Andrey Nikolaevich Bondarev was born on August 10, 1950, in the town of Svatovo, Ukraine, USSR.
From 1968 to 1972, Bondarev studied in the art department of the Lugansk Art College. He then attended the Moscow State Art Institute (graphics department) from 1972 until 1978.
From the mid-1970s until the beginning of the 1990s, Andrey worked under contract with the Artists’ Union of the USSR Art Fund in a graphics factory and in a political poster art workshop.
Starting in 1975, Andrey actively began to participate in national and regional exhibitions. In 1985, he was awarded the VDNKh silver medal. In 1988, he participated in his first international exhibition with UNESCO (New York, Tokyo, Seoul).
In 1992, he began teaching art at the Moscow Academic Art Lyceum of the Russian Academy of Arts (formerly the Moscow Art School).
He has been a member of the Union of Artists since 1994.
Large solo exhibitions of Bondarev’s works took place at the Russia Academy of Arts in 2011 and at the Moscow Central House of Artists in 2017. Many of the artist’s works are in private collections in Russia and abroad (USA, Holland, Spain, Japan).
A student of the master commented: “From the earliest lessons, he gave us an understanding of painting and art in general. We felt like we were growing up as artists”.
Hello Andrey! How was it like growing up in the USSR as an artist?
Andrey: Quite a tricky question. I cannot say that from childhood I could already claim that my dream was to become an artist. I have always drawn a lot, but I only decided it in high school. In the Soviet Union, being an artist was wonderful and very promising. A person who successfully graduated first from secondary, and then from a higher art educational institution, could become a member of the Creative Union of Artists of the USSR and get a workshop for free. Under the art fund of the USSR, there were factories that carried out orders for the production of various works of art, murals, paintings, and much more. The artist, who was a member of the Union of Artists, had a great chance of getting such a contract from the plant. In general, the state-supported artists a lot, and that, certainly, contributed to their personal advancement in the professional sense. Thus, the artists participated in the implementation of government policy plans to raise the cultural level of the people. In addition, we had a wonderful opportunity, participating in exhibitions, to be among the candidates for Tretyakov Gallery to take our art. If an artist created some kind of masterpiece, and the Tretyakov Gallery, the first museum in the country, took his work, then his rating skyrocketed.
It was very prestigious to be an artist in the USSR. The artists lived wonderfully. Although ideology, of course, was pushing. Paintings glorifying socialist labor, the policy of the party and government, that is, in fact, the artists served the state, were especially in demand. I would also like to mention that many artists followed this path because they received free workshops from the state and the opportunity to work and earn decent money on state orders. At the same time, all the best that these artists did, they did “for the drawer, so they still had the opportunity to go their own creative way, and they had financial support and orders from the state. They certainly did not die of hunger, and they had a place to work, which is important since few places in the world provide artists with workshops for free.
I also remembered such an interesting moment. The most prestigious were orders for the image of the leaders. A young specialist who had just graduated from a university had no chance to get a contract for, say, a portrait of Lenin. Only honored specialists were granted such orders. When I was commissioned to paint a picture with Lenin, I was faced with a huge amount of nagging about the “wrong” nose, eyes, and so on, despite the fact that we copied from the famous portraits of honored artists Mylnikov or Andreev. These orders were very high paying. Each young artist, even being very talented, at first fulfilled small and not so significant works, but he had the opportunity, through long and hard work, many years later, to get an order for a portrait of the leader.
You mostly paint landscapes and genre painting. What’s the most challenging part of your artistic process? And how do you overcome it?
Andrey: Of course, the creative process is always some kind of overcoming, as it happens with many artists, I think. Because it is sleepless nights, constant reflections, is it the desire not to repeat myself in my works, the desire to do it convincingly, sincerely and without any imitation, to bring something of my own into the solution of the topic. Probably the most difficult thing is the idea of the artwork, to come up with a picture. For example, the theme of loneliness chased me for a long time, and in the end, it resulted in a good solution – a painting called “Two in the City” with an old man with a dog on a gloomy cityscape.
Of course, the most important thing is to come up with a plot. It’s good if the picture was seen in a night dream, or was the result of observations, but there are never ready-made solutions. When you start implementing an idea, some additional factors must appear that affect the overall decision. I believe that a picture cannot be being created for a long time, it should be done on a great emotional upsurge and not be postponed, because emotions can be lost, impressions can be erased, the artist cools down to work, and when the cooled down artist mechanically finishes the picture, the result is not the same. An artist can mature for a long time, but, in my opinion, it must be released quickly, in a single impulse.
What does a typical day look like for you? Do you have a specific routine or process? How much planning do you do before you jump into creating an artwork?
