Evgeny Mikhnov-Voitenko, untitled



Since Mikhnov did not have any regular form of employment and was not a member of the artists' union, it was very difficult for him to make a living from his painting. With the help of his family and other supporters and an occasional sale - first to friends and then, as his work began to become known, to the Soviet collectors - he managed to survive and continue to paint In the 1970's he also began to make occasional sales to foreign collectors. But he never developed the connections with staff members of Western embassies or with foreign correspondents that other nonconformist artists effectively cultivated, especially in Moscow but also later in Leningrad. Moreover, Mikhnov stayed aloof from the more politically charged activities and large scale exhibitions promoted by unofficial activists such as Zharkikh and Rukhin. He chose to avoid these involvements and distractions because they would interfere with his own creative work, even though this prevented his exposure to a wider Soviet audience.

As already mentioned, he worked in his crowded apartment, initially just a room in a communal apartment where he shared the kitchen, bathroom and entry hall with other families. Later, in the early 1970's he was able to move with his wife and mother into a larger two-room space in another communal apartment. This was an improvement, but not sufficient, as Mikhnov accumulated more and more work, wallspace and storage became a serious problem, except for some experimental work on canvas (which predate Keith Haring's work) and some wall sculptures of liquid glass, all of this work was done on paper.

Mikhnov had both a great skill in controlling the dynamic development of a painting and in adjusting his vision of how the pace of the sheet of paper should be filled with form and colour to achieve the effect he sought. As a consequence, it is said that he seldom had to discard a finished work. His art is not at all the product of chance, not at all a process of the artist pouring paint on paper and then selecting the best of several efforts. On the contrary, Mikhnov had a clear but evolving vision for each of his works as it progressed toward completion, often within minutes of its initiation. When he had finished a work invariably looked right and fully complete: nothing needed to be added or taken away.

The excitement in this process of creation is what sustained Mikhnov through the hard years of working alone and with little recognition. While escaping from the harshness of the World around him, through his work, Mikhnov creates a world of his own in every painting. In seven to seventy minutes, rather than in seven days, a new world unfolded and was realized through his creative efforts. These were worlds far different from our own, and they still inspire many varying impressions and reactions on their part of those who view them. Some paintings evoke feelings of tranquility and peace. Others provide a window into the infinite. Those with darker, more dramatic colouring may project a mood of sadness or concern. Yet others seem like the ethereal windows of some vast cathedral of the universe. To many viewers, it is this spirituality which his paintings project that is most attractive.

The special fascination of Mikhnov's art for many of his admirers derives from his capacity to call up allusions, associations, and emotions in the viewer's consciousness. This capacity to involve the viewer's mind, emotions, and spirit - and even his subconscious - is similar to the effect of music. Like great music, Mikhnov's art completely involves and absorbs the sensitive and responsive participant. It is not surprising, therefore, that Mikhnov was involved in music and with musicians and liked to have music playing in the background as he painted.

For Mikhnov-Voitenko, abstract painting was a continuous creative process with strong spiritual overtones. He was the creator, who filled blank pages with living colour and form. With a strong will and a delicate hand, brought these elements together to form a balanced and coherent whole shaping and creating with each painting a new world for his own fulfillment and for the enjoyment and appreciation of others.


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