"When art gives rise to a desire to thank God for life as an invaluable gift, then it has risen to the highest point that could only be reached."
Vladimir Fokanov was born and raised in the small town of Chirchik near Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, alongside the Tien Shan Mountains. Huge blue peaks covered with snow were visible through the window of his house, now known as Uzbekistan, but back then was part of the USSR country. It was a multicultural city in which Uzbeks, Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Kazakhs, Tatars, Jews, Germans, Greeks, Macedonians, Georgians, Turks, Koreans, Chinese lived side by side ... The atmosphere in the city was beautiful, there were no conflicts, and everyone was friends with each other. Vladimir Fokanov grew very well in such a multicultural environment, he recalls. Colleagues of Vladimir Fokanov sometimes note polystylism in his drawings. He always had one topic - nudity - but it's hard to find two jobs in a row in the same style. The polystylism of his drawings is predetermined by the multinationality of the city in which he grew up in. The climate in those places is beautiful, reminiscent of Greece or Spain, and very beautiful mountain landscapes - approximately like in the Alps.
There were many scientific institutions in his city. Vladimir Fokanov’s parents were engineers, both were engaged in applied research. His mother was a mathematician, and his father was an electrochemist. He also became a scientist. Vladimir Fokanov graduated from the Faculty of Mathematics of Moscow University, the best university in the USSR. He started a family, and had a wonderful job, he developed optical instruments. But in 1993, the USSR collapsed. National relations became tense. Most Russians became migrants, or rather, repatriates. In 1993, with his family, Vladimir Fokanov first moved to Russia, and later to Belarus, where they currently live. Although Vladimir Fokanov is Russian and his ancestors lived there, at first it was hard for him to adapt to Russia's weather conditions, but gradually he fell in love with its cold North European climate, joys, and its beauty.
It is said that Leonardo da Vinci divided his time between art and science. Lewis Carroll was not only a writer but also a mathematician professor. Vladimir Fokanov’s fate is somewhat similar to the fate of such people. Earnings bring him his scientific studies. He is quite a well-known specialist in the field of mathematics and computer graphics in the application to geographical maps. This is a very aesthetic area of mathematics, in fact, it is applied aesthetics. The profession influences him very much as an artist because a geographical map is always an interweaving of a large number of elegant, curiously curved lines. As Vladimir Fokanov suggests, just search “ancient geographic maps” and you will witness the beauty he speaks of.
"For a very long time, I engaged in fine art secretly, only showing them to few; my wife, brother and two or three close friends. A secretive artist for about twenty years, from 1985 to 2005. In 2005, at the age of 40, I downloaded several of my works on the Internet. But was afraid that no one would notice them, nor praise them. But the reality was completely different. From the very first day, they came across a stunning success. Drawings, which I considered interesting only to myself, aroused quite a lot of interest among other people, so big that I was amazed. From then until today, this interest has never ceased ever since. Most of all, I became blessed that some of my drawings were and are known to people who are not even interested in art. The great Russian poet Alexander Twardowski once said: ‘Great poems are those verses that people know who are not really interested in poetry.’ With great humility, I couldn't agree more."
Vladimir Fokanov’s art demonstrates how nudity is the language of truth. In each of his art pieces, one can contemplate a sincere moment. What needs to be told, is told in a delicate manner, and what remains untold can only be understood by an open heart.
His artwork depicts beings in their most natural state, yet refined to the current moment. Wherever that moment finds you in -which could very well be a dream, an instant, a fantasy, or the illusion of this reality.
Q. What is your best childhood memory?
A. My parents. They loved each other deeply. Being their child was a blessing. It was in paradise. My best childhood memory is the love of my parents that I felt every day. As an adult, I quickly hastened to create my own family. At 19, I found a wife, at 20 I was already a father.
Q. As a child, what did you want to become when you grew up?
A. My parents were scientists, engineers, and therefore, from childhood I wanted to become an engineer. Our family also had military men - for example, my grandfather participated in the Battle of Stalingrad, he was a doctor and saved 200 people from the shelling - and therefore I sometimes dreamed of becoming a military man, soldier or an officer. Sometimes I wanted to become a traveler or an astronaut. But it was all up to 8-10 years. Then it happened...which is the answer to the next question
Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. At school, high school, in which, among other teachers, was an art teacher. He was already an elderly man, his name was Boris Chubarov, he was a soldier of the Red Army in World War II and he did not have enough fingers on his right hand, they were cut off as a result of wounds. Nevertheless, he was an amazing artist. He was not able to make a career as an artist, he was a simple school art teacher, and yet he was, a true artist. I saw his drawings and also wanted to become an artist. Boris Chubarov taught standard drawing lessons at our school, but I begged him and he began to teach me separately, in his free time, completely free of charge - he liked the 10-year-old boy in me who admired his drawings so much.
