"EXHIBITION IN THE RUSSIAN MUSEUM"
'The Past, the Present and the Future all find expression at the same time in my paintings,' says the soft-spoken Russian-born painter Edward Tabachnik. The calm, thoughtful eyes reflect intelligence and an eventful life. Born in 1936 in St. Petersburg (in the old days, renamed to Leningrad), where he studied art and architecture at the famous St. Petersburg Academy of Arts and Architecture, one of the world leading art universities. Founded by the Empress Catherine the Great more than 250 years ago, it is a historic center of Russian arts and culture. It was in those student years that he would often visit the nearby Hermitage with its great art collection.
Here, in St. Petersburg he also met the love of his life, Galina, who studied there to become a metallurgical engineer. Together, they left the Soviet Union in 1972 for Israel, then lived briefly in Belgium and finally ended up in Toronto in 1975, where they have lived ever since.
'In the Soviet Union, just like everybody else, also an artist had to conform, to follow the official part line,' said Tabachnik. 'Political correctness' was invented in the Soviet Union...they called the official style the 'Socialist Realism' in those days. It was a very, very rigid style, which had to glorify the socialist workers, collective farmers and Lenin, of course. For those artists who did not conform, there was very little opportunity for exhibitions or public recognition. A couple of paintings hanging in a cafe was all one could hope for.
'My style was very different then,' recalls the artist. 'But let me tell you: when we were getting ready to leave the Soviet Union, I had to get an official permit for each of my paintings that I wanted to take with me. I had to go to the Ministry of Culture with photos and description of the paintings. And then, I had to pay the state the value of the paintings -- my paintings, which I myself created! Fortunately, I discovered that a bottle or two of vodka to the apparatchik in charge did wonders in reducing the official value of my works! Such was the life in the Soviet Union in those days.'
Edward Tabachnik has lived in Toronto for the past twenty-five years with his wife Galina. While always working professionally as an architect, whether designing residential houses in Belgium or apartment buildings and commercial buildings in Toronto, he never stopped painting. Over the years, the significant changes in his lifestyle were accompanied also by changes in his artistic style. 'I was never a conformist', he says with a smile. 'Not in Russia, and not in Toronto.'
In the past decade, he has been painting in the style of 'Romantic Expressionism.' We all know Dali's surrealist style or the style of 'Fantastic Realism' of the Viennese painter Ernst Fuchs, but what is this new style of Edward Tabachnik? He explains it this way: 'Modern art has come to the dead end. The art revolution happened a hundred years ago, and is now dead. Unfigurative art is exhausted, and is repeating itself. We need to go back to figurative art forms, with its unlimited possibilities. We need to turn away from the flat "paper-thin" art, and create deep dimensional art, with light and shadow forms traveling in time,' explains the artist. 'You see, the major art laws have never changed-- composition, balance, proportions, color harmony, time and space -- shall always be present. Art is a form of energy that spreads through the Universe, and the artist is connected to the 'universal art energy' and reveals its presence through his inspiration. Actually, we are traveling through time from the Past to the Future through the Present, back and forth, back and forth. Time in the 'art energy' does not have any direction -- the Past, the Present and the Future can coexist together,' concludes the painter.
One of his well-known paintings, "Exhibition in the Russian Museum" shows the main exhibition hall in one of St. Petersburg's great art museums. In the painting the Past, the Present and the Future are depicted together, a characteristic of many of his paintings of the past decade: on the walls of the hall hang paintings by Edward Tabachnik. Two soldiers in the red parade uniforms of the Czar's guard are admiring the paintings while overhead, through a large glass ceiling one can see a flying 'celestial city of the gods' as it hovers over the city of St. Petersburg.
Just what is this flying city doing in the painting, anyway? 'I will explain this to you,' says the artist. 'You see, not everybody in the world believes the currently 'politically correct' myth that people came from apes. I, for one, do not subscribe to this naive theory. How could it be? For hundreds of thousands of years, there was not much happening on this Earth, but then, some 5,000 years ago, things started happening fast, very fast. Soon, there were various civilizations, men were able to compute distances to the planets, discovered sciences and the arts. Who can say for sure, that in the past some gods from other planets did not come down to Earth in their flying 'celestial cities' and brought human life, culture and science with them?
'This idea has become a central theme, even an obsession in many of my recent paintings. You will find this idea represented in all my paintings by the flying 'celestial city of gods.' Sometimes you see it right away as a prominent feature in the painting, sometimes you have to look very hard to find it--but it is always there! This 'celestial city' moves freely in time, and thus connects the Past with the Present and the Future. It is a unifying element in all my paintings.'
This 'celestial city of the gods' appears very prominently in another of Edward Tabachnik's paintings, "High Water in St. Mark's Square." 'Venice is one of my very favorite places in the world. I painted its famous St. Mark's Square on several occasions. This painting is a night scene during one of those occasional times when the whole square gets flooded under three or four feet of water. It was such a powerful image that I just had to paint it. It is one of my favorite paintings,' says Edward Tabachnik. Venetian chandeliers, celestial cities and a flaming comet complete the picture, along with a mysterious torch procession.
'I love old masters,' says the artist. 'A painter should study them, see their works often in art galleries and art museums. One gets much inspiration from them. Especially learning the drawing technique is essential for a painter. Formal instruction in drawing and painting techniques and styles is a must for every young aspiring artist. For one to become an accomplished pianist, one has to study and practice for years and years. Why should it be any different for painters and sculptors?
So, I visit art galleries and museums every chance I get. Especially Italy is my favorite, so rich in art and culture -- Florence, Venice, and the whole northern part of Italy. Even in small villages, in their ancient churches one finds great paintings inside.
Painted in the style of 'Romantic Expressionism,' these two paintings are the key to one's understanding and appreciation of Edward Tabachnik's unique and intriguing art. 'For me, Romantic Expressionism' is a way to express myself in a totally individual way. I get inspiration from the timeless motives of the old masters - painters, architects, and sculptors, and make a new interpretation of the timeless theme in a modern way.
'His art gives you something to think about,' says a young woman admiring a collection of eight of his paintings at the Museum of European Art, 'and that is really what all great works of art have in common.'
Clarence, New York
April 20, 2000
Several paintings of Edward Tabachnik are now on exhibition at the Museum of European Art, 10545 Main Street, Clarence, New York. The gallery is open Tuesday through Friday, 1-5 p.m. and Saturdays, 1-4 p.m. Free admission.
Copyright C 2000, Museum of European Art.