top of page

Book one


Drawings 1975-1980

Inception  (1974-1980)
Key events

1974 Graduated from the physics and mathematics faculty of BSPI. Drew in the studio of Gennady Tarsky and the People's Studio of Fine Arts Alexey Ievlev. Since 1974 he participated in regional exhibitions of the Union of Artists of the RSFSR.

From 1975 to 1979 he painted nude model in the studio Vasily Rublev.

In 1978 he entered the graphic arts department of the Omsk Pedagogical Institute.

In 1978 he graduated from the University of Marxism-Leninism, where he studied the history of aesthetic doctrines, aesthetics, art history.

In 1978, was admitted to the Association of Young Artists of the Union of Artists of the USSR.


Exhibitions 1974-1980

Since 1974, he participated in exhibitions of the Union of Artists of the Altai Territory.

1978 participated in the regional exhibition "Young Artists of Siberia", Omsk. Awarded a diploma. The painting "Track repairmen" was published in the magazine "Art" of the Academy of Arts of the USSR.

1980 participated in the regional exhibition "Siberia Socialist.

1980 participated in the All-Union exhibition of young artists "We are building communism", Tashkent.

In 1981 he moved to Kuzbass, the land of miners and metallurgists, first to the city of Kemerovo, then to Novokuznetsk (formerly Stalinsk).


Collections. Museums


Paintings from this period are in private collections in Russia, in England, in Japan, in the State Art Museum of the Altai Territory, in the Novokuznetsk Art Museum, in the reading room of the library "Kuybyshevskaya" in Novokuznetsk.

How I Became an Artist

In 1970, I studied at the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics of the Barnaul Ped. Institute, and in my hands was the book "Bible Tales" by Zenon Kosidovsky. Zenon Kosidovsky wrote about the Holy Book of the Christian and Jewish religions, with Biblical texts and commentaries on them. At the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics, in addition to higher mathematics, general physics, quantum mechanics, we had lectures on philosophy, atheism and scientific communism. In lectures on isms, I read the Bible. I do not remember how this book ended up with me, perhaps from the library of my very enlightened aunt Anna Afanasyevna Pushkareva. She had a good library, books on the history of art, memoirs of famous people, magazine files. Magazines Ogonyok, almost from the first issues! There was also literature forbidden at that time: letters from Svetlana Aliluyeva, Vasily Terkin in Paradise by Tvardovsky, diaries and memoirs of the first wave of emigrants. I could borrow books from my aunt's library, with the condition that they be returned to their place. But why didn't I return the book "Bible Tales" to its place? Maybe I bought this book? Or was it given to me? I don't remember how I got the book. But I still have this book. Of course, I have seen paintings on Biblical subjects in museums and art albums, but I did not always understand them in all their depth and beauty. And in my hands was a book about the Old Testament. Texts that reveal to me the plots of paintings by great artists! The book of Zenon Kosidovsky led me to other books of Holy Scripture. I have books of famous theologians. Now it will not seem something special, surprising, but in Soviet times, in a country of total atheism, a book about the Old Testament, published by a state publishing house, was an event. Our family was atheistic - my mother was an English teacher, my father was an engineer. Outwardly, a Soviet family, but with a non-Soviet background. Mom has officers in the family, Poles. My father has entrepreneurs - my paternal grandfather Afanasy Pushkarev was a merchant and entrepreneur. He had a good house and a library. Then the revolution in Russia, the civil war, and the flight of my father's family from repression.

And so I read Zenon Kosidovsky's "Biblical Tales", with a rather detailed exposition of the Old Testament close to the text. I read the New Testament later, in the 80s. Studying general physics, quantum mechanics, I read Rogers, Landau and Lifshitz. I am fond of cosmogony and the big bang theory. I am interested in how it all happened, where it all came from, how the world in which we live appeared. Theoretical physics. Cosmogony. The evolution of stars. And the Bible, Genesis. And it all adds up to an amazing picture for me. There are no contradictions, and the Bible and Cosmogony are man's ideas about the origin of the World, an attempt to answer three basic questions: who are we, where are we from and where are we going? This is a painful, full of horror and seeming insight search. The search continues, it is endless. Humanity has new ideas, humanity is looking for an answer in the old ideas. It seems to be moving in a circle. Or is it a spiral? And I, it seems to me, find answers to my childhood questions. The infinity of the universe! I read about it at the age of 7-8. I went out into the street and looked for a long time at the shining summer sky, with clouds floating somewhere high, high. Infinity! How can it be? My imagination collided with something huge, powerful. And my childhood imagination became endless. My imagination was reflected in my drawings. I was constantly drawing. During the period when my parents were developing virgin lands and my father was the chief engineer of the machine and tractor station, my toys were parts from tractors, combines and cars. Me and my imagination. I was self-sufficient and creative. I was constantly in the creative process. And I'm not exaggerating at all. At school I was the No1 artist. I directed the school puppet theater, was a director, playwright, artist and actor. And while studying at the Faculty of Physics, and I studied with pleasure, I was a smart student, an excellent student, I received an increased scholarship from the dean's office, I read the Bible and I understand that I do not want to go to graduate school, I had such an opportunity, I understand that I am an artist, and my journey as an artist begins. I go to the newly opened library, with the opportunity to order books from other libraries in the country, and independently study the technology of painting. I read treatises on painting. Bolus primers, imprimatura, oil painting by Van Eyck. I'm studying. My teachers at this time are books and museums. I visit museums in Moscow and Leningrad.


