Andrey Tolstoy Doctor of Art, Professor,
Corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Arts.
The forces of nature elements of Sergey Fedotov.
It’s been no more than 15 years since Sergey Fedotov started painting but his art work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in Russia and abroad for quite a long time while art critiques publish reviews of his work in prestigious professional magazines. So what is the secret of Mr. Fedotov’s accomplishments and success as a painter and an artist? Let’s begin with Mr. Fedotov’s personality. It’s obvious that the main driver of this success is Sergey’s extraordinary talent that branches out in different creative spheres. He started out as a physicist and had all the reasons to become quite successful in this profession. For some time he managed to combine both of his passions, science and painting, but eventually (and that was about 10 years ago) the latter prevailed over the former. And there is no controversy between the two passions: research in physics (as well as in many other modern “natural sciences”) is logically based on foresight, “enlightenment” and intuition. But these are equally the same qualities that an artist needs in his profession. Influenced by certain impressions and emotional experiences an artist conceptualizes and imagines something that later he recreates on paper or canvas. Another very important aspect of Sergey’ personality that makes him and his art successful is his temperament, inner impulse, spontaneity to say so, (in a sense that the artist is motivated by strong emotions and even passions that appear on canvases with vigorous splashes of bright colors and expressive texture).
Mr. Fedotov has mastered quite well the understanding of the elements especially as far as forces of nature elements are concerned. In other words, he is deeply interested in exploring the changes in the coloristic picture of the surrounding world inhabited by man but especially in the wild nature environment which take place during the seasonal changes depending on the time of the year or part of the day. Among Sergey’s paintings there are a lot of compositions which portray for example, different states of a forest (ranging from “winter” to “lifeless”, from “snowbound” to “pink”). A great deal of his artwork is dedicated to depicting different types of trees (“autumn oak trees”) with various flowers (“blooming orchards”, “lilacs” etc.). At the same time artworks of Sergey Fedotov frequently display generalized images - “violet” or “perlaceous” landscapes, “autumn moods”, “gray silence”, “abstract landscapes” or simply “abstractions” for every time and season of the year.
Despite the fact that the viewer evidently witnesses nature of the Russian midland with all of its emotionally-colorful polyphony, the artist rarely attributes exact geographical sites to his paintings when naming them (e.g. his art series which consists of a number of canvases under a unified name “Russian plains”). Russian landscape, as it was repeatedly noted in the 19th century by foreign art critiques, can appear quite monotonous and dull to an unaccustomed viewer because of its unprecedented length and width, casting sad and even desperately-gloomy thoughts into minds of foreign observers. But this is not how the viewer would see Russian landscapes through the eyes of our artist. While Mr. Fedotov once created a painting with a somber name “Anticipation of death” characterizing restless Russian mentality in its ecstasy and distress, in most of his artworks he rather stands out as a spontaneous optimist of the nature’s elements and forces who intuitively sees life with his soul being able to capture it flourishing in the most hopeless landscapes, the most poorly kept gardens or in the thickest parts of a gloomy tenebrous forest.
It is also important to talk about Mr. Fedotov’s artistic style. Most of the times Sergey works on large and extra large canvases to create embossed and in relief paintings. Because of this his paintings resemble a sculpture like art work that by itself becomes a captivating landscape which prompts more detailed study. The artist uses bright colors boldly combining them on canvas to achieve not only brightness but “volume” for every colorful spot. Shapes of some elements are literally modeled with the color paste. In many of Sergey’s canvases the texture of the color layer and the richness of the coloration creates a special “close range” effect, a certain “macro vision” making the shapes and objects vivid and looking like they are “out of focus”.
There is no doubt that Mr. Fedotov has very unique artistic style. Devoid of a special painting or art education, not having scrupulously studied work by famous artists he managed not so much rationally, but rather intuitively master techniques of sculpturesque solutions that were introduces to the world during the course of the 19th century through such famous artists as Emil Nolde, Haim Sutin, Jean Dubuffe and many others. In France in 1910-1920s’ such painters were named "pâtissiers" and a long list of artists’ names was assigned to these “dough makers”. If Nolde in Germany and Sutin in France were representative of the expressionist tendencies in art of the first quarter of the 20th century, Dubuffe in the 1950-1960s’ brought “brutalism” into the art of painting that was based on the prevalence of oil paint mass over the stereoscopic punctuality of characters. In this respect it would be interesting to note that among the artworks of Sergey Fedotov there are a lot of imaginational portraits of famous painters of the past, domestic Russian as well as European. Some of them are obviously made in the wake of famous self-portraits of such masters as Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, A.Zverev or other almost canonic paintings done by Modigliani, Sutin, Vl. Yakovlev, L. Masterkova.
As a result, a certain dialog emerged with these artists, quite an active dialog from Sergey Fedotov’s side who paints numerous self-portraits in the most different color shades, sometimes in a special nature surroundings (“The Crimea self-portrait”) and at times placing himself into an absolutely outstanding context (“Self-portrait in a straight jacket”, “Self-portrait from hell” etc.). Generally speaking, our artist willingly, sometimes on purpose and sometimes most probably inwardly, builds a dialogue with his distant and not so distant predecessors. This happens, for example, when he paints his numerous “Nudes” or, on the contrary, still life. Amongst the latter it is worth noting his artworks portraying freshly caught fish and winged ducks (one can recollect the full blooded still life of the Flemish, for example, Sniders or the special “painting” of “dead nature” of the early Mikhail Larionov) or the different meat carcasses that vividly remind us of similar bright and embossed artworks of the above mentioned Haim Sutin.
Speaking about a dialog with artists of the past one can’t help mentioning the landscapes of the Crimea where Sergey over and over again painted the same picturesque views of Gurzuf, Arteck, Ayu-Dag that were once painted by Konstantin Korovin. It goes without saying that Mr. Fedotov’s work does not directly resemble work of any other historical or contemporary artist.
Paintings of Russian Uglich and Mishkin towns and even the autumn landscape with proverbial name “Fall in Sokolniki park” by no means repeat themes of Levitan, landscape painters of “The union of Russian Painters” and so on. It never works out for him this way even if he truly wants to imitate somebody’s work. Fedotov is always the way he is, in his own personal style. And this also holds for such quite rare landscapes where he turns to modern urbanism – a theme generally speaking, quite alien to Mr. Fedotov. Two large scale canvases “The Federation Building” display cold, glass parallelepipeds that twist and distort with an inner breakdown assimilating with the help of the artist’s imagination to silhouettes of some gigantic monsters.
The power of Mr. Fedotov’s vigorous talent embraces each of his creations. Its strength is so enormous that most of the times, especially in the artworks of his recent years, this power of forces of nature spill out from the canvases even though their large formats could seemingly allow for them to be contained within. The forces of nature elements sweep through the audience that stands before the artworks of the artist dissolving the latter in its colorful energy. Isn’t this a dream of each painter? And it looks like for Mr. Fedotov this dream has already come true. Filled with vigor and talent he will inevitably be able to achieve a lot more in taming the painting element, the forces of nature that he himself has unleashed.