Dmitry Gutov. Death and the Artist

(Rembrandt's Drawings).
M&J Guelman Gallery

According to the definition provided by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, one of the pillars of Enlightenment poetics, visual art presupposes first and foremost the relations of bodies (objects) in space. Action taking place over time (“the signs of expression which follow one another”) can be presented by poetry. “…Temporal sequencing is the domain of the poet; space is the domain of the painter.” How fortunate it is for us that doctrines are invented in order to be overcome! All great painters, paying no heed to “clever” dictums, created that reality which lives according to the laws of art’s truth. The time-space continuum is an essential category of this reality. The process of fixing the stream of time presupposes the perception of form as a process that takes place in front of one's eyes, an unfinished process that is in constant contact with the eye beholding nature (natura naturans – nature that creates). The pulsation of time manifests itself in different formulas of the movement of the image.
In what genre can this movement conveyed with greatest virtuosity? Naturally, in the one that fixes the process of the creation of form, of its making, most honestly and with greatest immediacy. In drawing. Rembrandt's drawings are the apex of a genius' willfulness, alien both to the dogmatism of “correct” schema and the arbitrariness of decorative form-making. Every one of his works is similar to a discovery of the only possible movement of form in space in the given span of time. This can only happen somewhere where the logic of the construct being created is a completely iron one: in mathematics, music, and poetry.
Is it possible to examine in practice how “iron” the logic of Rembrandt's form-making is? Following Mikhail Lifshitz' ideas about the total identity in logos of being and its rational content (“I think, therefore existence is thinkable”), the artist Dmitry Gutov began to materialize very literally the metaphor of “iron logic.” He used old scrap iron (fragments of beds, wire, pipes, meshwork) as a basis for more than hundred-fold magnifications of Rembrandt's drawings. With the help of the master craftsman Boris Prudnikov, Gutov welded together relief compositions, trying to reproduce with utmost accuracy the pages of the great Dutchman. The result is astounding. What it confirms is the genius of the organization of the artistic form, which contains, just like hieroglyphics (Gutov's favorite point of comparison for Rembrandt's drawings), nothing accidental or “decorative.” This thesis can be proven during precisely that very movement which makes up the theme of form's existence in the drawings of the Dutchman. The viewer interacts with Gutov's reliefs whilst moving, and in the process of this movement, the image constantly transforms itself and goes through metamorphoses (this is due to the so-called “parallax effect,” which is largely determined by the great depth of the reliefs, approximately 45-50 ñm). Rembrandt's image as such corresponds to itself only from one vantage point. And yet the composition of the graphic construct itself, when translated into metal, is so perfect and rational that its aesthetic qualities delight the viewer from every angle, even when the image becomes pure abstraction. To a large degree, the delight stems from the fact that despite the brutality of the material, what is preserved is the sense of the most refined calligraphic mastery. That which is designed rationally is always rational. QED.

Sergey Khachaturov
Translation: Ksenya Gurshtein