To start with such shapes, as the philosophy of the School dictates, is to train the gaze, whether it wants to or not, to recognize these shapes in animals and men, in lines of landscape, everywhere. Such calibrations of vision imply that the seen world would be reconstructed based on the “new” understanding of the structure of mundane things. The student, as it were, informs the object, “I do not know you yet.”

The drawing style expounded by the School can be described as the depiction of objects as they appear. A still life comprised of elementary shapes, the “not-yet-objects,” teaches students to order the world of the visible and to cope with their flustered unease at their inability to grasp the evident.

At the early stages of their schooling, students are not yet asked to penetrate the origins of things (the origins of a given universe?). Conversely, they might still be doing it, but unreasoningly, mechanically.

It might be that the most basic things or actions, such as the early steps of learning to draw, remain undefined and unnoticed because we have once moved past them without so much as a second thought. We might think that they are too simple. We might consider them too plain and selfexplanatory to delve on them much longer.

I went back to the genre of still life time and again, but I didn’t, until now, return to the “training wheels” of the primal still life, familiar to all who studied, however briefly, drawing from life. The discussions on what the School is and does never cease: the academy, I mean, or “our” school, as professional academic painting is known in post-Soviet space. We bear the mark of the school that defines a certain range and mode of vision as “professional” or “right.” Obviously, schooling imposes strict limitations, and rejects that which does not fit them as false. But there’s a power to the method, a mystery that remains unseen, forcing us to argue with it or to subvert it from the inside. To reveal it, I had to go back to basics, to the very first exercise: a still life.

Back in the day, I explored the metaphysical dimension of a still life. I would depict objects frozen on the cusp of recalling their primeval shape. The present “exercise in still life” is somewhat similar to my former metaphysical still lives, yet its goal is very different, almost the opposite. I started to draw still lives with concrete objects – shelves piled high with baubles, a jumble of things on tables and in cupboards – the usual arrangements of the day-to-day life – whittling them down to the basics and driving them towards the primeval darkness, but they just got lost there, disappeared, dispersed, became phantoms, melted into thin air. I needed something different. It was at that point that I parted ways with painting objects from life and almost recreated the still life exercises from art school, but sans objects, without a prearranged ensemble. It might be said that I departed from the tradition of drawing “from the end point” (starting from the complex and progressing towards the simplified shapes), offered by the art School as the default, and went back to drawing “ab initio,” with the absence of objects as my starting point. I’ve long been fascinated by Morandi, who arrived at this “absence” by scrutinizing the gaps between the objects in a still life, the spaces that do not contain things.

Hence, I started, so to speak, to “grow” objects for my “assigned” still life. To be more precise, I drew them out of the darkness towards the light. Isn’t classical schooling an Enlightenment project? The element of enlightenment is particularly obvious if you take the instructions literally and don’t look at the objects directly, pretending that you cannot see them until you draw them.

Obviously, any artist has views and opinions that predate art School. Could it be that art School drags them into the spotlight in a let-there-be-light moment, a practice cosmogony, an act that visibly embodies our notion of things?

Of course, Schooling imposes its Rules and a System, even if the System in which the objects exist in reality cannot be grasped. (Volodymyr Budnikov)