Mikhail Siimes

Union Helsinki

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(Jorma T. Mattila)

The paintings of Mikhail Siimes (born 1961) avoid all attempts to classify them as representatives of some particular trend of style. He is clearly aware of different trends of style and takes influences from many, but based on traditions he creates carefully premeditated and unique artistic idiom of his own. For example he often combines geometrical and even decorative forms into his otherwise realistic and figurative paintings of people and other topics. Geometric forms might bring into your mind cubism, if you just take a hasty glance at the works, but that is not what it is about – or maybe it is, but only partly.

In order to understand deeply the works of Siimes it would be good to know the history of art of painting starting from primitive art all the way to medieval art, classicism and modernism. You can see in his works a strong influence of his artistic education in late 1980’s at Saint Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design (commonly known as Mukhina and in Soviet times known as Leningrad Vera Mukhina Higher School of Art and Design). In the spirit of German Bauhaus school Mukhina encouraged its students to combine artistic experiments and centuries-old academic traditions maintained by the masters of visual arts. In Mukhina Siimes – like other students – also learned varied range of technics from oil painting all the way to sculpture, and you can see it in his excellent way of utilizing different technics and materials.

Because of his Russian background Siimes has had influences from many masters of Russian art, including Pavel Filonov, Kazimir Malevitsh, Marc Chagall and Wassily Kandinsky. However, you can just barely see these influences in Siimes’ works, because he has developed an easily recognizable and distinctive style of his own and drawing influences only partly from the masters.

Leonid Kolpascikov, professor of Arts Studies at Mukhina, has characterized Siimes’ art cleverly as follows:

“In his works Siimes avoids complicated symbolic codices. The poetic nature of his works is based on concrete allegories and multidirectional comparisons. Objects, however, are not depicted naturalistically. By using very intricate floral plastic fragmentation in the pictures and in their background Siimes creates especially picturesque vibrations and musicality that is peculiar to the works of great masters.”

According to Kolpascikov each Siimes’ painting has a delicate color solution, which harmonizes perfectly with the topic and idea of the painting. The solutions of artistic idiom are carefully premeditated relating to each individual work. Siimes himself has stated that the idea of each painting always demands artistic idiom of its own.

Extremely exact working and aspiration for perfectness were crucial goals of the analytic art launched by the Russian art theoretician Pavel Filonov. These goals characterize well the approach and handprint of Siimes, too. In the sense demanded by analytic art his paintings are “done well”, and are finished outputs of analytical research process and masterful pieces of tour de force.

Siimes makes mostly oil paintings, but he uses many other technics as well. Lately he has done more and more sculptures, too. His sculptures are often minimalistically stylized human figures or realistic figures with a flavor of absurdism that makes benevolent joke about the tradition. Great example of the latter is a naturalistic bust of a man looking very much like Napoleon, who has on the top his Napoleon style hat a big cannon and in behind a strange arrangement of pipes, from where clouds of smoke gushes out every now and then. The title of the sculpture is “War or Peace?” – but Siimes leaves the task of answering the question to the viewer.