Andrey: Of course, this all depends on many factors, for example, whether I had some kind of instant insight, or the creation of the work was preceded by a long process of maturation of the idea. For example, in the 90s, artists came out to sell their works on the streets and in parks. The so-called art elite exhibited in art salons, of which there were only two in Moscow at that time, and the rest were freezing on the street in winter, selling their works, and warming themselves with a shot of “fire-water” of course (laughing). Observations of such “markets” resulted in a whole series of works dedicated to Vernissage. That is, it was not a finger-drawn idea, but a deeply felt and “frozen in the cold” idea.
What motivates you as an artist? Is it curiosity, the search for beauty, or meaning? And is there a message you are trying to give with your art?
Andrey: Yes of course. If you are an artist, then study how nature creates its forms and color harmonies, use its discoveries, but create your own world.
For me, art is a search for beauty, sculpturesque beauty and color. Plus, I’m interested in observing the psychology of a person, the inner state of a person. The psychological portrait is very important to me. I practically don’t paint portraits as such, but I do pay a lot of attention to this topic in my genre works. It is very important for me to see the beauty in any life manifestations and everyday things, and get it across to the viewer in color and plastic language.
How do you see the inspiration for your work growing and changing?
Andrey: Of course, the most important thing that I need for inspiration is emotions, impressions, empathy, and deep emotional experience of the events that are happening around me, their nervous pulse. Without subjectivity and nerve, art is dead. Any changes around, life, social, natural, greatly affect my inner state and, therefore, inspiration. Why is the autumn wilting of nature so inspiring? Why is the dawn so inspiring and gives such a spiritual uplift. Everything is very interconnected. In the life of an artist, a state of loneliness is often pursued, he is more immersed in himself and lives with his feelings of the world. In old age, it can become aggravated, or it can result in other forms of perception of oneself and the surrounding reality. But the emotional attitude depends on what surrounds. Without love and attention, an artist is an unhappy person, which is accordingly vividly reflected in his works, resulting in tragedy. As well as other aspects of life, they can result in lyricism, humor, and so on. The artist’s consciousness also depends on these many, many factors. Social status, even rather a sense of oneself in society, is also very important, a feeling of connection with the events taking place, a feeling of immersion in experiences, which are subsequently embodied in works. What is painting? This is, among other things, a conversation of an artist with himself.
What are some of the stories behind your work?
Andrey: For 30 years, during which I taught at an art college and brought up young artists, there were many funny situations, and communication with young talents always brought me great pleasure. This is definitely a mutually enriching process. Children are a catalyst for ideas and a tremendous immediacy that we lose with age. Children, striving for knowledge and exploring the world, all the time bring and implement very interesting and fresh ideas. These ideas may not yet be well-framed from a professional point of view, but the very ideas and solutions for their implementation often amazed me. And this their creative search, which I observed all the time, brought me great joy and often inspired me myself to new creative solutions. The power of a child’s imagination is that a child often takes on such subjects that an adult artist would not have undertaken. My work with young artists was a very interesting experience in which I gave my students knowledge and skill, and I myself drew from them their direct perception.
What are you currently working on?
Andrey: I continue to paint landscapes that I like, and do not forget about genre paintings.
What artists influenced you the most and why?
Andrey: Some of my favorite artists are Mikhail Vrubel, Pavel Filonov, Giorgio Morandi and Boris Grigoriev. The inner beauty that I have always strived for, in my opinion, is most clearly expressed in these artists. All these four artists are very different, but they are united by paintings that are in tune with my experiences. My youthful enthusiasm is especially connected with Vrubel, and he remained my favorite artist for all my life, I admire him. Pavel Filonov amazes with his analytical and cosmic view of what is happening. He saw a microcosm in everything. And this is also a particle of my awareness of the world. Morandi is beauty in simple things that surrounds a person in everyday life, conveyed with incredible strength and persuasiveness. No one, in my opinion, was able to reflect the color and plastic harmony in simple subjects and still lifes as much as Morandi did. Boris Grigoriev is a very versatile master. His genre paintings are simply amazing, he achieved outstanding skill in his works. These masters are my favorite artists.
Of course, there are also cult values, which I cannot but mention. This is Velazquez, El Greco. Raphael is just the pinnacle of everything for me. Two of my favorite rooms at the Prado Museum are Velazquez and El Greco. I also really love Goya and especially his Caprichos series, I just admire it. For me, he is much stronger as a graphic artist than as a painter. He is as a humanist, as a man of new views, as a revolutionary in art impresses me strongly, also like Daumier, and many people like them – they are all very great authorities for me.
Do you see your art as serving a purpose beyond art?
Andrey: Try to convey the beauty of the events and realize your vision and new ideas in plastic and color solutions.
Are there any upcoming shows or workshops we should know about?
Andrey: Yes, exhibitions are planned, for example, in early October in Moscow. As my teacher used to say: the main thing is to have works, because an artist should not think about exhibitions, but think about how to create everything beautifully and convincingly, then he will be in demand.
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