Boris Chetkov (1926-2010)
Boris Chetkov was born in 1926 to a family of wealthy farmers in Novaya Lyalya (Sverdlovsk region), but collectivisation in the 1930s forced his family to abandon their land and look for work in collective farms and factories in the Urals. Arrested at the age of 16 for ‘hooliganism’, he was sent to the Gulag near Nizhny Tagil, but shortly before the end of the war, in 1944, he was enlisted in a tank regiment in service of Latvia in the Courland Pocket blockage.
Though he demonstrated artistic talent in his childhood, Chetkov only began his formal training in 1949, ultimately earning his diploma from Saint Petersburg State Art and Industry Academy in 1966 (despite hostility of Communist Party members who disapproved of his artistic freedom and his openness to Western art).
In 1967, he became a master glassmaker in the glass factory in Malaya Vishera. He enhanced the production and manufacturing processes, experimenting with different techniques and finishes, including those of Venice: ‘glass work is bewitching, it frees your imagination; the artist becomes a magician, creating an object from a shapeless, burning paste… Glass has set fire to my heart and has left a profound burn.’
While his glass works were exhibited throughout the world in the 1970s as ‘Artist of the Soviet Union’, Chetkov devoted himself to painting, which he would practice frantically and in isolation until the fall of the USSR because his art was in conflict with the Socialism imposed by the regime.
Although far removed from the international artistic community, he developed a powerful style featuring bright colours and a lively execution, as successful in Abstract Expressionism (evocative of Kandinsky) as in figurative painting, his favourite subjects being equine art, still life, music, and portraiture. His art was described as Fantastic Realism by his friend Ernst Fuchs (1930-2015), a versatile artist and founder of an eponymous movement in Vienna.
Always inclined to experiment with new media and palettes, Chetkov sought to transpose his glasswork into his paintings, in particular by developing the richness of colours and glazes that seem to emit a ‘glow’ from the painting itself. He also applied his painting techniques to his glass work.
Finding himself at odds with the Communist Party again, Chetkov was forced to leave the factory in 1979, which was extremely difficult for him. As a result, his production diminished drastically, and his palette became much more dull. Around 1987 he found his creative energy again, which was fully released by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. In the 1990s, he painted some 400 works including countless abstract works, each work demonstrating a great palette of masterfully controlled colours.
This is also the moment when his art crossed Russia’s borders: special exhibitions were organised in Germany and in the United States, and he participated in group exhibitions in Australia, Japan, and China. In the United Kingdom in 2013, at the inauguration of Russian Art Week, a special posthumous exhibition paid tribute to him.
Chetkov’s works are located at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, as well as in private collections around the world.read more >>
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Art works from Boris Chetkov
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