by Gudrun Wurlitzer
Yellow is the color that speaks to Alexei Kostroma. But, of course, this is only one of the aspects that makes Kostroma so unique; eggshells, and feathers are also strong elements threaded through his work.
In his early days as an artist, Kostroma provided a spectacular public installations. He ‘feathered’ the historic canon which stands in front of the Peter and Paul Fortress in St.Petersburg. It used to make the windows of the Hermitage Museum opposite from it tremble when fired on certain occasions.
“Canons were the first weapons of mass destruction” Kostroma explains, “and my act of ‘feathering’ which took place at the beginning of the Tchetchenian war, was my pacifistic statement to bring art not war into the world.” This is how feathering started and the canon has been standing ever since then in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
Kostroma works only with organic materials, “nature works like society and that´s the theme for my whole life”.
Amongst Kostroma’s collection stand an array of striking yellow paintings, which are made of organic lemon yellow pigment, hardened with a special glue. “They are like stone,” Kostroma remarks as he encourages me to touch them, and although they appear to live in 3D life they lay completely flat.
“Lemon yellow is the most active and powerful of all colors,” Kostroma states, “and so I developed the idea about a lemon yellow earth, it’s like the inside of my personality.”
Kostroma has been working on a theory of color for many years, having thick handwritten folios which are artworks in themselves. “It´s all about time and numbers, and each number has its own color. Numbers structure the world and that´s why they are part of my philosophy.”
Sometimes Kostroma hides these numbers within his art, like in the ‘eggshell flower’. For viewers who come to admire such creativity and thoughtfulness the numbers can only be viewed if you shine an ultraviolet lamp upon them.
The eggshells and their numbers form a logical system, in this case the true formula of the egg form. Why eggshells? “Calcium is an eternal material. Just consider the dinosaurs!”
Kostroma explains his theory as, “numbers are like atoms or pixels. I built my own world, starting from insects.” In fact, his insect paintings consist completely of numbers, which you only start recognizing when you look closely, which Kostroma calls ‘Figurative-Numerical Painting’.
Just as we prepare to leave, Kostroma grants us a big surprise. He starts to show us some of his very early paintings, which he began completing from the age of thirteen at Lyceum. His first landscape was an impressionistic painting. When he was sixteen years old, he did a portrait of Lenin along to Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. A whole gallery of ‘old-masterly’ looking paintings followed, and finally Kostroma positioned them between his recent works. What a documentation of how fundamental training in early days can lead to mastery.