(Sverdlovsk – RUSSIE, 1933)
Erik Bulatov was born in Sverdlovsk (now Ekaterinburg), where his father had been posted, in 1933. In 1936, his family moved to Moscow, where he grew up. Erik Boultatov’s parents were firm believers in communism, and his education was conducted according to the Soviet norms (he was engaged in the Pioneer and Komsomol movements). Fascinated by painting from an early age, in 1947 he attended the Moscow Secondary School of Art. He learned to paint in a peculiar context, where any painting that was foreign, hostile to the established regime or outside the scope of official aspirations was forbidden. Even the Impressionists were censored. This repression gradually led Boulatov to break with the Soviet system.
Following Stalin’s death in 1953, a certain thaw took place. Boulatov established himself as the best pupil of his school. He was therefore granted the Lenin scholarship to join the Sourikov Institute and was allowed to travel to India. A bright official career lay ahead of him. Nevertheless, he decided to take the lead in the revolution against the Institute’s education in order to change its academic program. He believed that “true creation and official art had become irreconcilable” and that “in Russia (his) enemy was ideology as ideology was the enemy of art”. He then met professors expelled from the Institute who taught him an alternative vision of painting, as well as artists who shared the same values as his – like Ilya Kabakov. To live up to his artistic ideology, he worked on illustration for more than thirty years in order to earn a living and to paint in secret. In 1957, he discovered Pop Art at the World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow which exerted a predominant influence on art in the Soviet Union.
His work was presented for the first time on the other side of the Wall in 1973, at the Dina Vierny gallery, during the Russian avant-garde – Moscow 73 exhibition.
In Boulatov’s paintings, an almost photographic vision of the world is confronted with linguistic representation. This confrontation is the result of a long reflection on abstraction, light and semiology. Each painting is the fruit of a process emerging from a ceaseless exploration of the pictorial space and a continual questioning of the representation of social space.
Starting from a structural search, in the spirit of Malevich, Boulatov then shifted to an objective vision of reality where the letter was to take in hand the abstract force of language. Photography became the necessary instrument with which to capture a subjective perception.
Autoportrait (Pas d’entrée), 1973
Huile sur toile
110 x 110 cm