Preserving The Future: Art And Artistry Of Sergey Konstantinovhttps://www.forbes.com/sites/stephanrabimov/2020/07/13/preserving-the-future-art-and-artistry-of-sergey-konstantinov/#613660283b28
What is essential? The coronavirus-related lockdowns forced everyone to reconsider priorities and look within. Amid the uncertainty, the primary role of culture has proved to be the maintenance of social cohesion and individual well-being. While some critics lamented loss of access to cultural institutions and public events, others focused on renewed appreciation for the arts online. What would quarantine be like without television, literature, music, or other art forms? The options are too dire to consider! Creative communities in Germany demanded emergency relief funding and the artists in Spain went on digital strike. Yet, a survey in Singapore found that 71% of respondents considered “artist” the most non-essential occupation during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the Getty Museum Challenge went viral with people recreating famous artworks in fun ways. This highlighted new opportunities for engagement with cultural heritage. Recently another Baroque masterpiece got destroyed during a botched restoration effort and people have called for renewal of our collective vows to protect the art for future generations. This is a moment to reflect on the push and pull between tech-driven art consumption and interest in art preservation. How do we balance our evolutionary desire for the new with the need for the security of the familiar? I sat down with Sergey Konstantinov, a Ukrainian-American artist based in San Francisco. He is an expert in restoration and conservation of paintings, murals and decorative arts; and a painter and sculptor with many original exhibited works. A unique perspective for the unprecedented times in the arts.
How do you see the art world changing during and after the pandemic?
That is quite a philosophical question. Why?! Do you think it would change the human being? I consider this an interesting time to be alive. The difference between now and then is actually about having more time to look deeper. A wall or canvas are both just surfaces. What is important is your message and energy, the purpose of a coming piece. For artists, I believe you are ahead as long as you are honing your skills. Once you’ve decided to move no further, only then you lose.
What do you make of the recent tidal wave of art appreciation online?
These viral campaigns are a successful way to elevate art education. It is no easy task to connect with the work of art, to capture its essence, to express it in your own way. The Dutch museums did their “challenge”, the Russians too. All countries have unique cultural heritage worth preserving. The process of the creative search itself is meaningful. In this case it does not matter if it is on canvas or on TikTok.
How has your creative path prepared you for these turbulent times?
I lived through the end of the Soviet Union. That was turbulent, too. I am from Ukraine, a small warm-memories town called Zhmerinka. It made my cultural DNA: friends, school, sports, the very beginning of my interest in art. Exploring Ukrainian folk art helped me to understand the true wealth of a nation. After studies, I moved to Baku but in the 1990’s there was armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. I had to ask for refugee status in America. Now, for almost 30 years, my family, studio, and the work of my life is here. My life is a creative process itself. It is where I get my inspiration, awareness of good or bad, too much or too little, alive or dead. When you go through such moments in history, you learn to never take anything for granted.
What's your first art memory and how did it impact you?
Well, there was not one thing. Maybe the beautiful icons at my grandmother’s house. They were illegal back then. The art class in my hometown where I tried to copy some famous artists. The first time I heard Swan Lake by Peter Tchaikovsky. I also cannot deny the impact of nature we are surrounded by. It has inimitable shades, color contrasts, mysteries of the universe. We breathe it all in deeply trying to find answers. I have always been confident of my own path.
What is the difference between conservation and restoration?
“First, do no harm” is a great principle in medicine and restoration of cultural heritage. I have been restoring art for a long time. I studied art history and art technologies from different eras. When it comes to restoration you need to fully understand the creators, their state of mind and intentions. The collectors like to say art is forever, we are just art’s temporary guardians. Conservation is also a technical challenge with its own long difficult history. Certain chemical solutions that were used in the past are banned now.
What inspired you to pursue original works?
You cannot force yourself into art, it begins within you. I leave a piece of myself on the canvas which is the only way to work. In life we are searching for explanations, finding nuances, changing our perspectives. That is the source of creation. There are no failures in the artistic path. Even an unsatisfactory result is your experience. I could not help the overwhelming desire in such moments. It was a painting giving me the reason to create and not vice versa.
Any advice for emerging artists trying to succeed within or outside the gallery system?
In my last year at the Lviv Academy of Art a professor told me: “Move to your own purpose, the money comes anyway.” If you want to be someone, just start now. Otherwise, you will have no time to make it right.
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