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Contemporary photography is a high-tech medium in visual arts. Its applications are ubiquitous – from lifestyle press to journalism and advertising to fine art – and yet it still holds considerable value.

For me photography is a creative process of reconsidering the space surrounding us - the environment the man’s hands or nature created. It is not just a reflection of the reality, but more likely a certain interpretation on the theme in question using the maximal palette of modern means and technologies. I make works differ in character, but certainly all of them are interesting from the point of view of their graphic composition and colouristic findings. Transforming colours and shifting key points, I create a new environment, in which the existing image is transferred to a more optimistic, positive reality.

My strategy as a pictorialist consists in the program experiment when the spectator’s attention is drawn from the semantic picture to introspection of recognition - to impressions. This tactics of shifting distinctions remains for me as the main principle of the development, and using technological decisions, I hope, create the base for infinite set of new ways.

I live and work in Moscow. I love this city despite its eclectic character. I am an architect by profession and I accept much of what occurs in our modern architectural process, however some things are very doubtful and cause surprise. But still architecture is the most stylish way of culture representation, and the whole world knows and discusses our rather complex Russian mentality.

Like many people, I like to travel and do my own findings. London is one of the most beautiful cities of the world for me. Very much I love historical areas: Mayfair and Soho, I admire the modern City. Rome, Venice, Florence touch me and Dubai, Abu-Dhabi, Düsseldorf and Berlin are impressive, I like Petersburg, Kiev, Prague, and Milan very much. In this variety of city landscapes and cultural traditions creative person can not remain nonchalant. My camera I always carry with me often becomes an interpreter and sometimes just a partner in my conversation with a city.

Alexey Lyubimkin

Article in the magazine Decorative Art

Alexey Lyubimkin, an architect by training, is a member of the Union of photography artists of Russia, a member of the International Union of journalists, a former director of a design institute and a publisher of “The Russian Gallery” journal. Alexey Lyubimkin is a founder of one of the biggest art centre in Moscow, the other one is the State Tretyakov gallery. He took up photography as a child, and now it has become his profession. Lyubimkin’s artworks are kept in private collections in Russia, Great Britain, Germany, the USA and Mexico. Some of his photographs of “Moscow series” have been recently presented to the Moscow Museum of contemporary art.

Dialogues of genres

“We are interested first of all not in the associations aroused by an artwork, but the reasons that make them appear. These reasons are the major job and main problem of an artist or a photographer. Certainly, if we speak about art, these reasons are hidden in the image itself (where else they can be), in its form”. A. Lapin

...Lavender colour of leaves and grass in a frozen landscape, ardent reflections of glass facades of a modern city, a complicated graphics of branches and throbbing colour, an exposed texture of a tree or a stone, all of them are the images of Alexey Lyubimkin’s photographs that very often look like paintings. It is the artistic quality that is the focus of the works. What is really important is the merge of real forms, graphics and colour that has always been essential to photography and painting.

The dialogue of the two genres should be viewed in the historical context, starting from the Renaissance artists who used optic devices (concave mirrors and magnifying glass, systems of lens – diffraction or projectors such as a pinhole camera) and reconstructed possible ways of projecting the images on paper or canvas. In XVII century they began to employ a portative optic camera, and in XVIII century the ground glass camera (camera lucida) was invented. The methods of creating optically perfect pictures had spread all over Europe and the optic-graphic tradition remained until 1839, when it was replaced by optic-chemical system – photography. The history of membranous cameras shows us not only the development and improvement of camera making, but the fact that this is not the membrane that plays the main role in the process aimed at the precise grip of real objects.

It is important that the first book illustrated by the photographs of 1844-1846 has the title "The Pencil of Nature" by Henry Fox Talbot. The title conveys a particular attitude towards photography as a kind of graphic art, or as the author said: “towards the art of photogenic drawing, or the process the objects of nature depict themselves without help of the artist’s pencil”.

Thus, the original role of photography was viewed as a technical means of reproducing the reality. But as a device the photography became a new possibility of communication between a human being and reality, offered a new visual practice.

As for the relationships between photography and painting, they have always been complicated. There have been the two correlated processes. On one hand photography has followed painting and tried to imitate it, on the other hand it has provoked the abolition of painting in traditional sense: the painted reality began to transform and refused to reconstruct reality for the sake of abstraction (for example, Kandinsky got over the form, exaggerated and generalized it in colourful spots, moving from figurative art to abstract one).

The research of photography starts with a desire to establish it as an art. After some spontaneous characteristics its identification has gradually been contextualized by art expert terminology.

