Oleg Khvostov: "Lavanda and LavandOs is the copulation of a horse with a donkey. LavandOs is a slang word meaning money, and money is a kind of currency. LavAndos is a painting of the lavender of my creation – irreproachable economic units, loose, exchangeable coins. The Dollars are the portrait gallery, the Euros and Rubles are the architectural landscapes. LavAndos are lavender landscapes. Pictures with paint on canvas. Only mine and no one else's. Oil and acrylic. But there may be portraits too, also with lavender interspersed throughout. A lavender Putin, for example. LavAndos' exchange rate depends on the size of the canvas. A portrait is worth more than a landscape. Landscapes with objects more than just landscapes…
Oleg Khvostov (born in 1973) is a famous Petersburg artist. He began actively exhibiting and gained a reputation at the end of the 1990s, joining the "Partnership of the New Dullards" group. These bon-vivants and intellectuals, fans of Daniel Kharms and the Russian futurists, once, for example, joined a typical election campaign and urged voters to vote for Russian cartoon characters Cheburashka and Crocodile Gena as the "most humane candidates".
In this group, whose members preferred exclusively performances and happenings, Khvostov was responsible for the painting, which he later made his focus after the group split up at the beginning of the 21st
century. Khvostov made his first appearance in Moscow in 2005, invited by Marat Gelman, who liked the portraits of world leaders on cardboard boxes. He offered Khvostov the opportunity to exhibit. Oleg worked for a few months on a model of the Kremlin made of cardboard boxes, but the project did not make it to the public at that point. However, in 2010, the installation was shown alongside 40 paintings, portraits and landscapes, in Gridchinhall in the Moscow suburbs, where Khvostov worked almost a year on his first large exhibit, "Absolute Painting".
In modern jargon, "lavandos" means money, but most of the paintings from this series are picturesque images of the plant Lavandula of the Lamiaceae family. The bright, screaming, contrasting colors of the paintings in this series simultaneously attract and disquiet. And this entire disquieting extravaganza of vociferous coloration is quite thoroughly reproduced in the view of the lavender fields in Provence. In the summer of 2013, the artist made a special trip there, from which he returned with vivid artistic impressions, as well as a lavender pigment that he added to his traditional set of canvas-oil-acrylic. The images of fields, trees, mountains, and clouds take us back to the second peasant cycle of Kazimir Malevich, and recall the fantastic vegetation in Henri Rousseau's pictures or the industrial flatness of the object world in Fernand Leger's canvasses, while the coloring in Khvostov's own lavender works clearly approaches Picasso's blue period. Certain landscapes are deeply minimalist, almost abstract, while others are rife with detail and references. The cows in fields favored by the lesser Dutch masters and the Barbizon school look on from Kholstov's paintings with melancholic incomprehension. The houses with black apertures speak of inner emptiness. The planes of unknown airlines flying to unknown places are the lives of people, moving in an unknowable direction and leaving multicolored traces. But next to the "museum" cows we unexpectedly see an image in the painting of Florentine Hoffman's huge duck, which travelled around the world and now has jumped onto Kholstov's canvas, or Jeff Koons' dogs – of course, in lavender. Suddenly, against the backdrop of flowering lavender, we see Mona Lisa, worn out from being constantly referenced, pained and frazzled, with cow-like incomprehension in her eyes. Also unexpected is the bright final spot in the exhibition – the "lavender" portraits and the monumental triptych "Occurrence in Avignon near the papal court-yard".
Based on actual plein-air observation and rich with references to art history, Khvostov's paintings create a sort of window into a parallel world, a world meant for peaceful perusal. Who knows? Maybe the artist is already considering, like Yves Klein, patenting his lavender formula.