Vladimir Yankilevsky, born in Moscow in 1938, and Valeri Vinogradov, born in the same city in 1952, both departed from Russia. Yankilevsky initially settled in New York in 1990 and later moved to Paris a few years after. In contrast, Vinogradov left for Tallinn in 1980. To what extent does the life trajectory of two artists, developed in a similar cultural environment and political climate, influence the course of their work?
Both are solitary figures with a Russian language and cultural background, steering clear of the hustle and bustle of the art world. Both navigate the complexities of being cosmopolitan while contending with homesickness. Vladimir Yankilevsky, a classic of Soviet alternative art, engages with potent polarities, reveling in metropolises, classical music and jazz. In contrast, Valeri Vinogradov, who finds solace in the security of Estonian nature and values craftsmanship, willingly immerses himself in the subtle textures of his creations. He skillfully balances this with satire and mockery conveyed through words. Both possess remarkable talent and breadth. One introduced himself to the Estonian art scene with the compelling sensitivity of abstract paintings in the late 1980s, while the other garnered attention in the global art hubs as early as the 1970s.
With unrelenting criticism, Yankilevsky generalises the oppositions of our world, highlighting the polarities that both cancel and simultaneously support each other – the interplay of light and darkness inherent in the functioning of the world. His sometimes sarcastically bizarre creatures exude an epic genericity in their naked ridiculousness, with the manipulative spirit of Evil lurking in the shadows. In Vinogradov’s portrayal, the human figure gravitates towards cheap vanity and almost even ventures into the realm of pornography. His self-centredness and vices are straightforwardly exhibitionistic. Although the aesthetic of both artists’ works, dissecting the anatomy of human feelings, appears to be somewhat detached from the depicted subjects, it remains a compelling presence.
Both would probably respond to questions about how “where?”, “how?” and “when?” influence being an artist with “anywhere,” “the only way possible,” and “whenever,” respectively.