I think he was very surprised. I wanted to draw only a naked body. Yes, always, as far as I can remember, I wanted to draw a naked body. I was little interested in still lifes or landscapes. I was little interested in animals. I was little interested in dressed people - except perhaps armor and weapons in battle paintings. But I was very interested in the naked body. The teacher basically gave me still lifes. I diligently performed his tasks and drew still lifes, but secretly from him I made several copies from the anatomical drawings of Michelangelo. When the copies were ready, I brought them and showed them to the teacher.
The teacher was thoughtful and preoccupied. First of all, he called my mom. He asked her: "How do you feel about your son wanting to draw a naked body? I have several textbooks on plastic anatomy for artists. Do you think I should give them to your child?" Mom consulted with my father and they told the teacher that they gave their permission. Then he brought me these plastic anatomy textbooks for artists and said: “You are only 10 years old, you are too early to be interested in this. But if you want to, then copy these drawings, study the body. Adult artists draw from living naked models, but you’re too small and you have to learn from books. That's all I can do for you. "
So, at the age from 10 to 14 I studied plastic anatomy. I also, under the leadership of Boris Chubarov, tried to make copies of academic paintings, such as where there were many naked people. I spent the most effort copying in 12 years a great work of Russian art, the famous painting “The Appearance of Christ to the People of Alexander Ivanov.” This is my favorite painting to this day. Of course, all these were weak drawings and weak copies.
Q. Tell us about your particular style and how you came to it?
A. It makes no sense to talk about my style - I have no style, I am a polystylist. My style is everything from antique vases to computer comics. I always have one theme - a naked body - but I take stylistic techniques from all times, from all eras. I do not limit myself to anything. But I must admit that most of all I gravitate to ancient and very ancient art. Iconography, antiquity, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece - and further in time, to the Neolithic, to the caves of Altamira ... I was very encouraged by the polystylism that the children's books in the USSR were illustrated by excellent artists who were all great polystylists. They used polystylism as a principle for illustrating a book. Looking at the drawings in Soviet children's books, one could get acquainted with the artistic techniques of all world art, from the Neolithic to surrealism.
Q. How and when did you first become seriously interested in art?
A. This moment I know for sure, I always remember this day, this hour, this minute. I became an artist from the moment I saw a reproduction of The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. I saw her in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia. I was 11 years old then, but Botticelli is still the highest authority in world art for me, and the Birth of Venus is the golden standard. Without exaggeration, this is the most important artist for me throughout my life. Botticelli's unfinished drawings for The Divine Comedy are a constant starting point for my inspiration. Over time, several more influences were added - Matisse, Hans Ernie, and other artists for whom the line was the main element in the drawing. Of great importance to me is the undeservedly forgotten now Lithuanian artist Stasis Krasauskas.
Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
A. Indecision, dependence on other people's opinions. I am usually praised for the opposite - it is believed that I am an independent and quite diverse artist. But this is the result of a fortunate combination of circumstances. I did not receive an art education and was never influenced by teachers and other students. The pressure of the artistic environment is very great pressure. I think I could not stand the pressure. If I received an art education, if I constantly interacted with other artists, participated in exhibitions, communities, circles - I would be a weak, imitative artist, or most likely I could not paint at all. I would constantly be afraid that others would do better.
Q. Where do you get models for your drawings
A. I never use live models. For all my life I have never been in a full-scale class, I have never painted with a living model. Only memory and imagination. I take all the images from memory and imagination.
This is an important principle. There are drawings that can be drawn from nature, but it is impossible to draw a naked body from nature, it will turn out a lie. If you look at the model with lust, with passion - it will turn out disgusting. If you look at the model dispassionately, you get an anatomy, meat, or a medical drawing. To draw nudity well, you need not to look at it at all. You need to have an image of nudity in your heart - an image obtained in life, and not in a full-scale class.
I will add that I also never watch erotic movies, even in ordinary films I am reluctant to watch bed scenes. In general, the less I see naked people, the better I draw them. An artist painting a naked body needs to save himself from unnecessary erotic impressions. Something like a monk. This may seem strange, but that is my personal experience.
Q. What questions do your viewers most often ask you?
A. The most common question: "You have the same girl repeated many times. Who is she? Is this your wife, girlfriend?" Of course not. No normal person will expose his close and beloved person naked in front of strangers. Even if the wife influenced the female images in my paintings most of all (and who else?), then in the drawings she is still not she, and not some other specific woman. This is just an image that I created as an artist. It reflects my life experience, but it is not some real person.
