Vassilev Oleg

 ‘One day I defined what art means for me – creating a space which is dear to me. This searching for a space for my favourite objects…The difficulty is that life is far more complex, for this reason you cannot just own what you love, other things also get intermingled’.
‘In all my work, I try to combine what is happening in different places, at different times, in different lights. It is a search in honour of many different things. When brought together, they become animated’.

Born in 1931

Oleg Vladimirovich Vassilev is one of the leaders of the unofficial art of the 1960’s-70’s. Working with Erik Bulatov from the start of the 1960’s, Oleg Vassilev worked on the illustration of children’s books for the ‘Detgiz’ and ‘Malish’ publishing houses. Their creative partnership lasted successfully for 33 years. The time not spent working on the designs for the publications, around six months a year, was devoted to their own independent creativity. At this time, the artist began to research the possibilities of painting as a specific language. Moving away Favorsky’s system, he studied the problem of the ‘world of the picture’, its surfaces and boundaries, its internal energy currents, the transformation of objects and space within the limits of the canvas. It was then that the main themes, which have continued in his work after he had left Russia right up to the present day, came into being: memories of home, streets, forests, fields, friends and family. In 1965 Vassilev completed his first work ‘Anzer’ which is considered the start of his creativity. His works often refer to literary quotations and allusions, from classic up to contemporary literature, from Chekhov, Faulkner, Homer up to Vsevolod Nekrasov and others. The literary references are the key to the picture’s space. Many of his works exist as a continuum / series, each connected to all the others. In 1990 the artist left for America where he continues to live to this day. The photo-realist poetics of Oleg Vassilev is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable phenomena in modern Russian painting.

“For me, the most important key to understanding Vassiliev’s paintings and to some extent his life position (in our situation, it often seems impossible to separate the two) is the concept of the “light” as illuminating all the components of existence within consciousness itself, and generally everything “real”, snatching it out of darkness, blackness, “unsightedness”. Here, there is a profoundly fundamental thought that so-called “life” contains nothing, in the most precise sense of word; something “is”, and starts to emerge, only when exposed to the ray of consciousness, to its “light”, – Ilya Kabakov.

"I believe that Oleg Vassiliev is the most Russian of the Russian artists living today, because he does not just express one particular quality of Russian art but its essence, its very core from which the various qualities of Russian art spring forth," – Eric Bulatov.

The artist's work can be found in the following museums and collections:
On Black Paper
Contemporary art Museum
Portrait of Ratgauz
Kolodzei Art Foundation