(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s >>
The New Artists.
Timur Novikov: Roots – E-E Kozlov: Cosmos
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov with fishing rod and rucksack.
Voronikhin Colonnades with granite lions, Peterhof Palace Garden (Lower Park), 1980. Kozlov's star sign is Leo.
Photo: Viktor Labutov
Part Two. E-E Kozlov and Peterhof
Chapter 10. Fishing at Peter the Great’s pond
As antagonistic as they may appear, both Leningrad’s bright pop art and Moscow’s rhetoric overcharge had something in common. It was the mocking tone of dada defying the authorities – the Soviet “stiob” (“styob”) – more playful in the case of Leningrad and more sardonic in the case of Moscow (perhaps because of Stalin’s obsessions, radiating from the Kremlin). Yet artists from both cities presented ironical distance as the only possible attitude towards the state of affairs, that is, towards the official image of the Soviet Union as the world’s first socialist state. Whatever native roots were being considered, they passed through the filter of stiob.
There was, however, a third position – Evgenij Kozlov‘s position: to take art seriously, without the stiob. It didn’t it exclude humour. Rather, taking art seriously means that for Kozlov, his commitment to art – or art’s commitment to him – expressed itself not as a reaction to favourable or unfavourable circumstances, but as an aesthetisation of what he perceived. Like Kandinsky, he awarded it a spiritual dimension through his art.
This is perhaps most obvious in his portraits, and I will quote once more from Kozlov’s comment on his Portrait of Timur Novikov with Arms Consisting of Bones: “I aim for the complete transformation of the person, which can be also called ‘spiritual metamorphosis’”. And this is why Georgy Guryanov declared “I prefer to all others those portraits Evgenij Kozlov painted of me” and “His works made a big impact on me personally”. 
Kozlov’s art is, in a manner of speaking, “augmented reality”, as reflected in the name of his studio: Galaxy Gallery. His art transforms meaning through a subtle and rich sense of harmony fostered by a specific type of native roots. The key word is harmony: Kozlov was lucky enough that he was not living in total discord with what surrounded him. It was due the fact that he lived outside Leningrad – in Petrodvorets, as Peterhof was called during the Soviet times. Peterhof, the summer residence of the Russian Tsars on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, helped him to define his own position in art.
Consequently, in the second part of this article, as I am returning to the question of Evgenij Kozlov’s native roots in art, I will consider it no longer as a question of determining the influence of a particular artist or style. Rather, as suggested in the introduction, I will “include Peterhof into a wider concept of native roots and thereby extend native roots to native culture, or, perhaps, to a more spiritual concept of native atmosphere, the latter being free of any patriotic undertones.” For the sake of clarity, I decided to discuss three aspects of Peterhof in three different chapters – leisure, work, and studio – as each of them contributed to Kozlov’s art in a specific way, all the same interrelating with the other ones. The last chapter, “A perception of pureness” is dedicated to Kozlov’s conceptual approach to art which might just as well be called his empirical approach to art, as it is based on his intimate experience of the creative process. His concept was fostered by the positive aspects of Peterhof, which, for their part, allowed him to transcend the limiting aspects of everyday life.
Kozlov moved from Leningrad to Peterhof in 1971, at the age of fifteen or sixteen, when his parents finally received the keys to their own flat in one of the new quarters not far from the Grand Palace . It was a modest 44m2, 2-room flat in one of those typical five-storied brick blocks nicknamed “krushchovka” (after Nikita Khrushchev), but compared to the family’s 12m2 room in a communal flat in Leningrad, it was luxury.
Although Kozlov continued attending his school in Leningrad and later commuted to the city regularly, the relocation to Peterhof/ Petrodvrets had a fundamental impact on him: both Saint Petersburg and Peterhof have preserved the imperial past, yet Saint Petersburg’s palaces are integrated into an urban tissue, while Peterhof’s palaces, the Russian Versailles, are set before nature’s open horizon. This set his spirit free.
Even Peterhof’s new housing areas were different from Leningrad’s densely structured microdistricts built on the fringe of the historical centre. Kozlov’s block of flats offered a stunning view of a park with trees lining the Samson canal aqueduct supplying water for the fountains of the palace gardens. When he stood on the balcony, Peterhof Palace appeared on one side, while on the other side, Lugovoi Park could be seen – hiding the ruins of the Pink Pavilion, the subject of one of Kozlov’s drawings from 1983.
We may list the names of those who built Peterhof’s palaces and designed interiors and gardens – Domenico Trezzini, Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond, Johann Friedrich Braunstein, Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, Jacob Philipp Hackert, Andrei Stackenschneider, Andrei Voronikhin, Giacomo Quarenghi, Leonardt van Harnigfelt, and James Meders, to name just a view. This almost equalled a trip to Europe.
