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Touch of Brush

My first child's memory consciously related to painting was a scent of linseed oil coming from oil paint tube. My father didn't have an easel. But he had a box that seemed miraculous for me: a lot of sections, full of wrinkled darkened tubes that drew with freshness and scent of meadow grass with dew. Secretly from adults I carefully squeezed out pieces of rainbow on my finger, the scent became stronger. I was five years old already, and I understood that all these miracles from the box were necessary to my father, he could write paintings. He wasn't a professional artist. Painting was his hobby, but at that time in our country nobody knew such word "hobby" bringing down to earth any ardour. And for me, a little one, my father's paintings became a magic and discovering absolutely new world where everything was charming, magnificent, unusual and at the same time like in regular life. I remember duality of my feelings: on the one hand sacrament of painting appearing, on the other hand it was so close and clear, as it was done by my father.

Certainly this kind of family and home-like feelings about painting made such a deep trace in my memory that even now I can almost precisely tell what and when my father painted. Furthermore his paintings decorated our house for a long time, and drawings were carefully kept in special folders. In the early 60-ies my father painted four works that astounded me. He was a perfect copyist, "Ogoniok", magazine of that time, allowed a wide sphere of activity for such occupation, as they printed replicas of famous artists' paintings.

The first painting was mystery. Nighttime forest, magic deer, spying upon it moon. It seems that father made a copy of a German artist's canvas. The second work was summer wealth, somebody's still life: shedding sweetness watermelons, so fleshy and live aubergines that you wanted to touch them. Father created absolute illusion of reality. The third one was a copy of Levitan's "March". For me spring always associated with quinsy and wet feet because of puddles. The last one was Aivazovskiy's "Storm". You feel a chill inside, slight fear and charming transparence of wave. At that time I started conceiving painting with sincerity that never leaved me and helped to determine at once what was good and what was bad in works of this or that artist without appealing to different art intricacy. I know the real artist is the one to whom eternity opens, leaving its marks and memorable signs in the form of paintings. This is a mystery of creative work.

My father was a choral conductor. But unlike my mother that had proper education, he came to a matter of his life not at once.

Father came from the family of kulaks that were dispossessed in the 1920-ies. During World War II he was evacuated from Mariupol (where he finished FZU) to Nizhniy Tagil. There he worked for a tank plant. Later after war he began to work as a choral conductor starting with amateur performance at first. Despite all the ordeals, my father was very cheerful, he always kept his head. Maybe that's why he never considered himself as a "missed person" who never found the main matter of his life. I also didn't miss when I became an artist.

In childhood I was a usual Soviet child. I came through day nursery, kinder garden, as my parents worked. I was a little madcap, beat and was beaten. Yet before school I learned to read, and as many other boys of the early 60-ies I loved books about taming of the outer space, though it was so far from Nizhniy Tagil. I couldn't avoid all boys' hobbies also. Everybody collected posts stamps at that time! But I collected only stamps devoted to art. Is it possible to compare their multicoloured beauty? Paintings on them looked glossy and glamorous, using today buzzwords. I also performed in all choruses of my parents as promising child in singing. But my father (wise man) never forced me to paint though carefully kept all my child's works. He may have felt that this cup won't pass from me.

I was proud with my father. It seemed to me that all Nizhniy Tagil knew him. Any twenty-minute walk turned into a three hours long path home. "Good afternoon, Yevgeniy Ivanovich", we heard in the street from time to time and a conversation between old friends started. Though in a while when I was a school boy, I had got a kind of jealousy. I wanted to be recognized and talked about: "This is Yuriy, everybody knows him!" I felt hurt a little bit for the nickname "son of Yevgeniy Ivanovich".

Still I went to an art school. But it was already in Sumgait. There my parents moved mostly because of me. Colds, quinsy became my boring companions in Nizhniy Tagil. It was decided by the family council: only south. So cold winters when thermometer was below 30 C and special plant whistle rang (we may not go to school) passed by. And then all children filled skating rings poured by adults in the yards, played among ice figures carved there not for an exhibition as we do now, but just following the voice of soul.

