Mikhail Shvartsman

4 June 1926, Moscow - 17 November 1997, Moscow

Mikhail Matveevich Shvartsman was a muralist, mystic, philosopher, teacher, outstanding graphical artists and a founder of the well-known Moscow school of graphical design – one of just a few masters of the 20th century whose creativity was a landmark in the development of a new language for art. His artistic-philosophical system, called ‘hieratism’ by the painter, was embodied in his painting and graphic art with equal force. The artist arrived at an original stylistics with no direct analogy. His art, founded on an interpretation of the symbol as a form, relates to the complex philosophical and religious aspects of everyday life. As a rule, Shvartsman’s canvases contain a non-objective pictorial structure in which its own hidden life of forms exists, covering the metamorphoses of the life of the Universe. Each of the masters ‘hieratic’ features a high level of spiritual concentration. The impression of sacrosanctity, suggested by distinct architectonics in its compositional construction, symmetry, the frontality of attitudes, the hierarchical variety of sizes of the figures, is supplemented by a rigorous harmony of colouring. The abstract forms act as symbols of truth, the spiritual essence of phenomena on planet earth. In one sense, Shvartsman’s paintings represent a prayer requiring no spoken commentary, one which is embodied in colour, form and shapes. Hermetically sealed by the composition, reminiscent of ancient totems or magical altars, sometimes furnished with cryptic writing, his work combines techniques from the avant-garde movements in art – cubism and surrealism - with an archaic-cultural semantic. His hieratics are in one respect innocent and consciously simplified, they are pointedly man-made: brush marks are visible, there is a tangible coarseness to the strokes and the relief of a thickly applied paint can be seen.