Don’t Try This at Home!
On face value, it may seem that graphic arts are more primitive than painting: the technique is simpler, viability is lower, and visual richness is poorer. However, the canvas and paint can help the artist to hide poor skills, while graphic artists are not able to hide anything: all errors, flaws and slip-ups are in full view. That is why there are so few good graphic artists around these days. However, of those that have achieved critical acclaim, Mikhail Parshikov is certainly worthy of discussion.
Mikhail Parshikov was born on the 9 June, 1952, in Moscow into a family of scientists: his parents were candidates of natural sciences, who, in their time, refused to keep their jobs and went to explore Siberia. Abandoned by his parents, Parshikov tried to escape loneliness by painting, developing his own world and exploring it thereafter. From his somber beginning, he developed into a free spirit who dons Hawaiian shirts in the summer and wears his hair tied up in a horsetail at the crown of his head.
Mikhail’s parents, especially his father, had wanted their son to follow in their footsteps and become a scientist; however, they also recognized the importance of giving him freedom, so they supported his creative endeavors as much as they could.
In 1975, Mikhail Parshikov graduated from the architectural faculty of Novosibirsk State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering, and secured work at the Siberian University, where he designed apartment and community buildings for four years. The group in which he was based attempted to design standard structures that could withstand the climatic conditions of Nizhnevartovsk. On one particular project, he worked on the “Octyabr’skaya” subway station, for which he received an award. However, he soon came to the conclusion that a life in architecture and civil engineering was not for him: there was work, but no satisfaction.
“The beginning of the end” started in 1979, after Mikhail visited Poland. His relationships with the management team were ruined, so he quit once and for all. However, he found himself confronted with a new problem: he needed to find a job within one month in order to save himself from jail, since back in those days it was illegal not to work. He recalls how he spent three whole weeks lying on the couch and enjoying his life before he finally made the decision to work at the Novosibirsk Department of the Arts Fund. He went on to enjoy ten years of productive work with close people in a creative atmosphere during the “golden time” of the 80s. Artistic open-airs had a major influence on his work: artists received a task immediately, and the topic and perspective were established right away. Some works could have been exhibited!
In 1989, Mikhail Parshikov joined the Union of Russian Artists. Ten years later, in 1999, he joined the Catalonia Artists Union. Many times he admitted his sympathy for this part of Spain.
Mikhail Parshikov’s creative activity did not end there. He took part in more than 350 exhibitions, and his personal works were exhibited in Paris, Angers, Marseille (France), Barcelona (Spain), Novosibirsk, Omsk, Krasnoyarsk and elsewhere in Siberia. Exhibiting in Spain represented a very valuable experience for him, and he describes it as an opportunity to get rid of “snobbery.” You have to pay for everything there: for exhibiting your works, for proper advertisement. As such, amateurs exhibited side by side with famous artists. When Mikhail recovered from the shock, he thought – why not? You need to be tolerant of all kinds of art.
Mikhail Parshikov’s works are located at the artistic fund of Russian Artists Union in Moscow; the Modern Art Museum in Birobidzhan, Russia; the Novosibirsk State Art Museum; the Tomsk Regional Art Museum; the Omsk Regional Art Museum n.a. M. Vrubel; the Ufimsk State Art Museum n.a. M. Nesterov; the Modern Art Museum in Vladivostok, Russia; the House of Humor and Satire in Gabvoro, Bulgaria; the Tama Art University in Tokyo, Japan; the Californian Institute of Russian Study, Los Angeles, USA; the Taller galleria forte, Berselona, Collezzione di Rho, villa Burba, Milan, Italy; Osten World Gallery of Drawings; Skopje, Macedonia; and also in private collections in Russia, Germany, Italy, USA, Canada, Spain, France, Japan and Australia.
Mikhail Parshikov’s creative activity did not end there. He took part in more than 350 exhibitions, and his personal works were exhibited in Paris, Angers, Marseille (France), Barcelona (Spain), Novosibirsk, Omsk, Krasnoyarsk and other cities in Siberia.
One of the most prominent features of Mikhail’s graphics is the acuteness and suddenness of an idea. Today, we are facing one oppressive tendency: quite often, graphic artists amaze us with technical complexity, while the formal side not only outshines, but replaces, content. Parshikov’s works are filled with harmony: they are performed using complex and mixed techniques but, in this case, the “How it’s done” represents “What the artist wanted to express.”
