01.12.2001 - The Charm of Images
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A PERSON OBSERVES A POTTER
working at the pottery wheel for the first time? Anyone who has been
near at that moment certainly remembers the enchanting feeling before
your eyes - the work of human hands is born from chaos and non-existence
and rises higher and higher and finds its form and contours. Can anybody
remain indifferent while watching as the new life frees itself in the
wet clay-covered palms forming a body, a neck, a shoulder? Just the
motion, nearly invisible but practised for years, imparts to the vessel
another outline, induces the clay to go down or up; to become rounded or
columnar or retreat to the centre. I always want to preserve at least a
part of this feeling. Look, my friend at this round pot, that elegant
amphora. If one looks closely, one can read the past, and its charms.
At first glance it seems paradoxical that works of art remain after us
along with the tools and necessities of life even though art is not
necessary to survival. Perhaps our ancestors, without realizing it, had
the intuitive feeling of the importance of art, because art is a
universal bridge between the reality of existence and the divine
mysteries of the soul.
Everyone living on this planet is worthy of discussion. I will try to
say a few words about myself. Perhaps you, my reader, went through
something like this some time ago or experience this now. Then my story
will be as a knock on your door, and I hope that you will hear me. I am
walking from my home on a sandy path nearly roofed
over by towering pines. It is early morning and it seems to me that I am
experiencing the same feeling which filled the pilgrims as they sought
their goal. I am a native of Moscow and have lived for many years in
that noisy metropolis, but I always dreamed of settling somewhere far
from its bustle, among untouched protected nature. Well, my dream came
true, and for some years I worked at the Russian National Park, Valday.
At first I built and equipped my pottery/studio and, after that, I
started to build my house. I sit at my pottery wheel stooped over a ball
of damp clay. Pine branches look in through my studio windows. The first
rays of the sun light up the red rounded sides of the vessels standing
on the shelves. But another feeling, one that is much stronger than
simply impatience, makes me leave the pottery room. This feeling is
known only to those who have made the second firing with glaze and
languished for many hours while the kiln becomes cold enough to open.
There is nothing that I can compare to opening a kiln full of glazed
Three elements of the universe - water, fire and earth -are joined in
the ancient word 'ceramics'. In Russian, the word 'potter' is 'gonchar'.
The first syllable of this word is slow and melodious, like the sound of
the church-bell ringing in the sky. Another meaning of the syllable 'gon'
is in the period of reproduction in nature. And the second syllable 'tchar'
has a common root with the words 'tchary' (charms) and 'tcharodei' (a
magician). Fate was not kind to me and I had to leave the National Park.
I returned to Moscow and now have had to establish my pottery studio
again. I work here with my wife, Tatyana (an artist and psychologist).
She says the instrument of an artist is not only the wheel, brush or the
chisel but also his personality. It is important for an artist to ask
himself sometimes: "What are you going to do?" and "What do you want to
represent or imprint in your work ?"
Creation is not a fulfilment of some
task. Creation is realisation of inner desires and subconscious
possibilities. But as time passes, the essence of our creation becomes
more understandable. Sometimes one can become closer to this essence by
shaping it in words. Each of our works is an endeavour to harmonically
join different essences because beauty can be comprehended more easily
in unity. Our works are combined thrown and handbuilt shapes. Many are
vases, but they are also something more. Every vessel 'invites' flowers
to it and the bouquet becomes part of author's intention. The owner of
the vase can change that part according to his desire and so he may
We endeavour not to go far from nature and this gives people the
possibility of uniting natural elements into ceramics. That means we
want to retain nature's soul in our handmade earthenware, or at least
its echo. We consider those works to be our successes. In our opinion,
in order to be worthy of existence, a work should bring a sense of light
and peace to the soul. Of course, this process happens on the level of
unconsciousness, but art must have such an influence, to pass through
images and impressions and promote a wise outlook on life. The images
and subjects that we create and use in our ceramics can be called
traditional. We do not aim to be eccentric or to shock the world with
the novelty and uncommonness of our works. We think talent is partly an
ability to present eternal truthsand spiritual values so that spectators
feel them as something new and familiar at the same time. It is an
ability to impel people to strong feelings and emotions, to enthusiasm
and inspiration in ordinary life. This is not simple to do, so it takes
us time to find and test new combinations of forms, materials and means
of expression. Sometimes we become carried away and then we need to make
efforts to return to something old, to the way we started.
The reason these notes were written was because of our curiosity that
makes us 'devour' any information about the development of ceramics in
the world. There are few ceramic artists in Russia. And being a potter
is a rare profession. So we would like to have contact with our
'brothers-in-craft' from other countries. Something from the above may
seem interesting or appealing to others. We would happy to receive and
answer letters and we would be grateful for information and responses,
both professional and personal contacts.
Ceramics Art and Preception № 44 2001