Oleg Tselkov: “I’m a lucky man, marked by God”

Say: “Tselkov” — and imagination through terrible muzzle painted by him. These images could only have been born from the artist-monk, which at night was plagued by demons, as he tries to remain an ascetic.


Oleg Tselkov. From the personal archive.

Tselkov gave his life on the altar of art: almost 60 years, wrote every day (are there any more?). Creativity does not prevent him from living with his beautiful wife in France and enjoy every evening with a glass of wine. For this case and find him in a Paris apartment-Studio. The presence of the artist give only his drenched clothes and paint the easel with the unfinished painting.

— Oleg Nikolaevich, why no apron work? Don’t feel sorry for cashmere cardigan? Covered in paint!

For me clothing has no value. What came to hand, and put it on. It’s about wiping hands while working. The paint is not dirty, will wash off…

— Now show your work from different years at exhibitions in Paris gallery and the Moscow New Manege. Since the 1990s face significantly mutated, got extra eyes… It is a disease or an Epiphany?

— I started making faces in the 1960s. by Accident. In search of his artistic development drew a strange face. Not abstract, like those of the Cubists, broken in cubes. Human, but a draw. Suddenly I realized that see him as a compelling mystery. It is a human portrait, but with distortion. To this day I have no answer what this person, what happens to them and what quality they are. Write them a lifetime. On a daily basis.

— Impulse?

— Something like libido. When you are someone in love, but not because he is the most beautiful, and you are drawn to this man. As Vysotsky: “well, It rattles/It’s dirty/And the eye hit,/And feet are different, Always dressed like a lady…/— to hell with it —Very desirable!”


With his wife Tonya in the 1970s. From personal archive.

— However, your favorite female actress. Yes there Antonina Bobrova!

— In the first meeting asked her to marry me. I was drunk so how is the Russian man, and wearily stared at the TV. Suddenly on the screen appears a woman of such unearthly beauty that I gave to myself, “This is mine! My wife.” Tonya was already a famous actress, played in that moment in the play Goncharova “Obryv”. That evening we went to visit Bella Akhmadulina and Tonya were there. I walked over to her, took her hand and called to witness of others: “You all know my wife, don’t you?..” The actress hasn’t filed a surprise. She followed me. From that day we never part.

— Have the desire to portray the woman?

— If there were, to my work it does not have any relationship. I can in parallel and focuses on the street to show it, but this does not mean that I at the same time a magician. My work is just what I’m attracted.

— There are gallery owners who deal with your work and allow you to say that you write of person, because anything else does not work…

— That talking to gallery owners is not important to me. It’s not professionals, and random people. They have a different profession is not what happened, and they began to open the gallery, thinking that it is here that you will find sweet life and money. To talk about the artist, we must know it. And not just chat and two paintings to see and to know details: from beginning to end. Then you can draw conclusions. That’s when I looked at the book with all the paintings of Arkhip Kuindzhi, I can say that this artist failed, but with the makings of the genius.


Grandson Maxim in his Paris apartment. From the personal archive.

— After examining the painting in the book, it is possible to make such conclusions?

— Yes, although I’m not a critic, not a critic and visitor exhibitions, so thinking about other artists I shouldn’t be.

— In some museums you can come across?

— I feel like a damn artist. This term was born from the French poets of the NINETEENTH century, as they were everywhere not to the court. With me as well. To make me uncomfortable, I’m in the way, many people do not like. As an artist. Talking only about the paintings. They will not take. Constantly they never hang.

— You in Moscow often exhibited. Fakes, too, are…

— I forged about 20 years. A few fakes I’ve brought friends. I think these things have no commercial success, because they are bad. Serious forger on my way not met. It’s the kids who seem to think that they will do some work and earn big money by chance. Because they see how much at auction, for example in London, leaving my painting (“Boy with balloons” went to MacDougall’s for £238,4 thousand — “MK”).

— However, there was a case when even the experts are unable to determine the fake in front of them or your original.

— Understand and know the people a little. That happened to me in 20 years when I lived in St. Petersburg and came to the exhibition Cezanne. Not the opening, when nothing is visible, and when in the hall. I was very offended by what he saw. From my point of view, cézanne was higher then shit. A fool I was, what I take. Knew nothing about the artist, didn’t understand how to watch… Having eyes in most cases blind. Who has ears — deaf. Having a voice is not a singer.


“Portrait with forks” 2002. From the personal archive.

Is according to the Bible.

— That without the Bible we know. Seen should overlap the experience, understanding, feeling… When I moved to France, he began to travel in hundreds of cities around the world. No square, no house can not remember, and watched my eyes. And pictures: I looked — and forgotten. To say that you saw something, you have to go into it and try to understand. To look after Cezanne, I had to put a lot of effort. For a start, to appease the outrage. I’ve decided that I’m stupid, disgusting show…

— Now that I think about Cezanne?