Mikhail has developed his own style while working with caricature and posters, book and magazine illustrations, and graphic design. His graphics contain large images, bright and clean colors, and vivid lines. Each piece is a massive idea, blazing poster and a message to viewers.
One more exceptional feature of Mikhail Parshikov’s works is that they are serial. The most famous series is that of “On chairs,” through which he depicted a “Woman – man” opposition. The images depict a series of acrobatic-like stunts: stylized figures of men and women and stylized chairs. Each work shows a couple of people who are almost tied in a knot. Each work is not only about the old topic of unity and struggle of opposites (in this case genders), but also a spicy performance “A la Cabaret,” an erotic dance with a Viennese chair.
Had these works been created in a realistic manner, they would have resembled “soft porn.” The graphics help to transform ideas into symbols, to present almost descriptive formulas of gender relationships.
Parishkov is currently living and working in Novosibirsk where he plays an active role in the cultural life in the region through supervising young, unskilled artists and organizing joint exhibitions.
The most amazing thing is that the composition of figures is very detailed; however, at the same time, the lines are soft and weightless. Natural improvisation is presented with astronomical accuracy. Even the route of the comet is not always calculated that precisely! By the way, the comet’s tail is one of Parishkov’s favorite shapes.
Another interesting work of Parishkov’s is the series called “Lines,” in which naked models become hieroglyphs, Arabic characters. Figures are depicted in spiral and spring shapes. After all, the female form is one of the most ancient painting traditions since pictograms. It is clear that Mikhail wittily rethinks traditions and ironically plays with what already exists.
In addition, our graphic artist is also working in other genres: ironic variations of Malevich, almost abstract landscapes.
It is impossible to find direct similarities with reality in Parshikov’s works. However, this leaves a wide space through which the viewer’s own imagination can form associations. Which is, if you think about it, much more interesting, although, paid less.
Parishkov is currently living and working in Novosibirsk where he plays an active role in the cultural life of the region through supervising young, unskilled artists and organizing joint exhibitions. He is a hospitable man who, from time to time, conducts open-air exhibitions for artists from Novosibirsk to showcase their work in his “family nest” in Bibih village. Mikhail considers this village to be more of a home than Novosibirsk: he has loved the countryside since he was five.
“Some girl comes into my workshop,” explains Mikhail, “and she starts to look at the things I have created with a heavy mood and a face of stone… suddenly, she bursts out laughing and starts dangling her legs. She saw something there, something the artist was not even thinking about. And this is good. I’m not creating dogma, right? Besides interpretation from the artist, there are other interpretations, from viewers. My work is kind of a flaky croissant with several meanings; meanings that I have created. A viewer sees something else there. The result is very interesting and tasty.”
Chaos reigns in the artist’s workshop, but this doesn’t seem to be a problem for him. The space is filled with books, albums, and exhibition catalogs. Having taken part in over 350 exhibitions, Parshikov has gathered more than just awards, but also memories, experiences, and new artistic horizons.
“Just recently, I was taking part in ‘A walk through Venice: 40 etchings of a real Venetian artist and a “garnish” of Siberian works’ exhibition. Venice turned out to be very intimate topic for our artists. My wife has been there. And she told me a lot. This is how I started to use round paper. Why round? One time I realized that, besides my favorite A4 format, there are a lot of interesting shapes. The channel that twists around the whole of Venice can’t fit into a rectangular box. Somebody said once: ‘Beneath me Venice swam in water, a sodden pretzel made of stone…’ and after that, it all started. ‘My friend, Joan Miró’s, series includes rectangles, circles, and even triangular shapes. Just look at Miro’s portrait… typical face–turnip-shaped! She is a very joyous artist! So, my series of works are joyous as well, a hint of pop, just like I’ve ordered.”
Describing the rapidly changing world and its demands, Mikhail says that the best way to “keep afloat” is to lock yourself in a workshop, and work. While he is not sure he always manages to follow trends and keep up with vital demands, the one thing he knows for sure is that he would not have become such a bright and original artist had he decided to emigrate. “Artist from Novosibirsk – I am proud of it!” declares Mikhail smiling. He is not worried about the viewer, where there’s art, there’s an audience.
“For the viewer to avoid disappointment, one should know what kind of art he or she is going to enjoy. But, in order to understand it, the viewer should be cultured, interested and educated. The viewer should also have freedom of choice.
Let’s imagine a city full of galleries and museums. Our viewer is going to wander from gallery to gallery and will finally pick one that he or she wishes to visit more often. That girl, the one who was dangling her legs and laughing, she would probably pick mine.”