However, if we want to make a case for Peterhof as being part of Kozlov’s native roots, this does not mean that we simply extend the list of names from the Russian avant-garde to the 19th and 18th centuries, making it more European. First of all, these names are not specific for Peterhof alone; we find most of them in Saint Petersburg as well. Second, extending the list of “influences” backward would lead us much further back in time – through the collection of the Hermitage, to the old masters like Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Rubens, but also to antique art. Besides, Kozlov was by far not the only New artist familiar with the treasures displayed at Leningrad’s museums.
But if Leningrad stood for power, Peterhof stood for leisure. Imperial leisure certainly had a representational function, but not in the first place – Peterhof was a retreat shaped by the personal preferences and tastes of its owners. Apart from the main palace, “a grandiose triumphal memorial glorifying the grandeur of Russia”, as the official website of Peterhof Museum informs us , there are a number of smaller palaces and retreats set in the beautifully designed Lower Park, like the Monplaisir Palace or the Hermitage Pavilion – not counting those many palaces and parks in and around Peterhof town.
Among these places, Marly Palace had special significance for Kozlov, and I will start with a description of this location taken from Saint-Petersburg.com:
This section of the park at Peterhof was the last to be developed during Peter’s reign, and it began with the digging of the two ponds – one rectangular, one crescent shaped – that surround the Marly Palace. The ponds were stocked with carp and zanders for the royal kitchen. Work began on the ponds and the landscaping of the surrounding area in early 1720 and, later in the same year, on the house itself.[…]
This is how Kozlov remembers the place when looking back to the 1980s today:
It was just at short but pleasurable ride, along Olga’s Pond and the Tsaritsina Pavilion, and then through a very quiet and very empty town before we arrived at one of the western entrances of the Lower Park which wasn’t closed or guarded, at least normally. We then carried the bicycle down the steps following the Golden Hill Cascade with its beautiful arrangement of statues, walked past the Triton Fountains and settled at the pond with our fishing rods, to relax. Apart from the two of us, there were only two other anglers coming regularly, so everybody knew each other.
Peterhof palaces and gardens had been heavily damaged by German troops during World War II and were entirely reconstructed starting in 1944. The works took several decades, and Kozlov and his friend Viktor actually enjoyed the sight of a reconstructed Marly Palace. Yet by the 1980s, the town still – or again – had its own share of dilapidated historical buildings, from modest wooden houses to splendid manor houses. Some of them stood in in the very centre of town, including buildings not even touched by the war – just slowly falling apart. There were also examples of modern structures or facilities that lacked maintenance, like the metal double gates at the rear entrance to the watch manufacturer “Raketa”: the right gate was deformed and its metal meshwork hanging loose, as if a lorry had crashed into it. Kozlov selected them for a photo shoot to contrast it with Viktor’s first-class fashionable appearance.
But those neglected places could not spoil the overall impression of a courtly exclave to the communist reality. According to Evgenij Kozlov, the scarcity of political propaganda, of banners with political slogans and of photographs featuring the holy trinity Marx, Engels and Lenin or contemporary political heroes greatly contributed to this impression.
What has yet remained a somewhat abstract concept of Evgenij Kozlov’s sense of harmony, we can now define, with regard to Peterhof, as a well-balanced combination of man-made and natural elements created for imperial leisure and recreation. Its main features are elegance, refinement, variation, individual taste, space, nature (gardens and parks), and water (ponds, lakes and the seashore). All this became part of Evgenij Kozlov’s native culture.
In other words, Peterhof possessed none of that scenographic monumentalism characterising Soviet representational architecture, none of those huge central squares to celebrate heroic victories – Peterhof’s heroism was that of the meticulous reconstruction of its aristocratic past, and the results are truly praiseworthy.
 see also Fobo, Hannelore: Why shouldn’t one play with a funny nose on? The “styob”. In Pop Mekhanika in the West, 2018
 see Chapter 7
 Но мне больше других нравятся мои портреты работы Евгения Козлова. Quoted from Ekaterina Andreeva’s interview with Georgy Guryanov, first published in Timur. “Vrat’ tol’ko pravdu” [Тимур. «Врать только правду!»], ed. Ekaterina Andreeva. Saint Petersburg: Amfora, 2007, p. 136
 Его произведения тогдашние производили сильное впечатление, на меня лично. Ibid., p. 138
 This part of town is called “New Peterhof”, as opposed to “Old Peterhof”, which is less idyllic then the name suggests.
 Peterhof State Museum Reserve. Official website. Peterhof History. Web 24 August 2020
 Marly Palace. Web 24 August 2020
Saint-Petersburg.com is a commercial website promoting Saint-Petersburg as a travel destination.
 In a private conversation, June 2020.
Research / text / layout: Hannelore Fobo, May / September 2020.
Uploaded 24 September 2020