Viewing works by the Russian artist Alexander Sitnikov is somewhat like being in a theatre or cinema, in front of something constantly moving, a tangle of extreme tension and great audacity. His painting “The Rape of Europa” places us in a room which we could define as stage décor, from an imaginary theatre, of course, because such a staging is almost impossible and technically too complicated. And it is impossible for Europa to escape. Because if the painting is always in movement in the artist’s mind, the image is absolutely immobile; therefore the mobility is always psychological. Time and numbers are closely connected: the exploding sun is at the same time on the clock. This is a clock-face that has a sort of wave, a ray, a slit that indicates how to get out: time gives an opportunity to escape.

Sitnikov is a multi-faceted artist. He goes through epochs and eras, and covers all the artistic currents that he has united in his original and very personal synthesis. Thus, he can move an action wherever he wants to and in his “My Daughter Has a Beautiful Mother”, for example, he transfers his family and himself to the Egypt of ancient times. He travels across history, across currents, across his thoughts that are focused on the human condition: cruelty, pain and chaos. His chaos, though, is perfectly geometric and seems even natural – a chaos consolidated on numbers. This chaos turns into a “bearable” despair and this bearable despair is at the same time scientific.

Numbers can alter and represent a musical note, a musical scansion or the time where everything unites and stirs up. And the music seems to unify all the spatial wandering, and all the wandering in his figurative space. This world is made anew from various fragments, various parts, and often of the relations between dream and geometry, between the manifest and the concealed. Thus, piano keys belong to a purely philosophical level, a level so high and so elusive that there is no other way of representing it. Such a maximum fragmentation helps to recreate the whole through emotion identified by Sitnikov as the heart, the ever-present heart with its potential to be everywhere.

The works express the courage of living in turbulent times when we pretend that everything can go on and that everything is quiet - but at the same time we are uneasily aware how difficult it is not to give up in such a situation. It is not without irony that the artist gives the title “The Golden Age” to one of his works representing a new golden age: while somebody is playing music and a mother is lulling a child to sleep, nothing stops a murderer, or the transformation of a human being into a beast. This is, undoubtedly, an expression of sadness and despair which are, nonetheless, quite bearable, and which are not leading to an extreme representation because Sitnikov has a great love for life and painting, even though he feels their power and burden, especially in a society like ours.

When examining one of Sitnikov’s painting, the viewer understands that it is possible to subdivide it and to place oneself within its space, wherever one likes better. For example, in “The Dream” one can find serenity on the woman’s hand or face; but if we lift our eyes we will see a beast that attacks the painting and the dream represented by the painting, and eats its eye. Before starting this painting, before destroying it, before devouring this dream, the artist is bound to blind himself: he is bound to wake up.

These works are very powerful, sagacious and striking: already in the 1980s it is an explosion, a passage from one “Weltanschauung” (world view) to another, probably a presentiment of the transformation of the Soviet era into the present one. Likely, an intersection of two destinies: Russia and art. While in the past art was supposed to be “classical”, it had to have a precise meaning, while in the past the world that art represented was hardly understandable in its simplicity, nowadays it is even less understandable in its great complexity. But, through all the metamorphoses and transformations which are mostly beyond our control, Sitnikov comes to the centralization of the heart – a heart that he sees as vital and reproductive, able to regenerate both the painting and Russia. He sees this heart as firmly geometric, not strictly academic, but based on reason. In “Eros, Philos, Agape” the figure, the animal and probably the crazy geometry disappear, leaving the central space to the heart which is the pulse of the universe, the heart which, in all the artist’s works, is able to “see”, which is never blind: the heart as the greatest extension of vision.

Giovanni Prosperi

professor, Doctor of history of art