the least overtly political in his work. Elegiac, nostalgic, mysterious, metaphysical are all adjectives commonly applied to his paintings, which seem primarily concerned with exploring questions of time, space and light. ‘Light can overcome time as if swimming against the current’ he wrote, and it is this ‘seepage of the transcendental into the here and now’ as Robert Storr puts it, that makes paintings such as 'First Walk after the Winter' so mesmerizing.
oil on canvas
Canvas: 61 1/2 by 55 1/2 in., 156 by 141cm
Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above in December 1989