Viacheslav Shmagin is an artist who, in his creative work, is not a priori focused on one plastic system or checked viable form only; he is an experimentalist, a researcher sticking to hypothesis primacy and eternal pursuit strategy.

The artist entered the art “through the door” of the Leningrad non-conformism where “there are no strangers”. No one in that environment served any political ideas or, being ahead of time, created spectacular images of the mythologized promising future. The “artistic underground” situation didn’t force “to fall in” and “be like everyone”. They welcomed intellectual and emotional intentions, escape into marginal subjects and genres, formal-language findings, painting freedom culture and creative self-expression ease. These artistic norms are adopted by Viacheslav Shmagin art who formed his mentality in the dissident environment conditions.

The artist’s style is to a certain degree syncretic. It “translates” play nature of children’s creativity and the primitivism aesthetics closely connected to it; plastic metaphors and informal geometry based on individual exploration of simplified forms and their meaningful filling; the sacral perceived through the reduced image-sign; surrealistic insinuations and appeal to archetypical signal symbols and mythologems, petroglyph iconography stylization including.

Unlimited resource of the artist’s creative potential is based on awareness of the world’s infinity and its incomprehensibility and immeasurability. The world is like harmony found in relations and speculations. Shmagin starts with realization of his internal sensations. He is interested in the image meaning rather than in its visual adept. Internal suggestive-emotional “currents” are translated into the plastic coordinate system. His canvasses have got “inverted perspective”, they are open-ended, they radiate energy, strike up spiritual and visual meanings. Naturally, in return they require spectators’ acute perception — sensitivity, sympathy, involvement into deep layers of the pictures.

Shmagin is the artist who prefers serial thinking. He is hardly ever satisfied with single statements. In his latest series “Disclosure” (2011) the artist finds the ways to correlate the Orthodox icon language and the language of abstract, to keep spiritual balance moving to another dimension, to another plastic language.

Changing topography of matrix units, their scale, using rhythmic bias, rotating along the circular axis, movement and obliquity of vector lines, the artist recreates the painting’s inner space. Out of a few plastic elements the painting is growing into the infinite translating light conditions by its color and texture potential. The artist supposes that the color should keep the spiritual tradition of the art, reveal the inner ontology of the work. He can create “air” or light metaphysics appealing to dripping method, using paint texture overlapping, putting contrast color strokes into each other.

But the most important thing about Shmagin the artist is that he is open for the creative process. He possesses apology of grasping not outward reality manifestation but inner underlying meaning concealed by the surface of phenomena.

Deputy director fоr science, art critic Svetlana Olmezova
of the Museum of Modern Art on Dmitrovskaya

“The paintings by Shmagin — focused like prayers — straightly refer us to the next world which is full of sacral categories and high symbolic meanings. According to the artist, everything in life — from the great to the tiny — is permeated with the supreme and illumined with the image of the eternal spirit. Any natural phenomena and human events are accompanied by the invisible images which have endowed everything around with the imperishable sense and the content that unites the fragments of the earth life which seem to be utterly impossible to unite. This is where those rich artistic means and image interpretations in the artist’s works stem from. In his plastic constructions he activates bitterly vivid colouring as well as graphical silhouetteness, appeals to the festively decorative folk art and to the elevated order of the medieval traditions.

Obviously, such a scale of content richness couldn’t but surpass the bounds of traditional forms of expressiveness. It required extremely deep means of expressiveness able to endure a great load of sense. In other words, it became urgent for the artist he should develop a unique painting means of communication, a system of plastic signs providing a great variety of universal outlook categories.

Nikita Mahov

Viacheslav Shmagin is an artist with a personal style in which subtle intellect and high professionalism have become the dominant features.

Born in the province he now lives in a small town on the banks of the Volga river. Viacheslav Shmagin is highly conscious of his deep roots he never loses touch with. Warm patriotic feeling and genuine national humour are woven into his work and the artist succeeds in conveying them to us without the use of explicit and literal description. He’s developed his personal language that stems from the national folk culture and historical and personal background.

The lyrical metaphors and symbolically loaded mythological allusions of Viacheslav Shmagin’s paintings appeal to the viewer and require a very high level of associative perception. Balancing on the edge of Reality and Illusion they are fascinatingly mysterious and expressive. The artist’s work is a ceaseless attempt to gain insight into these fundamental mysteries of life. Major essences and the objects of his study are Space, Man, Soul – no simple soul but a personality with many facets – and their integrity with Nature.

Fundamental themes of human existence are philosophically interpreted and given a new sense and new colour by the artist.

Viacheslav Shmagin’s thematic repertoire is in many ways centred on the God being everywhere and the premise idea that Good is stronger than Evil, the truth and justice being the greatest values in the Universe.

It’s conveyed by the conceptual metaphor – stamps with “icons” – the implication of which traces to the architectonics and colouring of iconstasis.

A technique capable of depicting an object as an idea and portraying spirit as if it were visible makes it possible for the artist to gain the unity of painterly form and its content.

The tendency towards graphic distinctiveness of the plastic form is influenced by Viacheslav Shmagin’s graphic background. Graphic base of his canvases never disagrees with their painterly essence. Intervowen, they create an entire aesthetically refined space with colour vibrations and their expressive power contributing high decorative value to the paintings.

Semantically loaded colour is one of the most characteristic features of the artistic style.

Emotionally expressive spiritual power of the paintings executed with an ecstatic and lyrical empathy creates energy that attracts the viewer and in accordance with his inner temperament involves him into the magic world of their artistic images.

Irina Siradze

… “Watching the art of Shmagin is like looking into a kaleidoscope – strictly bound tradition with the gold and silver spledour and deep seriousness of icon painting is mixed with and has its knots dissolved by the respectless form and colour experiment of the present times”…

Lars Erik Selin

… “Viacheslav Shmagin translates national traditions into modern language, the roots of which go back to the cultural heritage of the Byzantine Empire.

The organization of space in many of his works of the 1990s seems to be inspired by the icons, frescoes and applied art of the Byzantine style, such as the medieval enamel diptychs by Constantinople masters, in which the metal bases, frames, and artistic depictions are executed in the same plane.

He finds an unusual, remarkable, and harmonious blend of the “antiquated” and the “contemporary”…

From an article by Patricia Ferretti
for the “Icone del Duemila” exhibition catalogue