— Don’t think of him as a critic. But I understand it and feel it. To tell the painting, like music, is impossible. “Anna Karenina” too. On such a plot 100 of writers can write a novel, but Tolstoy will have one. Not surpass Tolstoy and Pushkin in the literature. This is the height! They were born that. “The Academy is not finished”, as he said Chapaev. Mayakovsky arrived in Moscow, down from the Caucasus mountains. All his childhood spent there, I heard the Caucasian speech, and came Russian poet. Not necessarily to learn the language. It is possible to study it — and still not be able to write. This is a congenital. Mayakovsky in the early works was brilliant, although it was not immediately clear. When he died, Demyan Bedny wrote about him: “he Lived as a bully and died as a bully.”

— You also think the bully…

— The elements of hooliganism in me.

— Do you think artists are born?

— I was born. If you are a true artist, and you grow your style. You can’t teach it. I have never had teachers, I had not lived near the Tretyakov gallery, to walk in childhood. First went there at age 15 when he enrolled in art school. Year there spun and began to create. I was told to paint the plaster, but I can’t. Interesting. Known teacher Pavel Chistyakov, who taught Surikov and Repin, said: “While he was on the bench in length — can be flogged; when he’s already across it — need to finish this case.” Usually 15 years old too late to learn. This, of course, conditional. Won Nureyev came from Kazan and started ballet at the age of 10. Unthinkable!

— Erik Bulatov lived near the Tretyakov gallery — and…

Is a different type of artist. He came to me in the village with the album and three colored pencils. We sat in the garden and says: “I am your rose painted”. He is inclined to learning, theorizing, understanding what makes. I would also like to know what I’m doing, but I can’t.


With Erik Bulatov and Oskar Rabin. From the personal archive.

You like Eric Erica V., drawn constantly to the museums?

— I never in a Museum is not drawn. Although there were artists before that I spent many, many years. He studied at the art school — by the way, together with Bulatov, and had free entrance to the Tretyakov gallery. It’s right in front of the school was. Almost every day, I only watched “Boyar Morozova” Surikov, “the Hermit” and “Vision of young Bartholomew” Nesterov. To this day I think these pictures of the great pictorial masterpieces of world scale.

And copied Malevich…

— Never loved him. Are unable to enter inside of Malevich in the category of artists. It is for me — an artist who, because of circumstances, they were not invented, got into the world of twentieth century art. At this point could be very a lot of artists, even more important than Malevich. It is generally not considered a great artist.

— Why is it copied?

— As a student of the art school agreed with the Keeper of the Russian Museum view in the vaults of his work. I was about 19. All at the same time then it looked. No not impressed Kandinsky, slightest, Chagall — so, a comic and Malevich, who did not like me, caught my attention. The explanations have not. No, I remember… Then I feel like I would have heard from him or even himself said of his voice: “Oleg, nobody learn, don’t copy anyone, just do my part.” And I left elated. Quite elated and continued my life. Then I made a copy of the oil to feel closer to Malevich.

— Where is this copy?

Recently showed it to me in the Russian Museum. Said not attributed. I said, “Maybe it’s my. I was secretly done and unfinished. Unable to sign”. Your nails came out huge. Thin was not in the store, and large hard to get. Also my canvas: rough such linen crinoline — this tailors used. The canvas was only for artists from the Union. We, the students, and everyone from the street entrance there was closed.

— You tried to give the title?

No titles I have. But there are rules: never work, have no ranks, orders. What words are these — people’s artist of Ukraine? Picasso would have laughed, if he was called a “people’s artist of France, or academician, Picasso.” The artists are all equal. They should not be asterisks and ranks. They may or may not only be a success with the public. This is from the artist depends. The audience chooses. For example, I don’t think Aivazovsky’s greatest artist, but judging by the audience, it certainly is so. These sham sea is still considered lovely. As they have years and they still don’t age, because almost all fit. With me otherwise. Somehow she bought my painting and hung it over the bed of the son. The boy quickly complained: “Dad, I’m near it I can not sleep”. I said to the Director: “What right had over her son to hang this a serious thing? Is that tree to you?! You’re a fool, and not a father!”


Arthur Miller in the 1980s. From the personal archive.

— Easily leave work?

— Absolutely. My first buyer in the West was Arthur Miller (the playwright husband of Marilyn Monroe. — “MK”). He was brought Yevgeny Yevtushenko in my Moscow Studio. She was so tiny that we had to use inverted binoculars to look at his paintings, at least from a short distance… Miller looked after the work and asked to name the price. I then, even if nothing is sold, basically took expensive and asked for five hundred. Miller asked in surprise: “Rubles?” I cheekily replied, “Well, not cents!” The collector was referring to dollars…

— Wrote custom?

Never. The most important thing that I learned from Malevich: never earn money painting money, that is do not write to order.

— You often work there or in the village?

