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Nikolay Lavetsky was born in 1947 in Moscow. While still in school he took a two-year preparatory сourse of drawing at the Moscow Architectural Institute (MArchI). In 1965 he entered the Moscow State Engineering Physics Institute (MEPhI). At the Institute he continued drawing and painting and participated in numerous institute's art exhibitions. In 1971 Nikolai graduated from the MEPhI with a degree in "The Physics of Metals and Metallography."


Since 1972 he worked as a freelance artist with newspapers, magazines and later with leading publishers ("Detskaya Literatura", "Molodaya Gvardiya", etc.) illustrating more than 70 books. In 1972 he joined as a member the Moscow Professional Committee of Graphic Artists (now the Creative Union of Artists of Russia).


Since 1979 Nikolay Lavetsky has been taking part in various exhibitions. He participated in the annual exhibitions at "Malaya Gruzinskaya". In 1978 he got an award of the International Exhibition of Caricaturists in Gabrovo (Bulgaria). 1980-1985 three personal exhibitions were held in West Berlin galleries.


In 1990 Lavetsky ceases working in book graphics and devotes himself entirely to painting. In November 1993 - the first personal exhibition in Moscow in the exhibition hall of the Peace Committee (Portrait -1993). In the spring of 1996 Nikolay Lavetsky is a participant of the exhibition "Artists of Russia" in the "Kitay Gorod" Gallery. 1999 - personal exhibition at the Russian Culture Fund. 1999 - personal exhibition at the Moscow House of Artists. 2001 - personal exhibition in Monolith Club. 2005 - personal exhibition in the Moscow Oil and Gas Club. The same year Lavetsky participates in the exhibition in the gallery "L` Oreal "(Paris) with a group of other Moscow artists. 2006 – participation in the exhibition «The objective reality" in the Moscow House of Artists.


Nikolay Lavetsky works in the manner of Pararealism. For more than thirty years he has been creating numerous figure compositions, portraits and still lives (paintings and graphics) which he exhibits in galleries and sells from his studio in Moscow.





Ph.D. in History of Arts


There are lots of new names in modern Russian painting and among them the name of a brilliant painter Nikolai Lavetskiy does stand out. It took him quite a long stretch of time to fulfil his most ambitious visions. Here is my subjective and to some extent untraditional view on Nikolai Lavetskiy’s place in Art.


Nikolai Lavetskiy belongs to the nobility of Russian modern painting: he is highly educated, professional, and inspired. In a nutshell - an independent thinker. Hundreds of paintings of different genre, style and scale create a world rich in characters and things in closed and open spaces. They abandon in famous classical and literary themes alongside with his own original and witty interpretations, which have become his brand.


Serene and calm in their mood as well as „explosive” and so very dramatic. Human passions are presented in their extremes.


He belongs to the type of artists who can change their style quite unexpectedly and paradoxically. It is about not only substance and style of his creations, but also about the painter’s attitude reflected in his painting. Being a real master of his craft, he presents freedom of technical expression intervened with highly sophisticated conceptual ideas. It is a game according to the rules and stripped of all the rules at the same time. The proof of this invention lies in the invention itself; there is no didactics, ideology or canon. He masterfully presents his extreme fantasies on the canvas.


In his work, the artist is able to combine noble and trivial, intellectual and erotic, rational and mystic, harmonious and dissonant. And does it with ease.


His brave fantasy is awesome; his unpredictability balances on the edge of kitsch but never crosses the line. His ironic approach to himself, his perfect craft together with his high knowledge of the history of Art serves him to masterfully paraphrase the ideas of classical Art in his creations.


His emotional inspiration seem to lie in the alternative mental states of explosion and homeostasis, serenity and restlessness, which breed obsessions. These obsessive ideas are the source of his inspiration.


The transformation of this vague, intuitive feeling into a specific visible image takes a huge psychophysical effort, which can exhaust the artist. But not in case of N. Lavetskiy.


His energy and working capacity do not let him pause. Every unpredictable turn he takes is reflected in his conceptually and temperamentally varied works.

The rhythm, space and color, proportion and deformation present a different level of visible and hidden repetitions, the power of big and small worlds.


All canvases created by Lavetskiy are highly challenging, technically perfect, very expressive and emotional which is a real contribution to modern painting. 


