The range of books on contemporary painting may be overwhelming, yet in my native Russia, accessibility is limited because so few are translated; although some have emerged in the library of Moscow Garage.
I have found that travelling to visit such exhibitions as Venice Biennale, Art Basel, Documenta and Frieze proves crucial for understanding contemporary art. This is the practical way to embed oneself in this field as an artist, and to develop one’s own point of view. Nevertheless art books can prove to be a kind of friendly guide, to open that door a little further.
Tony Godfrey’s Painting Today has proved to be such a guide. It is like having a friend walking alongside me whenever I visit an exhibition. He challenges me, puzzles, answers my questions and resonates with my own thoughts.
Returning to those works already translated into Russian, there are great art historians such as Heinrich Wölfflin and Erwin Panofsky. In his book Studies in Iconology Panofsky considers two examples of images (Cupid and Saturn) which have undergone many changes through the centuries, from antique to medieval times. This inspired me to contemplate my own research as to how the ‘Hero’ image has been transformed. Now I plan to go further, to investigate exactly how these mythologies have been re-formed into contemporary figures as they re-emerge in commercial products such as games and toys.
Reading Principles of Art History by Heinrich Wölfflin, a couple of years ago, proved most instructive. Here is an art historian who invented the formal analysis in Art History, and who helped me to understand how I might develop my own ‘painting language.’ At present, I am reading Tony Godfrey and trying to understand the position of influential contemporary painters, their uniqueness and their philosophy. I hope that it will help me to deepen my insight and to enlarge my range of techniques, whilst reinforcing a self-critical confidence.