Just imagine how I felt after that in hot Sumgait. I moved up to the second grade and appeared in a different world, different country with the name the USSR, but somehow it was Azerbaijan. Plenty of fruit and vegetables: watermelons, tomatoes, melons. Eastern bazars. Meanwhile poisonous fogs, dust (Sumgait was a centre of chemical industry), and escape from all this was the sea. Just like Chehov said: "Sea was great". I can remember only good things from that life. Not in vain human being has a gift of oblivion. We owe it a lot in our life the same as to our memory.

I remember my first art school in Pioneers' House. It was in the fifth grade. Before that like any other pioneer I rolled over different circles and groups. I went to photo circle and dealt with aircraft modeling. I could escape only music school despite of my parent's ardent desire to see me playing the piano. An accident helped me. When I was in the third grade I was pushed by a madcap schoolmate, I fell and got a concussion of brain. I had got some complications, even eyesight worsened. Then I told my mom (choosing a good time to talk) that it was difficult for me to study music, my head hurt. So my studying solfeggio was over.

The fifth grade was not only the beginning of my "career of an artist". Then I fell in love to distraction. As our experienced young people would say now: without a flavor of sex yet. My love's name was Eteri. Blue eyes, gorgeous long hair, slim figure – everything made me crazy. I remember as I prepared to my first date. Mom brought me from a Baltic country a dandyish costume: dark-blue jacket without collar and black trousers. I was ironing them for a long time to make the creases perfect. For more than a year I courted her tenderly, she was a goddess for me. However, she was the first from the infinite queue of my reckless infatuations. And then I intuitively understood that men do everything in this life for women including become an artist. As they say the Fall follows the Rise.

Another year passed and I found myself in the painting group of tube-rolling plant club. There I studied for almost a year and a half and a teacher, a very talented and professional man, prepared me to enter the art college. I felt as an artist and never wanted any changes in my destiny.

I entered to Baku art college named after Azim Azim-zade by chance as it seemed to me. I didn't come from the family of artists, didn't belong to any of local clans. Using high-flown language foresight was for me. Somebody up there wanted me to become an artist. But the reckoning for this favor of superior virtues turned into a difficult fight for the place in the college sun. For Baku citizens I was a provincial who didn't know how to dress "correctly", to have a knack for jazz-rock and hang out (though we didn't say this way at that time). This kind of snobbery cut off profanes and was wide-spread among future teachers of drawing.

The only thing helped me that I just dreamt to be an artist, so step by step I assimilated the elements of Baku art school that assumed a riot of colours. Not a polished realism but southern expression born by nature and warmed with the sun blood. Studying went on, but from time to time I had a desire to paint a kind of masterpiece. I locked my room full of inspiration and forgot about everything. As any other poor genius, I ate nothing and kept on painting.

However, my infatuations saved me from full assignment of my life to the art altar. I remember my love when I was a student – Tata, her grandfather was close to power elite – he was a great figure at that time. I suffered almost like young Werter. When my love boat crashed, I thought of jumping out of the window. Thanks God, I changed my mind in time, maybe, a thought about fleetingness of love saved me.

Tragically I felt lack of money. Scholarship was thirty Rubles, and painter case (trademark of an artist) cost nineteen Rubles. Paints cost from fifty kopeikas to one Ruble for a tube. It was big money for a student. So I had to paint "saving" still life squeezing paint from the tube in millimeters. But not always I could save during the lessons. A mature teacher, a representative of lavish Southern school, comes to you and asks: "Listen, my dear! What are you doing? Put more whitewash here!" And he squeezes at once half of tube, makes fleshy, lavish strokes. I hated him at that very moment. "Art is a destiny of rich people", I remembered somebody's words.

After leaving the college I had not three roads (like in a fairy tale), but only two: to be a teacher in a provincial school or to go to the army.

I only spent two hours in the provincial town, a place of my future school deeds, and it was enough. I was scared even more than while reading Fedor Sologub's book "Tiny devil". As to its main hero, school teacher, I saw only one way out from the provincial darkness – craziness and catching in the corners of my room mysterious creature – "nedotykomka grey". And this all is for me, an artist, almost a genius, wearing the rare dress in the province, jeans costume! Never!

My History  |  Touch of Brush  |  PriBAMbasy (Fancy gadgets)  |  "We had a wonderful epoch"  |  39,2 Degree and Above  |  Man Shall Not Live By Chair Alone...