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Turquoise #1 | Jenya Stashkov: naivism as an artistic method

turquoise ether magazine21/04/22 10:34929

the turquoise ether magazine`s mission is to publish independent critical reviews of promising artists from over The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

Turquoise #1 — Jenya Stashkov (Russia)

Jenya Stashkov ©
Jenya Stashkov ©

Jenya Stashkov defines his style as “Naive Surrealism”. Jenya is a self-taught artist who has developed his own visual language, style, and artistic themes. His drawings are color or black-and-white graphic images.

“Bijouterie” by Jenya Stashkov (2021, gel pen, paper) ©
“Bijouterie” by Jenya Stashkov (2021, gel pen, paper) ©

The main themes of his works are rethinking everyday life from the point of view of mysticism and religiosity; magical creatures, and their games with “little” people; the multi-level nature of the world; and the conditional division of the world into “lower”, “middle”, and “higher” elements.

“Destiny Karma” by Jenya Stashkov (2018, gel pen, paper) ©
“Destiny Karma” by Jenya Stashkov (2018, gel pen, paper) ©

The characteristics of this approach allowed Jenya to work as a book illustrator, including illustrations for poetry volumes. His illustrations for poems by contemporary Canadian writers and Russian authors from Ural region generated significant public interest.

“SENTENCE” (poem by STEVE VENRIGH) illustration by Jenya Stashkov (2019, gel pen, paper) ©
“SENTENCE” (poem by STEVE VENRIGH) illustration by Jenya Stashkov (2019, gel pen, paper) ©

Illustrating a poetic text is a difficult task for an artist. Modern poetry, in most cases, is a sophisticated interplay of form and meaning. Jenya responds to this challenge through surrealistic pictorial techniques:

— The flow of forms

— The multiplication of objects

— The inclusion of one object into another

— The substitution of the meaning and purpose of the object

“dimming the tinsel” (poem by Yaroslava Nikonova (Shirokova)), illustration by Jenya Stashkov (2022, gel pen, paper) ©
“dimming the tinsel” (poem by Yaroslava Nikonova (Shirokova)), illustration by Jenya Stashkov (2022, gel pen, paper) ©

His other visual works also have inner narratives and are similar in style to animation or comics, as they include transformations, movement, and strange adventures of characters. The characters in his drawings are either simple people or mystical creatures. Characters in his images are usually assigned roles. We can observe how they fulfill them within the narrative.

“Witness and Psychedelic Rest” by Jenya Stashkov (2020, gel pen, paper) ©
“Witness and Psychedelic Rest” by Jenya Stashkov (2020, gel pen, paper) ©

In Jenya`s drawings, higher and lower beings differ in their respective size and location inside the composition. Higher life forms create games, and people either become part of these games or remain silent observers. And so, the ever-present characters in his works are “Autistic Dude” and “Witness”. This technique is a reference to the ancient Egyptian pictorial tradition.

“Autistic Dude” by Jenya Stashkov (2014, gel pen, paper, objects) ©
“Autistic Dude” by Jenya Stashkov (2014, gel pen, paper, objects) ©

Versality is another essential quality of Jenya`s drawings. Each drawing looks equally harmonious in large and small formats, as an addition to the text, or as an independent work, as a print, sticker, or as framed painting in the exhibition space. The use of graphic editors also adds versatility to these drawings. Post-processing in graphic editors complements manual work and allows the artist to change, refine, and replicate drawings. The artist’s creative method deserves special mention. Jenya works without sketches. For him, the process of work creation is a kind of meditation, akin to automatic writing: gradual filling of the space and attention to detail. An integral composition grows out of these disparate processes.

“Potato Hell” by Jenya Stashkov (2018, gel pen, paper) ©
“Potato Hell” by Jenya Stashkov (2018, gel pen, paper) ©

The author builds the internal dynamics of his sheet in order to then take the viewer on this unique journey, where everything is not what it seems. So, a complex, “vibrating” drawing is created with minimal expressive tools (paper and gel pen). Children’s pictures have profound meanings. Complex stories told in simple language. Naivism as an artistic method and mysticism as a semantic content—this is how one could define the work of Jenya Stashkov.

Author ✍️ Sveta Golubeva for turquoise ether magazine

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