The second common question (usually from religious people, philosophers, or mystics) is “Maybe these magical female images come to you as a result of some kind of mystical insight? Come from some other, higher world?” The answer is no. These are just images that I create as an artist. They reflect my life experience - an ordinary everyday experience, and not mystical and not magical.
Q. Which work, done by you, do you value most?
A. "Splinter." If I’m allowed to add more, I would not add “Girl Carrying a Bull”, but “Christmas,” “Minuet” or “Bathing a Horse.” If I can add more, then I would add "Motherhood".
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. I did not sacrifice anything for the career of an artist. Art never demanded a sacrifice from me. On the contrary, I constantly received rich and undeserved gifts from Muses. I am a debtor to Art. It gave me a lot and never took anything.
Q. Who are your biggest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. For me, only antiquity is really important. The second most important is the generation that was immediately before my life, the generation of our fathers. In the generation of fathers, I have so many favorite artists that a complete list would probably take a whole book. My peers, of course, are also very important to me. I am very inspired when I see that some of my peers created a great work that is worthy to go down in the history of art. I can’t borrow from peers their artistic techniques, themes or style, but the joy of their achievements definitely gives me a great positive impulse. I do not want to name specific names so that others do not take offense and do not lose heart. In addition, I can accidentally forget someone, and some of my friends will probably be upset. But probably, no one will be offended if I give one name, the name of my best friend, Alexander Telalim. This is an artist of a completely different spirit than me. I recommend finding his watercolors on the Internet, they are magical.
Q. What does your art aim to express?
A. Love between a man and a woman. Joy.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. No, not alone. At least my life is not lonely. For creativity, I need a company of close people, relatives and happy faces. And, thank God, I have all this. My wife and I have been together for 35 years, raised three children and during these 35 years we spent without each other except for a few days. We never parted. Family is the only atmosphere in which I never get bored. And this is the only atmosphere in which I can create. I would like to emphasize that this is exactly - family, wife - a necessary condition for my work.
Q. Apart from art, what do you love doing?
A. I’m not a young person anymore, so I don’t have many activities. I like reading books, meeting friends, talking to eloquent people, listening to biographies of old people, playing with children, walking with my wife. I am interested in ancient philosophy, Christian theology, the history of science, the history of religion, the problems of substantiating the scientific method.
Q. Tell us about "Girl Carrying a Bull" work.
A. This picture has a very strange fate. Firstly, it is often mistaken for an old picture. I think my polystylism is to blame. Secondly, it is used a lot without permission. She is illustrated by articles about the future of Europe, she is used on posters, she is liked by the left and ultra-left, feminists like her. Girls from all over the world (but most of all from Latin America) send me photos with tattoos on their bodies that reproduce this picture. Tattoo salons ask for permission to do such a tattoo (I always forbid). Meanwhile, I am a Christian, a conservative, and the meaning that I put into this picture is quite ordinary and patriarchal. I was always impressed by the industriousness, accuracy, endurance, talent, and vitality of women. My wife always did a lot of work. She raised three daughters with me, took care of our dying parents (we did not give our parents to hospice, looked after them ourselves). In addition, she kept our house clean and tidy, and at the same time she made a career as a scientist, and in her free time she was engaged in art and gardening. Such vitality, such energy amazes me. Women shock me. A man can lift more, jump higher, but men do not have real stamina. The vitality of women is greater than that of men. My picture is a tribute to my wife, mother, all the heroic women in the world, especially the women of Russia in World War II, like my two grandmothers.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. Art is the education of the senses. The artist teaches the viewer to see. I teach to see nudity. Nudity is not the absence of clothing; it is a ritual gift of one person to another. Not everyone was lucky in his life to give his nakedness or to see the nakedness of another person. And this gift must be able to be perceive correctly.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. Success is very important to me. Artists hold the applause. Without an applause - that means you're not an artist. I need a lot of applauses. I must know for sure what people really need.
Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?
A. God sacrificed itself for me.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. I received all the advice I received from a school art teacher, Boris Chubarov. These were tips on the drawing technique, there were a lot of them, I will not list them now. Now there are many drawing tutorials - opening them, I see the same tips that the teacher gave me. It's fine. I think the artist does not need other advice. Only technical.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. The artist needs only technical advice. They are in every drawing tutorial.
Still, to become an artist, of course, you need to consider a lot of paintings, you need to consider several thousand paintings. You need to consider carefully, for many years, you must never stop considering the picture. If you do not like to consider paintings, you better just forget about drawing, you are not an artist. No need to consider all the pictures in a row, consider only your favorites.
I can also give advice - strangely enough, the artist should always remember that art is not the main thing in life. Do the main things - live, love, seek God, look for friends, seek the truth ... But art, do not worry, will come by itself. It will not require you to sacrifice. On the contrary, it itself will give you generous gifts.