But in my opinion the works which personify the „explosion” show true Lavetskiy, they are his real achievements and discoveries. The uniqueness of the large-scale canvases such as „The Roulette”, „Big Football”, „Leda”, „Sobakin”, „Judith”, „The Car Showroom”, „The Prosecutor”, „War”, „Adam and Eve”, „Battle of the Giants”, „Medusa” lies in the fact that they embody the ideal of painting as Art- they are a joy to look at, they are technically perfect and their interpretation of the painter’s idea is quite unexpected. They are original but not marginal, classical but not orthodox.


They embrace the manneristic artistic thinking the credo of which includes both different intentions and a new version of the old style. The artist builds on the world Art experience and his loving and fruitful interpretation of this own experience.


Lavetskiy follows different artistic styles without following the rules. He breaks them in a „mannered” way: stylizing, enlarging, deforming and changing the accents, making the drawing more complex and sophisticated. He seems to prefer the given style, admires it, he is ironic about it, treats it lightly but at the same time he makes it his own perfecting it and filling it with his individuality.


He is constantly turning to different styles of depiction. Alongside with the ecstatic exposure, expressive color and compositional complexity there is something else, which brings very deep meaning to the „search for style „ by the artist. It’s romantism despite of his grotesque expression, which combines many themes in one ironic arabesque.  The romantism, which is actually the artist’s own nostalgia for some perfect art, which torments and excites him.


Technically this nostalgia can be detected in some stylistic methods, which attempt to bring out the motive from anamnesis. The motive which used to be dominant but which for some reason has become trivial, forgotten or banalized and overused by mediocre „followers”.


I suppose that in the artist’s mind this motive is always alive and poses constant restlessness. It undergoes continuous study. In this context, the word „motive” is used to express pictural, technical and stylistic ways, which pose a paradigm of some phenomenon in the history of Art.


It is no news for the history of Art: Dali used to study the style of Millet and Vermeer, Picasso-black sculpture, Pre-Raphaelites- Giotto.


It is often the case that the artist’s obsession, his creative empathy with the „other” brings subtle evolution to the artistic language. Very often the forgotten experience of Art lies dormant in the long-term memory, the „motive” undergoes the catharsis in the mind of the master who then presents a more sophisticated, modernized and updated version to the world.


The fatal predisposition, natural or self-inflicted adherence to one of the ‚elements' of Art predetermines his own style. Transforming the models of the past and subjecting them to metamorphosis, the artist continues to fill the palimpsest of art with new meanings. N. Lavetskiy is a versatile artist who submerges in the entelechy of art.


Those who had the chance to be in his workshop could feel the effect of his canvases: they are not only joyful experience of art but also emanate something inexplicable- the changing of your psychophysical state:  you feel alive, sure of yourself and your creative forces. You are a part of a creative process of something outstanding and perfect.


The „visions” of the artist mesmerize you and you are transported to a different, more positive space.


As a painter, Lavetskiy can create a studied mosaic, which reminds us of an oriental carpet. His pictures contain some fantastic infrastructures, the nervous system of rich in patterns macrocosm full of myriads of microcosms.


Attentive study of the canvas takes you on an exciting journey to the faraway corners of this gigantic space where you can see many figures, objects and miniature pictures. That is how Pavel Filonov, who showed us the new ways of the development of art, used to work. N. Lavetskiy not just a student of Filonov’s system, he perfects it and brings it to a completely new level.


Filonov’s inclination to cosmogonic constructions, polycentric and polyphonic compositions, his „state of disturbance ”expressed on the canvas have neither been experienced so vividly before , nor so brilliantly interpreted as it was done by N. Lavetskiy. One can see it in „The Roulette”, „War” and „Executioner”. On every square centimeter of his canvas, Lavetskiy creates the world of extremes, its emanations, mystic and erotic transformations. These huge canvases present a fabulous arabesque of many pictures. It is a mosaic of big and small walking, falling and flying figures, which fill the canvas. Filonov used to say that „ art includes processes in organic and non-organic worlds, their emergence, implementation, change, connection, interdependence, reaction and radiation, division, dynamics and biodynamics, atomistic and intra-atomic connection.” This idea expressed by Filonov can be crucial for understanding the complex stylistics of N. Lavetskiy who presents the models of ecumenical cataclysms in some of his works.


The artist’s passion to study the mentality close to his own makes him „jump into the mentality of another person”. This mental experiment of empathizing with other artistic ways of expression, first studied and then transformed, creates a new level in the history of painting. Juri Lotman defined this process as a stylistic and conceptual explosion, the result of collision of two alien methods: assimilating and assimilated. There arises an explosive space- a mass of unpredictable possibilities.