Nowadays, when images created with optic devices are a significant part of urban life, it has become evident that despite the mode of creating (drawn or projected, stable or moving), they create a specter of optic projections, getting beyond the conceptual and theoretic fragmentation. In this context the digital mode of image record makes clear the patterns of possible perspectives that are sometimes neglected because of prejudices against digital art.

It is likely to the suspicion aroused by the appearance of photography. First it was reproached for technological simplicity and was refused to be called art because of absence of canvas depth, convention of colour and light. From this point of view a photograph is a kind of report, documentary evidence. This approach is unlikely to be correct because it minimizes its value as an art. These are the professional skills of an artist, that are important, but not the media he employs. The complicated dialogue, obvious and obscure interaction that had originally and historically existed between painting and photography contributed into development of the two genres, the process still evolving at present.

Alexey Lyubimkin’s artworks are bright examples of the logical merge of the genres of painting and photography, being difficult for genre identification because of multiple patterns used by the author.
At the heart of the work lies a digital image. It fixes a composition of real objects. Then the image is processed, new layers having nothing in common with documentary way of depiction are developed that obey the rules of art – graphic and complicated decorative quality, intensive colour rendition that display composition planes.

The associations provoked by the images of the photographs recall a kaleidoscope due to their colour richness and linear dissection that often makes the images descrete. Restraint and rigid lines, graphics filled with colour - a mark of Alexey Lyubimkin’s photography, refer to modernist style (“Windows”, “A Dubai umbrella”, “Only forward”, “Coloured mosaic”). At the same time the artworks with spatial composition and lesser details are marked with delicate colour scheme of unexpected hues, textual treatment of the depicted forms, vibration of light and colour tones, and the impressionist quality (“The Lilac river”, “Green sketch”, “Action”).

These external characteristics once again make us turn to the role functions of painting and photography. Like many impressionist and Art Nouveau artists who used photographs as a basis for their works, A. Lyubimkin creates his graphics and paintings using a realism of photography in question but applying contemporary methods.

It is significant that the artist had been interested not in illusory precision of reproduction of reality, but an artistic message – chiaroscuro, accuracy of a form, texture, space, – all that makes the composition. The next step is stylization of the subject that paradoxically develops in feelings and play of associations. At that one can suggest these images initially exist in photography as such, that W. Benjamin wrote: “Nature, turned to the camera, is not the nature turned to the eye, the difference first of all makes the fact that location of the space assimilated by the human conscious is occupied by the space assimilated by the unconscious”. The ability to expose inner life of photography lies in the mastery of an artist, despite the applied methods.

Technically important here are the methods derived from traditional artistic practice. Line, colour and light, textures and volumes are major among them. A. Lyubimkin employs the methods through the series of photographs, and this makes an interesting aspect of his art. The urban subject, for example, is based on the lines. Linear compositions are evident in the urban landscapes of the artist. He treats space in such a manner as if he dated us to the initial architectural concept. In this concern many photographs look like architectural design projects - they are accurate and reserved, the lines are precise and thoroughly thought, the details are marked, and the colour is freely used. These artworks are a gracious play – from the architect’s idea to the reality and from the reality into the fantasy, the ideal.

In the photographs where the main role plays high-tech architecture the lines transfer into geometry, geometry into the drawing or even the ornament and the fragments of the buildings look like jewelry. objects, underlying clarity of both dynamic and static compositions, absence of details of open colour combinations (“Telescopic rhomb”, “Triangles”, “Entrance”, “Context”, “Dispersed kaleidoscope”).

In the artworks where the colour rules (these are mainly nature and architectural details themes) graphics sinks in colour: smalt colour tides of the Maltese plants, vitrail panorama of coloured splinters of glass (“The Chimes”), placard colour style (“Moscow. The Kremlin. The Star”) and laconic colour spaces (“At the Arno river”).

Texture developed with blend of colours makes the fragments of many compositions resemble sophisticated natural prints on the stones (“Rome patterns”, “Green sketch”).

It goes without saying that the artistic methods do not turn photography into painting, but obviously brings far from classical photography extending the field for new experiments. The synthetic genres of the contemporary art are numerous. That’s why it is important for them to find their own niche otherwise to be hermetic and logically irrelevant. As for Alexey Lyubimkin’s artworks, they are evidently organic and successive in conception. Behind the artistic appeal lies the author’s thoughtful attitude to the environment that inspires knowledge and experience of the use of various creative methods and forms that serve as the reliable instruments at realization of a new idea and the self.


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