NORTHEN CAUCASUS, OR PARADIZ IN CAMOUFLAGE HUES

Oleg Maslov, co-founder of the “New Wilds” group and a professor at the New Fine Arts Academy, created 10 paintings united by a shared classical subject that is known to speculators on the antiques market as mountain paintings. However, we see more than just mountains in Maslov’s paintings, though I will be the first to admit that Maslov’s mountains are a most deserving subject of contemplation both for mountain lovers and for art connoisseurs.

Next to the landscapes, where the native mountain goats are peacefully grazing, we encounter a nude man entering a turquoise-colored lake; a youth in a valley, who is gazing at the clear mountain skies; a young woman diving off a cliff; a young man walking a cable stretched across a ravine. All these images clearly reference the artist’s source of inspiration: the paintings of the national romantic schools, from Caspar David Friedrich in northern Germany to Akseli Gallen-Kallela in southern Finland. Everywhere, mountains and rocks signify what they really mean: eternity and steadfastness, just like people who are able to climb up to great heights and stand pensively over a sea of fog.

It is not in vain that Maslov’s landscape promises paradise in camouflage tones. The sunlit mountain slopes of the romantic paintings seem to be covered with a “second layer” of painting – Andy Warhol’s Camouflages. The newest post-painting texture seems to put all of Maslov’s mountain dreamers, along with the viewer, inside a painted story - as if in the domain of a computer game. It could have been developed as a follow-up to a 3D action movie. The protective coloring of the mountain foliage penetrates every “impression” in the way that Dolby Surround Sound is heard from all sides.

The radiant and simultaneously disturbing painting surrounds us. When Caspar David Friedrich painted his mountain dreamer, Russia was conquering the North Caucasus, which had become a key source for romantic poetry, the habitat of the Russian Demon, and the romantic Russian soul. “And the wild genius of inspiration / lurks in the deaf silence,” as all Soviet children repeated after their teacher like a mantra, most of them ready to exchange two “Captives of the Caucasus” for their favorite female “Captive of the Caucasus”.  The peaceful life of the Caucasus resorts suddenly ended right before our eyes, convincing us of the rightness of Mikhail Kuzmin (“Who decided that peaceful landscapes / may not be the scene of a catastrophe?”).

The most meaningful word in the title is Paradiz – a popular word in the epoch of Saint Petersburg’s founding. Painting, whether new-wave or neoacademic, when in the hands of Maslov ripples with the iridescence of all the colors of the rainbow, like the interiors of baroque paradisos and hermitages, like the stages of imperial and private theaters. Maslov offers a project about painting-as-paradise. Painting does not camouflage the nature of the real, regardless of what the inveterate relevancy seekers say, craving it in works of art like topping off a beer after the foam has settled. Traveling with your eyes across the luminous pictures, skimming the camouflage tones of the leafy designs and the glacial crystals, you involuntarily ponder what is hidden within ourselves: of how each of us, lonely tourists in a sea of fog, gets a ticket to “paradiz”. All of life is contained in those minutes when, having decided on something, you balance over the ravine, throw yourself from a cliff, or indulge in meditation under the arch of the endless sky, inserting the rhythm of your breath and your fleeting glance into its vastness.

 

Yekaterina Andreeva