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Y. I., Vodonos, Art Expert, Member of the Artists’ Union, Head of the Russian Art section of Radishchev Art Gallery, Saratov.
Andrey Soldatenko is an unusually prolific artist who has entered his “early maturity” stage. He is in the perpetual process of search. At the early days of his artistic career, the Artist was greatly influenced by the lyrical heartfelt paintings by Yevgeniy Dmitriyevich Yali, a Saratov landscape artist, as well as socialising with the young artist of his age – Vladimir Korin and Yuri Umanets. The sprit of special “immersion” and unhurried, slightly detached contemplation inherent to this master and his talented followers is intrinsic to Soldatenko to a known extent. He is rooted in this tradition. However, the dominating component of his style was formed only within recent years, and it is substantially different from those masters, because it is dictated, first of all, by his personal vision of this world.
In the latest decade, the talented artist Ruslan Lavrinin’ko who stands out from the group of the senior generation of Saratov landscape artists became Andrey’s constant advisor and teacher. His personal example played significant role in the young Artist’s self-identification as a person and as an artist, cultivating responsibility for his outstanding talent.
A. Soldatenko became a free-lance artist in difficult times, at times when the art market was shaping out slowly and with difficulties, when the art criteria were easily compromised in pursue of commercial success. Survival criteria and criteria for the personal talent’s survival were mutually excluding. The demands of the market are no better than the requirements of the exhibition committees of the totalitarian era. They differ in their quality, but they are not less harmful in their seducing power for the talent who certainly needs support, but the kind of support which does not involve thematic and stylistic dictatorship.
The Artist had to find his special place in the multicoloured picture of the modern art. His emotional and aesthetic experiences grow from year to year. Perfecting the drawing and taking special care of the colour, it elevated to a higher level; we can hope that in the conditions of the expected post-crisis agitation he will be able to withstand the pressure without distracting himself with commercial projects. Andrey Soldatenko’s best pictures and studies are emotionally convincing and attract not by the superficial beauty of the scenery, but by the achieved harmony, the unity of the colour and graphic solutions. Most often, this is a lyrical generalization of the most common, not specially sought for motives of the Volga landscape. The Artist is most successful in depicting the poetry of the grey days, with their characteristic restrained colours and its special flow of colour over the canvas, making the canvas surface itself nearly the main element of the composition.
Many of elements similar to other Saratov landscape artists are imposed by the similarity of the nature motives: like some of the artists of the past, on many occasions Andrey was painting in Bannovka nighbourhood. Bannovka is a village to the South from Saratov, situated not so far from Shcherbakovka, the place famous among local artists of 1920 -1930, where Yakov Weber, a talented and experienced landscape artist permanently lived. There, in summer months artists were spending their vacation days, many of the young Saratov artists of that time were hinting and fishing there. Similarity of motives imposes certain similarity of graphic solutions.
The best of Soldatenko’s artworks are those where the feeling of a certain place of the Volga’s nature is presented being already partially transformed by his personal vision, and this has a special meaning. When O. Sidlin, St Petersburg artist and professor was asked:”How to paint – from nature or by using your imagination?” He sparked immediately: “Imagine from the nature!” Of course, he was talking about imagining not for the sake of satisfying an undemanding taste, but about freedom of the artistic imagination which transforms the visual reality of the chosen object. The most recent exhibition in Saratov demonstrated that Soldatenko follows this footpath.
Until recently, I was unaware of another dimension of Soldatenko’s art: he is the author of a number of “city fantasy” graphic works and paintings tinted with impressions from the paintings of foreign and national artists with clear features of the avant-garde search of 1920-s, he also has some purely decorative drawings and paintings.
Quite likely, this is the manifestation of the Artist’s designer education – More that other artists, he shows more explicit interest in morphogenesis, revealing the structural source of the depicted objects, colour compatibility of conditionally coloured surfaces, peculiarities of graphic rhythms and deliberate harmonization of chaotic. Nearly incompatible things co-exist in Soldatenko’s art – quite obtrusive pictorialism and nearly abstract paintings. At this stage, these tendencies exist separate from one another; they develop nearly in parallel and hardly overlap. It is hard to say which tendency will take the upper hand in his future artworks.
Over the last few years, Andrey Soldatenko gradually resolves the problem of splitting his efforts between the two burdens: to provide for his family and finance his true art projects by working on commercial paintings. The Artist’s name becomes known outside of the small circle of aesthetically enlightened collectors. The growing recognition and demand for his true art paintings gives the Artist a chance to pay undisturbed attention to real art, the works of sterling merit. This circumstance significantly stimulates his growth as an artist and makes his feeling of responsibility for his artworks yet stronger.