BRONENOSETS POTEMKIN, 2014
Series of 98 drawings on paper, nero pencil on paper
2016 Dom Kino (House of Cinema), Moscow
2015 The Richard J. Massey Foundation For Arts and Sciences, New York
2014 Gallery Heike Curtze Petra Seiser, Vienna
Martina Yordanova in an interview with Nestor Kovachev
15th April 2015, Vienna
Martina Yordanova: Bronenosets Potemkin, based on Sergei Eisenstein’s eponymous film, is not your first conceptual series of drawings, as you refer to it yourself. In 2012 you create a series of 80 drawings based on Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film, Uccellacci e uccellini, and in 2013 you dedicate a series of drawings to the Bulgarian film The Tied Up Balloon, directed by Binka Zhelyazkova. What prompted you to begin these conceptual series of drawings?
Nestor Kovachev: There was a DVD with some technical errors I watched in 2010; the film was experiencing jump cuts all the time due to poor video performance; a year later I decided to go back to Pasolini’s film and start work on my first drawings. I decided to put a new plotline together, different from the original screenplay, by integrating sequences from the film. The camera work and the local inexperienced actors had remained stuck in my memory, and it was these moments I have used as samples.
The individual elements and images found in the previous drawings I have done are not based on pure imagination. I search for all kinds of books; I collect newspapers, magazines, books of science, encyclopedias, brochures, and then combine them only to integrate them in my drawings.
And that is the reason why it was not hard for me to turn to cinematography with my first series of drawings. The medium is different, but I noticed I could follow the plotline to a certain extent by applying the sequences and achieving the motif of recurrent imagery in my work. For me, it was rather a different approach to drawing, a visual survey of variables.
MY: What prompted you to choose the films you mentioned?
NK: My choice is a form of tribute to the work of the director, yet, the visual language, successfully represented in each of the films, is equally important. I sometimes go over movies I have seen but remember little about, but I fail to find the connectivity that would unite and replicate my intended ideas. I have sometimes taken up drawing but have eventually ended up leaving my sketches unfinished for lack of specific narrative occurrence or for being too banal. With the first two series it was a matter of finality, a matter of being able to end the story on a high note. Both Pasolini’s and Binka Zhelyazkova’s films have a similar ending and have been created within almost the same time span, but a different social environment. I am not looking for parallels here; each project carries its own individuality. It even depends on the location where I work sometimes.
The size of the drawings is the same, 15 x 21 cm, as well as the technique, Nero pencil. These two components give the systematic touch to my work, which is why I call it conceptual drawings series. The film Bronenosets Potemkin, directed by Sergei Eisenstein, stands out with its propaganda style, typical of the time. The incredible cinematographic qualities and the strongly accentuated scenes in the film were what prompted me to do this series of drawings. The plotline can always be seen and represented in different ways; what is more, it can even serve as an instrument of manipulation.
MY: Tell me more about the creation of the series, the choice of individual sequences and the ending you have manipulated in Bronenosets Potemkin’s plotline.
NK: The series Bronenosets Potemkin consists of 98 drawings and is the largest of the other four. The film is built upon 5 chronologically ordered sections, I have retained this sequencing in my work, but I have changed some parts of the plotline and the film ending. In part three Vakulchnik is killed and his body is taken to the shore in order to be paid homage to. I have dropped this part entirely, leaving the ending open. The series ends with a white piece of drawing paper, with fingerprints and pencil marks left on it, which can be interpreted as a question. Since this film is emblematic for the silent movie making industry, I have used many drawings with nothing but text on them in order to keep the narrative style going. On the other hand, I have integrated some others, containing as much scanty imagery as possible, making reference to constructivism. Thus, I manage to achieve the desired balance. I have worked on this series of drawings for about a year, which has also influenced my decisions on the types of sequences used, on the ones I have excluded and the ones I wanted to showcase. Having finished one specific part, I would start another; with every previous series I chose the sequences from the very beginning, so there was no need to go back to the film so often. With Potemkin it was different, I guess, because it is deep in strong images. However, I was thus able to make a more objective overview and create some distance. I first wanted to see the finished drawings and then to connect them with the next one. Some drawings did not fit and I had to take them out during the final process of drawing selection.
MY: Is there any significant change in the idea imbedded, from the first to the last series you have created?
NK: Every film and every series is an entirely new project for me, I always start from scratch. There are changes, indeed, especially in the style and technique of drawing, I think there is improvement in my work with every new series……* /laughs here/. Before I started the series I had not been drawing so regularly and systematically for a long time. For my last series, though, I have included moments from the present as well as some colour pencil drawings, something I have not done so far.
My idea builds up while working, I sometimes start one way but then the idea develops and changes direction. Not all series work out. I started work on Fritz Lang’s Metropolis but I saw how inappropriate it was and gave up on the idea of working on this series of drawings.
MY: The sequential nature of the drawings could trace the relationship between the art of drawing and the narrative practices of film making. What importance does it have for you and the pieces of art you create?
NK: I believe the projects I draw need this sequential, narrative nature in order to act upon the viewer. I have always been interested in order and chaos, in repetition and uniqueness, in banality and originality, so I often juxtapose them in my work. The exhibition of self-portraits from 2011, the Wittgenstein project and some of my other works are narrative in essence, so this is the order that helps me achieve sequence in them.
MY: What about the repetition?
NK: I have learned one thing in life, and that is: “Repetition makes perfect”.
MY: Who are the artists you bear special feelings and interest towards?
NK: Those are artists working with various kinds of media and the different areas of visual arts. Among some of the names are: Helen Marten, Michael Börremans, Marcel Van Eeden, Ugo Rondinone, Hans Op De Beek, Jeff Wall, William Kentridge, etc.
MY: In the meantime you attended an artist in residency program, organized by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul (Korea), where you created another series of conceptual drawings, based on the Korean film, Fisherman`s Fire (1939) by Ahn Chul-yeong. Shall we expect any other similar series soon?
NK: Currently, I am not planning on creating a new series of drawings, although I have had this idea of working on another silent movie for some time now.