«Portraits For The Future. A New Game New Russians like to play.», Ogoniok, 7/2000

Wealthy clients became frequent visitors to Irina's Korsakova studio after an exhibition in the Russian Culture Fund, where she presented some of her works including a few paintings from "Children's games" series. One of these paintings depicted dressed up children playing in a dark room blindfold and trying to cut off with a scissors the apples hanging on ropes. The motif of this painting looks like a "subtle reference to a glaring fact" and somehow resembles what New Reaches are doing now in Russia. At first glance it is a cute and innocent game… but what about snaps of scissors, and what about thumps of ripe apples against the floor… and this bandage over the eyes?
But it is probably only my fancy. Everything is very simple.

There once lived in Russia a serf painter Ostrovski by name. Let us have it straight: he was not a prominent artist as, for example, Brullov. And not because, that Ostrovski was a serf and not because, that Brullov was a big name, but for the reason, that as long as Ostrivski led his life painting portraits of his lord and lady, and all their children, it was a quiet life of an average serf, poor and unrecognized, and if it were not for discovery of his paintings in a small provincial museum, he would sink in Lethe's stream and fall into oblivion. But now we cannot even imagine our past without Ostrovski and his portraits.
But it is of course "The lore of ages long gone by", (A.Pushkin). Everything is still easier.

A man builds roads and bridges.
Or he sells water filters.
Or he works in an advertising agency.
Or he is, for example, a producer.
But being a producer he might believe that he is a reincarnation of Katherine The Great. Or this civil engineer that builds bridges, has kids, and he loves them. Or he has just bought a house or apartment in some high-class suburb.
For some reason, the man that works from seven a.m. to twenty-two p.m. would like to memorize moments when he either moves to a new house, or comes home exhausted and looks at the smiling faces of his kids, or when he thinks, he is really a reincarnation of Katherine The Great.
A man doesn't get much from his plastic box named "Kodak".
Of course he still can show the snapshots to his guests and drink for this, and then put them back. Or he can frame them and put on his desk in his office. Or else just to carry them in his wallet. But snapshots leave no place for wonder and fantasy. A plastic box named "Kodak" cannot make a picture of a game with scissors and apples falling onto the floor. Everything is much more complicated.

Irina Korsakova, an artist, descends not from the Korsakov who had studied in Imperial Lyceum, and not from the composer Rymsky-Korsakov; her ancestors were all serfs. She shows to the client, who would like to order his full-dress portrait, the paintings by Brullov or Ostrovski, and the client immediately imagines himself in this costume, in a perfect harmony with the ancient landscape or in antique interior. He imagines there himself, his wife and kids.
But for God's sake, why he needs this?
It is clear why the artist needs this. Painting a commissioned full-dress portrait means playing on the edge; it is a very delicate balancing act with Shilov and Glazunov on the right end and street portrait artists on the left. Commissioned portraits, whoever would paint them, always remind us of a serf artists' destiny. We only now discern what the artists always knew: the life is all about money.

There were also exceptions, like Goya, who never flatter to any of his models… but his clients belonged to the royal family, and he was compensated also royally.
Yet for the majority of artists this equation has only one solution:
"I see myself as in a mirror, but, yes,
this mirror flatters me" (Pushkin)

Irina Korsakova flatters her clients. Her flattery is innocent; she would like just to show on canvas how these people might look in other better life. For example, in Brullov and Ostrovski times. Why not?

Here, perhaps, we can find also the answer, why her clients need this?

They buy the portraits for the future. As, for instance, they would buy luxuries for their cherished children.

Irina Korsakova's clients order portraits that mirror them in the manner in which they wish to be viewed in their better future life. And in this life no one would say: "This is a portrait of New Russians", but "Portrait of Russian family. End of 20th - beginning of 21st century. And what is the name of the painter?"

As to the painter… In the exhibition held by "Vmeste" (Together) Gallery, in addition to the commissioned portraits from private collections, Irina also presented her painting "Pushkin's Solitaire". The paintings layout representing jacks, queens, and kings reminds of Pushkin himself, his wife Natalie, Tsar Nicholas I, d'Anthes. There are also several mysterious cards: a Joker, a card placed face down, a snow-white card …
I asked Irina: "Is there any allusion?"
"Yes", - she told, - "after all, our life is a game… Up to the last moment you don't know who wins and who loses. And the "Solitaire» is also somebody's portraits, although you cannot recognize the faces; you see only clothes and cannot tell right away Pushkin from the Tsar… What do you think is the main point of the "Solitaire"? The point is that only God knows which layout reveals man's destiny. None of my clients is going to lay his cards on the table right away and remains a puzzle to me until I finish his portrait…"

We all are players of a game. If only it lasts longer! If only the mystery stays with us throughout the whole time!

(by Mikhail Pozdniaev, Ogoniok, 7/2000; p.32)

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