ey character of the artistic life of Saint Petersburg for the last twenty years, Georgy Gurianov (Гурьянов Георгий) was born in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in 1961. In 1975 he enters to the Serov Art College, but leaves it in 1976. In 1982 he is one of the participants of Novye Khudozhniki (New Artists) group and begins to exhibit his graphic works. From 1984 he plays with the avant-garde music group Noviye Kompository (New Composers), acts in various films and directs a sport program on Piratskoe TV. From 1984 to 1990, while continuing to paint, he is the drummer in the cult rock group “KINO” contributing to its trendy image, and from 1985 the singer for Sergey Kuryokhin and his Populyarnaya Mekhanika Orchestra; he is also at the forefront of the club and rave scenes, the main squatter of St. Petersburg and participates at the same time to the activities of the legendary Friends of Mayakovsky Club, an unofficial gathering of young artists, poets, musicians, art critics and collectors. His interests range from music and film to architecture, painting and photography. Figurative arts become again his main occupation at the end of “KINO” experience in 1990, the year that symbolizes the end of the Cold War and of the Western ostracism toward realism.
Sport, as the object of a realistic artistic composition, has been inextricably linked with art since the beginning of Western culture: it was in the context of athletic games that Ancient Greek art identified those most beautiful in body, seeking to create objective canons for worship. In the 19th century, after long years of oblivion, this method, the agonistika, was revived and sport was once again a recognized artistic theme. The revival of the Olympic movement brought European culture closer to Antique sources. By the end of the 19th century hundreds of artists throughout Europe were singing the praises of the beautiful bodies of sportsmen. During the first half of this century art and sport moved together in close alliance towards the future. In the 1930s sporting art underwent a “great renaissance”: in France, Great Britain, Italy, Germany, USA, USSR, Sweden, Finland and many other European countries marvellous works were created, praising sporting ideals. But the Second World War put a stop to this process and the Cold War which followed led to the opposing sides demanding not only a political but also an aesthetic image of the enemy. In the West the dissemination of Modernism began, and Classically oriented art was declared to be “totalitarian”. It was the 1990s which united Europe: the Olympic movement reached unheard of proportions; in Russia a powerful movement for the revival of Classic Art made its appearance; in Europe the movement for the renaissance of Classical aesthetics spread. The difficult task of restoring lost traditions and mastery produces outstanding results, and East European “totalitarianism”, however, permitted the preservation of those sculptors and painters with a mastery of European Classical traditions. One of the most notable of these is Georgy Guryanov.
Like the masters of the Renaissance, Gurianov addresses the works of past eras. Like the ancient classics, the artist finds the ideals to which he aspires among the heroes of the Olympic Games. As chair professor of painting at the New Academy of Fine Arts founded by Timur Novikov, Gurianov becomes a leading figure of St. Petersburg’s neo-academic scene. The central theme of his work is the glorification of virility and strength that the architecture, the sport, the work, the army and the navy express the best way. For twenty years now, the subject of Guryanov’s oeuvre has been unchanging and plastically canonical. This is the world of statuary heroes – sex symbols who have crossed the borders of the human, while retaining an unclear Russian charm favourably influencing the market values of his works. The absolute leaders among them are sailors, pilots and sportsmen, ousting Alexander Rodchenko’s half-dressed workers and collective farmwomen.
Besides Soviet photography of the 1920s and 1930s and Classical sculpture, the clear sources of the artist’s inspiration are Leni Riefenstahl, Alexander Samokhvalov and Alexander Deineka. What does Georgy Guryanov find so attractive in all of this? What is the reason for the intense public interest? This is Georgy’s romantic notion of an heroic adventure. The sailor (or aeronaut) is an eternal symbol of man in the throes of passion, embarking upon the inexorable risk of sailing into another world. Georgy does not favour young captains in camisoles. He prefers an expressed male type – sailors, sergeants and naval cadets or a male brotherhood recalling the “houses of men” from the days of Homer, betraying the artist’s own personal utopia. The only background to the figures of these athletes is the sky and the sea. Self-disciplined, they gaze silently into the distance. The ideal abstractedness of Guryanov’s images, however, is deceptive. The Baltic sailor marching in the ranks of similar men of unearthly beauty is the young Marlon Brando. The artist’s friends – Victor Tsoi and Georgy Kasparian – pose for him on the deck of a sailing ship. The rowers peering into the distance include the artist and his models, repeated at different angles.
Gurianov’s work includes painting, graphic art and retouched photography, in which the artist has recently shown an interest. Strict aesthetic principles guide all aspects of Gurianov’s work and his lifestyle: his creations are the fruit of his constant aspiration towards irreproachability and splendour, which takes over his entire organism. People sense this in both his behaviour and his works. Even if the majority do not discern any artistic technique, they still feel the seriousness and range of his gesture. His perfectionism leads him to spend several years on some of his paintings, returning regularly to his canvases, seeking new accents, falling in love with his heroes and daydreaming. When everything is virtually complete, he can pick up the emery and remove the paintwork, right down to the prime coating, starting all over again. Some works on show in Moscow were started in the early 1990s, and a few of them is still considered unfinished by the author. Holed up in his studio, Georgy always works simultaneously on several large canvases, painting with such self-immersion that one can judge by his mood just how successfully work is proceeding. The state of the surface of the canvas corresponds to his own mental and physical state. The only way of getting hold of a painting by Georgy is to simply tear it out of his hands. A few artful connoisseurs have managed to get hold of works still at the stage of drawing or undercoating. These stages, they affirm, are in no way inferior to the finished painting, which Georgy never considers entirely completed.
He achieved remarkable successes, becoming one of the Russian artists most exhibited in museums. His customers include pop stars (Mylene Farmer and Marusha) and aristocrats (the Bismarck and Hapsburg dynasties). In 1990, a group of top Moscow critics – who had no special reason to love an artist from Leningrad – voted Georgy “artist of the year”. This society lion, however, is now more of a recluse. He only hangs out with a small circle of friends, holding rare soirees which everyone attempts to attend. Only a lucky few receive the rare privilege of being allowed to see his most recent works, which are instantly snapped up by private collectors, before the public can get a chance to see them. This explains why so many people always turn up to look at his works and the legendary dandy himself whenever he holds a show.