Foreword to BORIS CHETKOV - ACROSS ALL BARRIERS (2007)
Few can be indifferent to the work of Boris Chetkov, a powerful artist whose life has been far from ordinary. The Pushkin Group’s monograph on his life and art continues their exciting project to acquaint the non-Russian world with Russian artists whose work has been unjustly undervalued and left out of the limelight of the international art scene.
Sadly, there are many such artists, individuals whose fate was twisted and distorted by the age of totalitarian culture, yet Chetkov stands apart in this long list. He felt the pressure of the regime from his earliest childhood: born into a peasant family at a time when Stalinist collectivization was utterly destroying the peasant way of life. He passed through the Gulag and then the war, overcoming adversity and terrible illness to gain his artistic education despite opposition from the system. Then he went on to spend many frustrated years stuck, tucked away in the provinces, working at a small glass factory. Yet even there his talents would not be contained. He created amazing works in the world of glass and received the recognition of his peers. But applied art was only the visible part of his professional life.
Chetkov was born to paint. Deep within him churned a passion and an unbending desire to paint - to show his art to the world. He understood his calling not just with his mind, but with his heart and soul, and he followed it. He became not only a painter and draughtsman but emerged at the forefront of contemporary art, totally independently. He belonged to no group, had no support of like-minded fellows or of friends and artists who proclaimed similar principles. Often he worked totally cut off from any idea of what was happening in the mainstream.
Chetkov works in a multitude of styles, equally at home within very different stylistic worlds: Post-Impressionism, Neo-Expressionism, Surrealism, the Vienna School of Fantastical Realism. Such freedom of navigation through the ocean of painted culture in the 20th century has been achieved largely through his powerful, organic understanding of color. This gut-level almost tactile embrace of color allowed the artist to realize his full potential ‘across all barriers’ (to use the expression of great Russian poet Boris Pasternak). Barriers erected by schools, trends and rules. The art critic Alexander Borovsky has justly described Chetkov as an Ageless Modernist. I can only agree with him, for this is an artist, a man with the powerful urge to create, who truly does not age, who does not tire, and most importantly, who never gives in.
Dr Albert Kostenevich
The State Hermitage Museum