Written by: Izzy Cohan Flofferz | Issue 01
Feature on Alex Kuznetsov
Outsider Art: An interview with Alex Kuznetsov
Every sport has its Mecca, in football perhaps it’s the United Kingdom, in hockey maybe it's Canada or Russia. These regions manifest success, it’s breathed in the air and bred in the blood. But what about the outsiders? The ones who haven't been groomed from birth to be a star? Those who grew up in a uniformed society where the national law held them from their passion?
This is the story of Alex Kuznetsov. The man who found a way to absorb color, emotion and creativity in a world that was anything but that.
Kuznetsov, may not be an athlete but he’s broken into a field which at times, is harder to pierce than professional sports—the Art world. He did it as arguably one of the first graffiti writers to blossom under Soviet rule.
With art there are no baskets, no home runs, and no scores. It’s an abstract world where creativity is valued and originality has become a rarity
Born in Minsk, Belarus, in 1978, Kuznetsov' s younger years were controlled by the Soviet system. They banned the expression of creativity.
This time was quite difficult to create something and yeah, actually, we had a lack of everything. I mean, visual things and well-done things…there was nothing.
What’s surreal is, every young, wannabe filmmaker now craves the uniformed bleakness known as Soviet culture. At least in New York our aesthetic has become simple, geometric with lots of blocked colors. For Kuznetsov, this is lifeless,
I really want to go from this place, from this city [Moscow]. I’m considering to be an artist. Being an artist in this city is not very real, or it’s not true, or honest.
His disregard for the art scene in Moscow isn’t just an attitude—it’s a state of survival. After years of traveling and working outside his country he knew that staying would be detrimental to his success,
In Moscow you always do something and compare yourself to someone else around you its like to learn how to play pool, but with no professionals, so you never learn it well.
As a teenager, Kuznetsov went to an abandoned nuclear plant outside of his town. Bored and wanting to leave a statement, he scratched the name of his hometown into the chipping paint. He always dreamed of creating art,
I dreamt about having a personal computer, which can afford me to make some graphic, I dreamt about comics which was unavailable in this country. I dreamt a lot about everything, so I am like a happy dreamer or what.
Seemingly late to the game, Kuznetsov could’ve been discarded as a replicate, someone hopping onto the coattails of nostalgia, but luckily, the European scene was just ramping up.
In the following years Kuznetsov became a front-runner, traveling as far as Hong Kong painting murals and throwing his tags, but it wasn’t enough for him,
I did my piece in Paris, I did my piece in Berlin or somewhere else, but regarding creativity and art, it’s quite different thing because graffiti nowadays…people are just doing it as masturbation—just for themselves.
It wasn’t until a terrorist attack on the Moscow Metro in 2010 that Kuznetsov truly began creating. Before, it had been tags and throws – bombing walls and train cars, but when tragedy struck so close to home he found himself reaching for a canvas. Kuznetsov recounts,
I was really upset and depressed in my home and on my balcony I had a canvas, which I really hate because of the scale, it was quite small for me, before I usually did walls like 6 meters…it was a massive attack, I was really feeling myself, I need to do something, I need to create something….so I selected several colors and took the canvas and just did something what I felt at the moment. Nothing figurative, no letters, nothing, just lines and sprays and that’s it. Then I stepped back and look on the canvas, I found myself that I really like what I see, but I cannot understand what it is because it’s totally different thing.
I’ve never stood in front of one of Kuznetsov’s paintings, but even through my computer screen I see the outsider mentality in his work, with each loud mark on the canvas, one feels his fight for survival. They resemble the complex dimensionality of De Kooning’s more abstract work, yet Kuznetsov’s rebellious side shines brighter, larger strokes sweeping diagonally across the canvas. While De Kooning used many colors, Kuznetsov, enjoys keeping a refined easel for each painting. These gestural abstractions layered upon each other hold you in a flux of intrigue and emotional collapse. To anyone educated in Soviet art, Kuznetsov is not to be considered the first artist to emerge from under a communist rule, but he shouldn’t be overlooked as one of the blossoming painters of this era.