A department of public professions is being opened at our institute - this is an additional education, I choose the art and design department. Evening classes. The teacher, a professional artist, offers us not only design, but also drawing from nature. I paint my first paintings and bring them to a professional exhibition. The exhibition committee accepts my work. This is 1974. My first exhibition. My mother gave me the book "The Life of Van Gogh". Van Gogh is my hero. I work furiously. I am constantly with a sketchbook, I work on the street, I do not have a workshop. I am an artist! Next to me is Van Gogh. I understand the need to study. But the official school does not arouse my enthusiasm. Socialist realism is not for me. But I am learning: I paint in the studio of Gennady Tarsky, he came to Barnaul after the Riga Academy of Arts, in the studio of Alexei Ievlev - painting. Full time job. I was expelled from Ievlev's studio a year later for trying to experiment with color. I get acquainted with Rublev and Kvasov - this is Barnaul's "other art". For three years I have been drawing a nude model in Rublev's studio. In Rublev's studio, the search for a new form and the rejection of socialist realism. Entered the University of Marxism-Leninism at the Faculty of Ethics, Aesthetics and Art History. At that time, everything in our country was determined by Marxism-Leninism under the leadership of the Communist Party. He graduated from the university with honors. After the success at the regional exhibition of young artists, I was invited to study at the Repinsky Institute with the words: you will not be spoiled. Thanks to these people for trying to help me. I refused after looking at the students' work. This is not my way. I understood that such a study for me is violence against myself, that this is a structure in which you need to fit in, obey, humble your impulse. As a compromise, he entered the 2nd year of the Omsk Art and Graphic Faculty. Because of the diploma, that's how I explained it to myself. But I did not like this compromise and I stopped my studies as an artgrapher. One way or another, I was a prominent young artist in the city of Barnaul and I was invited to participate in television programs, which very irritated part of the board of the local union of artists. After the publication of my painting "Old Town. Track Repairers" in the journal of the Academy of Arts, and a good review of my work, I was accepted into the association of young artists of the Union of Artists of the USSR.

The Regional Committee of the Komsomol offered me to head the Komsomol organization of the local Union of Artists. I agreed on the condition that I would have the opportunity to organize exhibitions of young artists, including group ones. Everything worked out for me - exhibitions, active work, creative trips, and the regional committee of the Komsomol suggested that I join the Communist Party. Join a party? For me it was incompatible - a party with a leading role, as it was written in the constitution of the USSR, and creativity. After all, the party with the leading role will occupy part of my brain, I will have to take on certain obligations. And I saw an abyss painted with all sorts of privileges instead of freedom of creativity. If I wanted to pursue a career, which many then aspired to, then yes, I should have joined the party. But it will break me as an artist. I refused to join the party. I was happy, I made my choice! Just a few hours after my refusal to join the party, I received an unexpected result: an order was hung in the art fund to announce me a severe reprimand with a final warning. An hour later, the leadership of the Union of Artists gathered: the director of the art fund, the secretary of the party organization, the chairman of the trade union and members of the board, and in the director's office a discussion began on me. Violation of labor discipline, immoral behavior - that's what I heard. The chairman of the board of the Union of Artists, in a personal conversation, advised me to leave, since what I heard is far from everything, there are statements by artists about my anti-Soviet sentiments. Well, yes, of course I did not like the weekly political information held in the art fund, I did not like pictures with a false ideology, yes, I read unwanted literature and talked about it with fellow artists. And now everything was against me. I decided to leave. I loved my city and it was a tough decision for me.