Lavetskiy demonstrates these possibilities in some of his paintings, inspired by classical ideas where the artist presents himself as an incarnation of some creative superpowers. He makes us see anew things, which seem to have become quite familiar. „Judith”, a quite well known theme in classical painting is modified so Lavetskiy - like, so peculiarly that we are taken by its paradoxical originality. Lavetskiy uses the form of grotesque so masterfully that it turns inside out all the familiar meanings typical of these characters. Here we can see two psychological types against each other: the joyful excess of force and cold melancholy. Fabulous fabrics, luxurious accessories, intensive colors, stereo effects, mystic light and paradoxical figures of Judith and Holofernes- all is thought through and presented in „Judith” as a completely new version of a very old story. The dancing figure of Holofernes, a good-natured giant, ugly and charming at the same time is caught in rapture. Judith poses a complete opposite: this youthful creature is transparent and cold more of a puppet than a cold-blooded beautiful murderer. She is dancing with her back to Holofernes, her posture; a beautiful silk dress and a wig are very refined. The figures seem to come out of a false mirror- the anatomy is crooked. That esthetics: in spite of the deformity and changed meanings, the canvases are so appealing. Lavetskiy winks ironically at those in the know, ridding himself of all dependence from the authority of the masters. It is a complex system of convergences and differences, including his own Ego in the context of world Art. „ True Art is a highly spiritual processing of monstrous mass of experience” (K.Fidler, the theorist of Art).


First of all it’s the experience of Art itself, the limits of which are defined by play, imitations, transformations and mannerisms. The existence of these limitations may create vast possibilities of a varied experience, which opens new vistas, new life.


In his paintings, be it at exhibitions or in his workshop, Lavetskiy gives us unexpected solutions and presents the unity of nontrivial ideas on canvas with high colors and a broad stroke. This is a mixture of serenity and restlessness, which were described on previous pages. The artist seems to be in meditation with characters, figures and things on his canvases.


He brings together seemingly unsuitable things and constructions. He gracefully unites and divides form and color, horizontal and vertical positions of his objects. He provides us with existential matter, which is turned into metaphysical composition by the stroke of the artist’s hand.


There is much hidden perseverance and love for creating forms. The search of the artist is embodied in quite contradictory visions in his mind: be it the ecstatic of the baroque, the arrogance and fragility of the ice palace of the supremacist, the eroticism of surrealist, or the devotion to realism turned into superrealism. That’s his rich domain.


The attempt to explain the dominant idea in Lavetskiy’s works is untenable. There is no ideology. He plays with the „possible” but never „final".


He is so masterful in creating form and style that one and the same image is rich in different interpretations.


The chivalrous beau Sobakin is both an officer and a joker, the provincial innocent young girl in frills - „ a beautiful Spanish lady” is a passionate Bacchante at the same time. The gigantic Zeus combines the zoomorphic characteristics of a Swan and a wonderful torso of an old Anthropos; his physical and psychic realities are inconsistent and paradoxical-a doomed to live forever deity as an old tired man in a strong body. Is he a God or a Demon? - an intriguing supposition. Holofernes has a nature of colossus and a satyr- he is either a prophet or a Lovelace.


The portrait of a favorite dog by the name of Karat is the reflection of a long way of a dear friend to Anubis; the portrait is threefold: a dog, a man and God.


Lavetskiy’s own specific style is strongly visible in his portraits, which makes him a brilliant portraitist. His refined portraits- romantic, intimately lyrical, enchanting, grotesque, sarcastic- though very „recognizable" and realistic bring out hidden traits of the subject, a so called cognitive card of a fulfilled destiny.


The latest works of the artist possess this unexpected element again, which was impossible to foresee. The interpretation of these canvases needs a lot of courage for they are very complex in image and design techniques.


There is no trace of light attitude, which was evident in „Car Showroom”- an ironic, gentle and wise creation. There are no heavenly tabernacles of „Adam and Eve” world; there is no meditative calm of „Postindustrial car”.


Now it is not about human passions. It is rather the vision of the changed state of consciousness, which precedes new turns of human civilization.


Such are his „Medusa”, „Battle of the Giants”, „Othello and Desdemona”, „The Birth of Cain ”and unbelievable „Hierarchy of Freedom” they all present masterly constructed compositions, deep-hidden meanings, mixed up fore and backgrounds. Their fantasies shock, image technique astounds. There are no words to describe the beauty of the canvases.


The canvases of this artist can decorate the halls of great museums, the interiors of beautiful palaces as well as our own lives. Sense of humor, philosophy, the luxurious imaginary- they all create that priceless world, the Art of Nikolai Lavetskiy,


by Alla Makarova

Ph.D. in History of Arts