INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST: VLADIMIR KRAYNYK
Hi, tell us a little about yourself, your studies, your passions.
I was born in Russia and went to school in Ukraine, where in my teens I became interested in graffiti, which was making a delayed arrival from Europe and America onto the post-Soviet youth sub-cultural sphere. Shortly after, my family moved to Canada, where I continued with my passion for spray painting, which gradually morphed into a serious pursuit of Fine Arts studies in a proper sense, specifically oil painting. I went to University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, simultaneously developing my studio practice, studying art history and branching out into philosophy and general history. It became apparent to me that it is impossible to do art without understanding the broader intellectual context of our own and previous epochs. Since graduating in 2014, I have continued to create art independently and in parallel doing self-directed research in philosophy.
Authors or works of the past from which you draw inspiration or admire.
I most admire Classical Antiquity, the Renaissance and Baroque periods. These periods contain the peaks of artistic excellence rarely matched in recent times (from Homer to Laocoon (img. 1), from Pantheon in Rome to Apollo & Daphne by Bernini (img. 2).
Likewise, I admire Classical music and literature, generally of European tradition (both Western and Eastern Europe). Then, moving into the Modern era, I draw inspiration from Surrealism and Futurism (img.3), which have had a great influence on my aesthetics and techniques. In culture in general, there is no linear progress but rather a much more complicated non-linear chart trajectory.
Of course, my cultural interest is not strictly limited by European civilization or abovementioned periods, but I believe it is extremely important to recognize and differentiate authentic existential cultural tradition that one is rooted in by linguistic, sociocultural and historical background. For example, I can admire and draw inspiration from pieces of Chinese or South American art, but I do not think I can have an authentic, meaningful, existential relationship with it due to me coming from a different civilization. There is a plurality of civilizations, and an authentic diversity between and within each civilization, with its own intellectual and cultural landscapes, concepts of time and space, hierarchies and values. Now in 2020 it is clear yet again, albeit often through unpleasant manifestations, that the speedily declared “end of history” in 1990s by F. Fukuyama, which projected western universalist liberalism unto the whole globe, did not live long.
Tell us about those works of yours that you think are important for the language you use.
An important piece for me, entitled ‘Monad’ (img. 4), title taken from philosophy of G. W. Leibniz and before him going all the way back to the Pythagoreans, is a term that, in cosmogony, refers to the Supreme Being, Neoplatonic “the One”, totality and divinity of all things. What initiated my meditation on this term and philosophy of Leibniz was a book by G. Deleuze titled ‘The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque’.
Another more recent piece is ‘Inception’ (img. 5) is created under impression of my trips to Rome and being mesmerized by baroque sculpture and architecture, particularly that of Bernini, who is a great inspiration to me, as mentioned above. In this and other works, I want to capture the sensual, twisted baroque language of opulent, luscious forms to capture distilled movement. J. W. Goethe, an important cultural figure for me, once said: “Architecture is frozen music”.
I think the same can be applied to painting.
Your final thoughts on the current situation of art, how you feel as an artist in this historical period.
Unfortunately, we live in the world increasingly dominated by technosphere, where we are losing our humanist potential. By no means denying the importance of technology in the development of civilization, when it is absolutized and is combined with degradation of culture (study of all culture through lens of power relations, reduction of it to low level, mass market commercialization and political propaganda, loss of handmade technique), denial of the Sacred (in a broad sense) and loss of belief in human potential, we are headed to a great anthropological catastrophe manifested in creation of AI, robots, total mechanization, transhumanism, total surveillance and post-consumerist psyche-control society. Heidegger would call it loss of Dasein (our authentic relation to Being).
I believe what unites abovementioned great periods, and specifically great works of Art is the great Promethean, humanistic, transcendent striving to elevate the human being to the higher realm (whether Human as microcosm, containing the whole universe and striving to imitate the Creator in the Renaissance, or the secular (and yet, I’m convinced, sacred) status of Reason and the Individual in Modernity) – in other words, belief in infinite human potential and capability to transcend itself. What is important is not the external façade and descriptive language of this or that paradigm, but that in its cultural DNA is present the code of genuine progress and understanding of endless upward potential of humanity, the presence of a transcendental axis. When this belief is lost, and human being is reduced to just one of the species among others (and ultimately WORSE than an advanced AI machine, or in some contemporary ideologies worse than Nature), the concept of The Human becomes boring and exhausted, and then we start a regression towards previous stages characterized by increasing domination of instincts, resentment and bestial Will to Power (Nietzsche). This beast with access to super advanced weapons and biological warfare, existing in media creating Post-Truth pseudoreality, by definition cannot lead to anything good. One would have to be blind not to see this play out right now in the streets of our cities: on the one hand the degrading, dehumanizing culture and political sphere and on the other hand the accelerated development of technosphere under control of the few (technocracy, “Brave New World”). An ultimate recipe for disaster.
Nonetheless, I believe, maybe now being the last period, when we still have a possibility to make a choice to exist authentically and to elevate human potential. We still have the ultimate human quality, which is Freedom of thought and freedom of choice (fundamental choice to create our reality and ourselves). I think we can only do this through a new educational paradigm that would bring back, cultivate and reinforce the concept of the Polymath and general rehabilitation of humanistic education (as opposed to narrow specialization with a specific set of skills that become outdated every few years and soon will be replaced by robots). Only a flexible mind versed in an interdisciplinary manner, capable of multiple dimensions of thinking at the same time (both artistic, symbolic, metaphor based thinking that computers cannot do, and rational scientific one) can survive in the age of looming technological singularity. In addition, to clarify, I do not advocate total abolition of technology by any means and reverting to a feudal or primitive society, which is obviously impossible. Regular conservatism will not work. Drawing from Martin Heidegger and contemporary philosopher Jason Reza Jorjani, I advocate for a reconceptualization of our relationship with technology, going back to its roots, uncovering the poetic dimension of technology, changing the GOALS of our relationship with it, and dismantling our hypnotized subjugated relationship with it, that threatens our very existence. I realize this might sound naïve to some, but the other option is, no less, the end of Humanity.
After briefly setting this context, finally to answer your question on the role of artist in the current period – I believe the role is to elevate the soul and activate the human potential, break the spell of our mechanistic routine of “everydayness”, break through the mold of materialistic consumerist reality in order to access the transcendental dimension. If I can make even the most modest contribution to that, I will consider my role fulfilled.
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