I learned about Sergey Kalmykov relatively early in my life, around the mid-1970s. Yes, I was born and lived in Alma-Ata, the same city he lived from 1935 till his death in 1967 - but I was born in 1966, and by the time I heard his name he was already a well-forgotten and marginalized figure, obviously non-appreciated by the mainstream art and official ideology. But both my parents were psychiatrists, and a lot of their friends too, and it’s via them I’ve learned the name. In their circles Kalmykov was known as a ‘case’, an ‘interesting patient’. He was believed to suffer from schizophrenia , which seemingly explained his exocentric behavior and extravagant art works. I didn’t know much about this disease back then, but I was amazed by the Kalmykov’s paintings and drawings (few of them were displayed in the local art museum - a bit of a miracle for that time, if you ask me). I decided that all these psychiatrists ‘didn’t get it’, and tried to simply ‘repress’ the ‘true art’ by labeling it ‘mentally sick’.
I later became a clinical psychologist myself, and now tend to believe that Kalmykov might indeed suffer from this terrible, mind-splitting illness. (It’s perhaps interesting to notice that in Russia mentally ill people are often called душевнобольные - literally ‘soul-sick’. What suffers is ‘soul’ that, not mind). But whether it was true or not, this fact does not change much in my perception of him and his art. The paintings by Kalmykov have deeply transformed my ideas about color, beauty, art - and life, I guess. Worth to add that we hadn’t seen much of Picasso, Dali the likes back then, and even own Russia’s treasures - Shagal, Filonov, Malevich etc - were kept hidden from us. These slides are not an accurate representations of the Kalmykov’s art works - quite the contrary, all works here are grossly edited, over-enhanced and hyper-colorized. As such, they are rather the representations of my own memories, of how I remember my first encounters with the Artist, his ways of seeing things, and his skills of creating magical worlds around us.
“… eyes should be trained, for them to see all parts of the whole. To see the lines, the colors, the changes in perspective, and distortions! Most people walk blindly, yet think they are smart! And no one can look at the things and see what is before their eyes.”
“ It is difficult to be a dot, and it’s easy to be a line, since everything moves in our world. Everything moves in our world, and every dot draws its own world line. I say that when we look at the colors, we mostly see not the colors but the lines. Try to see the color. Try to focus on a dot.”
“ I draw all my paintings with one line. I would like to chisel them in stone, like the Babylonians. I don’t try to convey in my paintings a volume or at atmosphere, but rather capture unusual combinations of the lines and curves on a surface.”
“ In my best works I am detached from reality.”
“ Art is about intention, not achievement. An Artist is a Dreamer, not a Master. The dreams and intentions differentiate a true artist from the crowds of mediocre followers and imitators.”
√∫ √∫ √∫ √∫ √∫ √∫ √∫ “ I look at you from the point in the far-away future.”
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