f e b r u a r y  20, 2012

In our student years my Institute classmates and I used from time to time to write down things our professors said that we found funny. Apparently, similar notes once prompted Kornei Chukovsky the idea to write his book From Two to Five. At least I personally think the idea was the same. We, too, without any goading would purposely and entirely on our own put down slips and blunders, some stupid remarks and downright nonsense that slipped out of the mouths of our professors. The notes could then be read to peers and friends or used as a chat-up line. That’s it, no further design.

All the more jealous I was to learn that some people who also majored in creative disciplines were more lucky to be guided not so much by the desire to register just another slip of the tongue but to jot down thoughts shared with them by a person who sought to show them the way to their avocation. Most important, those disjointed bits were pithy and loaded with meaning, which can hardly be understood at first glance so that you have to reread them over and again to comprehend neatly formulated professional wisdom. Any piece of genius is simple, but not the other way round. It’s great that former students of Alexander Livanov were smart enough to first record all those sayings and maxims and then to make considerable efforts to share these riches with us.

Prepared for publication by Livanov’s disciples and followers Olga Iordan and Vladimir Tsepilov, they were published by WOWHOUSE in 2008 and by the Ekskurs Publishers in 2010. Unfortunately, the two books of the Moscow artist Alexander Livanov’s thoughts, sayings, aphorisms, drawings and memoirs had a very small print run, and for this reason they have already become a bibliographical rarity.


livanov covers Alexander Livanov: Fighting the Obvious


Such a positive example of respect for one’s teacher is extremely rare nowadays. I have chosen a few thoughts that Livanov the teacher tried to get across to his students. He who has ears will hear!

  • Drawing is a progressive advance: you have to advance! But nobody knows what will come out of it.
  • Drawing has nothing experimental about it – it’s just conviction.
  • Honest drawing is a special virtue, which is forgotten for the sake of conforming to style.
  • Don’t copy for yourself, but tell others. Drawing is transmission.
  • Any drawing is fighting the obvious.
  • Drawing is a promise of painting.
  • The meaning of graphic works is that we take a white sheet of paper and ennoble rather than begrime if.  And when we start going over all the minute details, they begin to soil the paper, however if we mold white paper, as if it were plaster, snow or the white elements, then we transform white paper into sculpture, into a bas-relief.
  • Plane organization is the task which unites all and everyone: the Realists, avant-gardists, abstractionists and Conceptualists.
  • The only thing that we have in common with other artists is the task of organizing the sheet of paper (even with drawings by Australian aborigines).
  • When a picture has a rhythmic structure, it becomes self-sufficient and interesting rather than just being a picture. As long as the picture is enumerative, absolutely nobody needs it. It is like a text that is boring to read.
  • It is better to underdraw than to overdraw. The idea is not to crush the viewer: a picture is interesting inasmuch as it is a product of the process rather than its result.
  • Plastics means continuity of surface. It should be saved and preserved with the help of paper whiteness.
  • The meaning of drawing is that the plane is abstract, vision is objective, and we have to bring them together. This is, of course, incomprehensible, but we should think about it.
  • A picture should not be made but rather allowed to happen.
  • One should be self-sufficient rather than self-complacent.
  • If you can’t do it, draw something similar.


                                         Cit. Alexander Livanov. Artists. On Drawing. Artemon’s Book

                                                  Moscow, Ekskurs Publishers, 2010


In conclusion I would like to relate an interesting talk I had with a visitor to Alexander Livanov’s exhibition “About Sundry Things in Brief ” at the 2.36 Gallery. My friend, a specialist in an entirely different field yet an avid lover of pictorial art who has a good eye (that is, one capable of seeing keenly work quality – a gift some gallery owners and the more advanced collectors possess) told me after visiting the exhibition that the artist Livanov drew with emptiness. I want to close this piece with a small selection of drawings by Alexander Andreyevich Livanov, a great artist and teacher.