I left for Kemerovo, where I had artist friends with whom I participated in regional art exhibitions. In Kemerovo, the artists were followed by KGB Major Albert Shalnev, outwardly an exact copy of the famous actor Lyubshin, the same smile, manner of speaking. He followed me too. Finally, a year later, he wrote a report and gave it to me to read. It was written in his report that I am not a dangerous anti-Soviet, but sometimes I say the wrong thing. - this is the essence of what is written, in short. Thank him for this. In Kemerovo, I lived in a workers' dormitory, my workshop was for some time in the chemical industrial zone, in the former locker room of the gymnasium of an abandoned school. Chemistry made my throat tickle, my eyes watered. I ate in the workers' canteen and saw people who worked in hazardous chemical production. There was a feeling of being in an industrial zone after a global catastrophe, a feeling that you were watching a gloomy film about a catastrophe.


Suicide draughtsman Studio

I drew at Rublev's studio from 1975-1979, and another year before I left Barnaul in 1980. In 1980, painting in Rublev's studio was no longer as enthusiastic, vibrant as in previous years. Rublev had problems with the board of the local Artists' Union. Kvasov had problems too. Rublev-Kvasov. They were inseparable - one unit, with their ideas and desire for creative freedom. Rublev-Kvasov, who allowed himself the freedom of creativity, of course, irritated the board of the local Union of Artists and part of the artists. Rublev-Kvasov talked about creative freedom, and not only talked, but offered to experience this feeling, a sense of creative freedom, invited to draw in the Rublev studio. In 1975-1979, a few people painted all the time - Rublev, Kvasov, Kulgachova, Larisa Pastushkova and less often Tanya Ashkinazi, for some reason I do not remember her drawing with Rublev. Rublev maintained his drawing studio until 1975, at the House of Architect. Many people drew there, people I don't really know. But that's not my story. My story is 1975-1980. Of course, if we are talking about drawing, unusual drawing, with complete immersion and concentration, then it is Kulgachova, Kvasov, Rublev. From the point of view of today, I consider myself to be a non-academic artist, my drawings aspired to go beyond the commonplace, beyond the concepts established in the artistic practice of the official Soviet art. Leva Zybaylov, a philosopher, came to Rublev for tea; later, already in Moscow, he and I led a workshop of interdisciplinary forms of artistic activity at the School of Contemporary Art, "Free Workshops". Gennady Nekrasov, a veterinary doctor, I have his portrait on canvas, I think dated 1976. Lawyers and doctors came by, to touch and enjoy the creative atmosphere of Rublev's studio. Painters came by to paint, but their desire to draw was enough for once or twice. Perhaps they had other priorities and Rublev-Kvasov style did not suit them and caused bewilderment. Bewilderment, rejection, that was the feeling of the majority. Who were they, Kvassov and Rublev? What do they think they are? This feeling was accurately described by Joseph Brodsky with a key phrase - Who are you? Brodsky said that rejection and disrespect for personality, for loved ones, rejection of talent, the inadmissibility of rejoicing and appreciating another's success is what makes our life at times unbearable. Brodsky is right. Irritation at Rublev-Kvasov was palpable and the board decided to ban collective painting in Rublev's studio. We were obliged to paint in the exhibition hall, under the supervision of a board member. The board member was outraged at the liberties in drawing, which he reported to the board. We started painting in Rublev's studio again. This ended in trouble for us. They decided to take away Rublev's studio. Kvasov was ordered to leave Rublev's studio immediately. Rublev ended up in hospital, Kvasov in an asylum. I went to see Kvasov; it was clear from the admission system itself that this was not a voluntary treatment and leaving the facility would not be easy. I found Kvasov in his usual state - he was immersed in his ideas and had new ideas. You know, he told me, it is good here. The doctor is good. He is interested in my ideas and he writes everything down. I advised Kvasov not to share his theories with the doctor, but to pretend to be a hose and talk about topics common to all. Peter Mironov, chairman of the board, who treated us with as much sympathy as was possible in the current situation, found a compromise and Rublev did not lose the workshop. But there was a condition - Kvassov must not be in Rublev's studio. All these events were a strong blow to Rublev. I too have had problems, serious enough, and I left my hometown. A suicide drawing studio. That's exactly right. After all, it was clear to us that our rejection of social realism, our discourse, was bound to lead to serious trouble. That is, our position was suicidal. I would come to Barnaul to see my parents, my children, and the first person I would go to, and sometimes the only person I would go to, was Rublev. In one of my last meetings we were looking at his drawings, the drawings were in old suitcases. Take the drawings, Rublev said, as a memento. 

Vladimir Opara, June-September 2020, Moscow 

Translated with DeepL


bottom of page