by Maria Koby
Loud dissonant sounds. Think Jaco Pastorious. But also think Russia. Spontaneous pencil strokes are raging on paint, defying conventional living, rules, and regulations. This is a unique, recognizable hallmark style of Russian rebel artist Anatoliy Zverev.
Zverev was a legendary non-conformist artist who didn’t draw a bright line line between art and life, reluctant to money and material values. He came from poverty, and the poverty was so bitter that he had to go to school wearing unmatching shoes. Unequivocally, Zverev was a nugget who became a painter, artist not by choice or formal education ( he was expelled from an art school for disregard for rules and obedience) but thanks to nature’s calling, coupled with life’s circumstances. His first job as an artist was painting fences and boards at recreation parks to help his family. He later was fired because the director saw him using a mop for paintings which was against the regulations.
Zverev’s style has distinct traces of Tachism, (a style of abstract painting in the 1940s – 1950s characterized by spontaneous brushwork, drips and blobs of paint straight from the tube) and expressionism. Yet, Zverev’s style is unique, based on his own philosophical convictions, particularly the idea of momentalism, that everything is in constant change. His paintings and drawings aren’t just a recollection but they are imbued with direct sensation, conjuring up intensity, amplitude of moods and undertones.
The Soviet government was suffocating and prosecuting its talented artists. Yet, the paradox was that the more restrictions it was imposing on them, the more liberating and prolific their art was. Zverev was a true anarchist in the eyes of the soviet government, refusing to be a communist, preferring to be a ‘harmonist’. He had spent most of his life hiding, leading an underground life style and hand to mouth existence. Yet, he was indeed prolific, creating thousands of works and masterpieces. When once, somebody asked him how he lived, the artist replied, “I never lived, I existed. I only lived among those for whom I was painting and who were creating myths about me.”
Gene Shapiro Auctions will have over 15 paintings of Zverev next auction. These were sold during our spring auction.