— Live six months here, six months there. Here are the things small, so you can stand it. The main thing — to turn on the stairs. Once he is doing now — movers. In the village house the large paintings — 3 by 4 meters.

Anything grown in the village?

— No, otherwise the local farmers will bring their children not to look at the murals, and to amuse them with my potatoes…

— They go to you as the artist?

— All. I was there the famous. The mayor wants to make an exhibition. It’s a small village in the champagne-Ardenne region in Eastern France, where the battle took place near the Ardennes in the First world. Shells flew and bashed people. “Knights” fought on horseback, shouted “hurrah!” and left behind the grinder… Here is the same plant, which manufactured all metal grille to Paris. Now there is no civilization, God-forsaken region.

— You were not lonely?

— No, because I’m not alone: the wife, children, grandchildren. Mates come, farmers come to visit these days, but I ask not to disturb. I have a big barrel of wine costs, glasses. Whoever came — all treat. Wine as a medicine. Although now I drink a little old already…

Right in the village show?

— Do not want. These things are cultural people incomprehensible. What do you want from French peasants?!

— Say something so we can understand them better.

— All say lies. Not because I’m a liar, but because I have no answer and interpretation. It should deal with critics. I have no grandparents. Although before my eyes stood a massive artists. I relied on the power of Rubens, the covenants of Malevich…

— When I came in, broadcast the First channel. So monitor what is happening in Russia?

— Watch, because I can’t do that from morning to evening and only do that to paint like crazy.

You have a beautiful library!

Books only leaf. I think that reading them is harder than to look at the pictures. I have very few books read, but at 34 times. Zoshchenko know everything by heart is a phenomenal writer! He, like I, did not collect the files. Every time I float the stories and did not record these changes in memory expected. His lyrics are a little different. Ten years ago I decided to reread “Crime and punishment”. And what? On the first page I began to reread several times the first paragraph. Pondered — including the words themselves, how they tally, where there are punctuation… And realized that for the present reading of this novel I have to give all my life. I can not do, but it is not necessary.

— Modern writers who read?

— Read his friend Yuz Aleshkovsky, who in the books says one, while on the phone — only mate. Joseph Brodsky, who was on friendly terms. Yevgeny Yevtushenko is a wonderful poem. Sergei Dovlatov, who has about five funny things about me. I ran into him in Vienna when he, too, went abroad. Didn’t know that he’s a writer. The moment I heard that he was a big drunkard and a terrible Amateur fight. He was freakishly huge guy. But still a great fighter was his brother. He was taller and less weight, but more of Sergei. To cheer him up, I told him stories, including Yevtushenko drew me a collector. All this over a glass of vodka. I was drinking, and he — no, he was not. He then left the cafe to record everything in a notebook and then made a humorous slender not.

— What inspires you?

— Not exactly life. I was never interested, as the lives of others, Moscow or Paris… I’m not interested in what is happening around them. Even if I don’t have time to escape to the most interesting exhibition was pretty nervous. I am an artist it does nothing. In General, I am a person who is 15 years lives only with his paintings. Surrounded by family and friends. With the same success as in Paris, you could live in any other country. Me here the destiny has thrown.

— You are here more than 40 years. Was thinking of coming back?

— No. I was bad in the USSR. Once crossed the border, finally sighed. Flew with useless scrap of paper. Lived here for 40 years without a passport. Worldwide dangled. That’s how we live! Lovely! The apartment is rented without documents, bought a house — it’s official. Nobody to nag you. No policemen are the fool and asked to follow their neighbors. There are cops on the doorstep are, if something happens, because they are forbidden to enter…


With his wife Tonya, artist Andrey Bartenev and daughter Olga.

— Are you happy?

— Very! I’m a lucky man, marked by God. Judge for yourself. Since the age of 15 were on their way. Grew up in a very simple family. Never an intellectual, he was not. Immediately I said to myself: the picture for money not to do it. Although she didn’t know then what a picture. I now am trying to figure out where this integrity. But then I realized that to function in society could not be: nor in Unions of artists, nor in the meetings. So to me the poems of Pushkin: “You are the king: live alone./Your way is free Go, where attracts you free mind,/Perfecting the fruits of favourite thoughts,/requiring No rewards for noble deed./They are within yourself. You have a Supreme court;/stricter All appreciate you and your work./If you’re happy with it, exacting artist?”

Help “MK”

He was born in 1934 in a family of economists, worked at an aircraft factory. From 1949 to 1953 he studied at mshsh. Year he studied at the Minsk art Institute, a year — at the Academy of arts im. Repin in Leningrad, were excluded. Since 1977 lives in Paris. Works are in the collections of the Tretyakov gallery, the Russian Museum, the Hermitage, the Museum Stedeliyk (Amsterdam), Zimmerly Museum of Rutgers University (new Jersey), etc., are collections of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Arthur Miller, and Igor Tsukanov. Russia’s largest private collection of works by Tselkov belonged to Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

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