A portrait of the artist
Vladimir Opara is definitely a daring artist. Not every master is willing to present what he had been doing for more than four decades; not everyone is capable of withstanding demonstration of his own artistic evolution. The reasons for that vary amidst the artists: some are more interested in recent ideas and searches while losing almost interest to their earlier works; some probably realize they have lost their lifeblood and internal unrest, which usually accompany the true artistry. Vladimir Opara is a completely different matter, as he equally appreciates his early and new works, and does not cease the search and experiments without losing his temperament and inner fires evident to anyone. Vladimir works hard, daringly expanding his artistic interest beyond the area of easel painting and drawings to incorporate collages and assemblages, objects, installations, performances, videos, and CGI into their domains, and freely varies diverse techniques and materials. Opara’s works are exhibited in many museums and private collections; they are always welcome at Russian and foreign exhibitions.
Summarizing my impressions from Opara's works of different periods, I may find something common notwithstanding the diversity of the techniques involved. First, it lies in continuous aspiration for formal and colouring solution’s expression (regardless of whether it is a mostly dark palette like in his early works, or light-saturated and bright like in his later works, or even that synthetic featured in his recent works, where the colour becomes somewhat “objectified”). Second, it features special expressive function of textures regardless of techniques and kind of arts the work is related to, be in a painting, an object, an installation, a performance, a photo, a video, or a CGI work.
His performances titled “Purification of Sand” and “Claustrophobia” (1993), super installation “The Iron Way” (1991), “The Towers” project (1993), and other works from the first half of the 1990’s (like “Jerusalem” of 1992 and “The Prayer” of 1993, or, on the other hand, “Novokuznetsk. Ilyinka” of 1992, and “A Drunk Boor Returns Home” of 1993) are distinctive for their ‘texture’ not just in terms of plasticity, but also in social terms by precise reflection of then-arts’ aspiration to commit the overcoming of the passed-out rigid framework of Soviet art, and to reinforce its active intervention in the casual reality of post-Soviet era. The texture, often purposefully brutal or provocatively flamboyant played the crucial role in his later works as well, where Vladimir, having abandoned the foundation for the sake of mostly natural materials and artistic conceptualization of natural processes, almost rejected mimetic figurativeness for the benefit of semi-geometrical structures resembling some elements of the universe. Those Opara’s works often feature the techniques of collage and assemblage, daringly introducing human-made objects wasted by the same human-like nails, fragments of wires and ropes, torn paper, corrugated cardboard, etc. into an artwork’s structure (“Structures” series of mid-1990’s, “Prayer for the Killed”, “The Hardship of Wealth-Expectant” from 1996; “The Carburettor Boy and his Mom” from 1997), as well as the installation “Museum 2020” (1997) featuring video displays, or a complex object “Creators” (1998-2012) composed from old computer boards.
Recently, fusing industrial civilization’s waste in diverse combinations of assemblage techniques combined with exclusively painting and drawing solutions, the artist has reached emotional and plastic expression of each composition, which might be even greater than that of his earlier works. That said, such his works as “Message to the Jerusalem’s Entrant / Response of the Jerusalem’s Entrant” (1998-2000), “Three Days’ Journey” (2001), “How Rain and Snow Descend from Heavens” (2002), “Geometry of Love” and “Sharm el-Sheikh” (2004), The Voice from the East” (2005), “Snow Came Down in Silence” (2006), tetraptych “No name” (2008), or major “complex” compositions of “Steam Engine Boats” series (2007) manifest something new, being a concealed or evidently expressed feeling of wise melancholy sometimes mixed with subtle nostalgia probably beyond the author’s conscious perception. I think it is not so much a reflection of some evanescent mood, as a consequence of the artist’s personal and artistic maturity. Most outstanding artists of the past, both from long ago and from recent times, watched the world with the same slightly sad but wise eyes in their maturity and artistic climax (the more knowledge, the more grief).
Recent assemblages by Vladimir Opara are conceptually multicoloured and complex. They include not only some “foreign” materials like computer boards, pieces of wire, and broken toys, but only word structures like textual fragments usually incorporating several words and phrases bearing parallel associative meanings reflecting the burning contemporary issues, or obliquely quoting mottos and ideological symbols of not-so-remote past. "Samurais Flying over the Fukushima Station” (2011), "East Berlin", "Construction of the Tower”, “The Red Carriage, “December” (2013), “German Carriages” (2013-2014), “Russia 2” (2014), “Russian Field”, “Houses by the Road, and “Forgotten Chants” (2015). Multi-structural essence of those objects appears adequate in terms of complexity and ambiguity of many concepts and symbols employed by the artist. Biblical themes always present in Opara’s works, both related to the Old Testament’s Tower of Babel and those embodying Gospel scenes like the Passion of Christ (“Nisan 14", 2001; “Jesus's First Journey", 2004; “He Enters Jerusalem on a Donkey", 2005; "Crucified", 2005; "Sunday", 2007; "Saturday", 2008-2009; "So That I Could See the Light", 2009; “E-Crucifix", 2010-2011) definitely provide the artist’s quest with expressed seriousness and philosophical depth along with confessionary essence and extremely personal meaning.
At first thought, artistic personality of Vladimir Opara is somewhat dualistic. On the one hand, he is an impulsive and vivid person artistically inspired most of the time; on the other hand, he continuously analyzes and systematizes his own search. However, there is no contradiction between those features: the artist has been natural and self-devoted for all his years of creation. Many big personal exhibitions of Opara’s works could have hardly succeeded without those features of his artistic personality.
Andrei Tolstoy, Doctor of Art History,
academic at the Russian Academy of Arts.