Driven by scientific pursuit and artistic imagination, the acclaimed Russian artist GeorgII Uvs pioneered a new approach to abstract art in which he developed a technique in painting with ultraviolet reactive pigments. Jemima Walter caught up with him in the lead up to his first solo exhibition in the UK, Full Circle: The Beauty of Inevitability, at Saatchi Gallery, London, to find out more about his beautifully colourful large scale works…
You are a former Geologist as well as a trained artist – in what ways has your interest in science influenced your art practice?
Science is about innovation and for me it acts as a series of building blocks towards a broader philosophy connected to innovation in my art. Richter is a great example and I have always admired his approach to art and his continuous strive to invent new techniques. In a similar vein, I am driven by the constant challenges in transforming my work and techniques in a way that no one has tried before. Without developing new techniques to evolve my art, it is possible that I may never have arrived at the abstract style. Change is inevitable and it is important for me to approach change as though there is a mysterious call for something new. This can happen in a random or in a determined way and is an unpredictable behaviour that, in a sense, is common to the progress in both science and art.
Your work takes the viewer on a journey through mathematics, sciences and artistic imagination, what do you hope people take away from experiencing your work?
I would like my viewers to gain a different idea of Beauty from my work that emanates from a fusion of mathematics, sciences and artistic imagination and that lie at the core of my work. It is a beauty that is full of secrets, containing certain mysteries but that are transitory and therefore finite. A beauty that consists of many layers, each one offering a different vision to the viewers based on their personal experiences, knowledge and perception of life and changes. Like in the ancient Chinese Book of Changes, the I Ching, these visions may not be immediately understood but everyone will eventually make their own opinion.
What has inspired your artwork throughout your career? How have your methods and techniques evolved over time?
Having worked for many years in figurative art, I felt a strong desire, maybe even an impulse, to invent something new. For me today the situation is different. I have developed a technique that draws on my experience and knowledge of science and fused it with my artistic inspiration to create my work. It has become a permanent genesis for me, a constant transformation. It is all to do with experimentation and innovation. If you were to show me what I’m doing now thirty years ago, I wouldn’t have even understood what I was talking about.
You have developed a technique in painting with ultraviolet reactive pigments, how did you develop this?
UV is usually used as mono-color. I wanted to expand into a more polymorphic field. When I moved to Malta, oil paints did not work for what I wanted to do as they are too viscous. Pigments, on the other hand, are very light, easy flowing. At first, I tried to replace the UV pigments with oil paints but that didn’t work. I now combine the UV pigments for the effect they produce on the canvas and also for the important role they play in the determination of the viscosity of paint.
What is the technical process of creating each artwork? How long does each one take?
There is a very strong physical component in the creation of my work and each series takes its own time to create although each series is created using different techniques. I manipulate the paints from underneath the canvas with different tools or I simply hold the canvas with my hands and direct the paint. For example, for the Mesozoic series, I use very liquid paints which effectively allow me to control only the flow rate and the choice of combination of colors. And because of the liquidity of this paint, this series takes only up to three months to dry. On the other hand, the Genesis series is created with a different viscosity of paint causing the composition to take up to three years to dry. Wings can take up to two years and Codes up to one year. So the period of creation is always different.
Did the move from Russia to Malta affect your practice?
Yes, definitely. In Malta, I finally began using the artistic language closest to my heart, the language that eluded me in Russia. It just somehow made sense in Malta. If you like, I was experiencing a form of psychological release and liberation.
What are you working on next?
I want to see where my current phase takes me. I’m a living being drawn down an endless road. I would like to continue to paint large format canvases in the same style but every day is an opportunity to do something innovative and new. For me, the ultimate goal is beauty.
Full Circle: The Beauty of Inevitability will take place from 24 January – 3 February 2019 at Saatchi Gallery, London. For more information, visit: www.saatchigallery.com/art/full_circle
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