"The town of Slutsk (Belarus), where I was born April, 30 1951, is about 1,000 years old. I considered it to be a small and cosy centre of the universe with its small bridges, abundant gardens, and with a certain cultural setup. If leave the town and go to the direction of the village called Jampol, then you can reach a big water meadow smelling of sweet flags and water lilies. There, behind grazing cows and the meadow there was Britain - that was the time when it seemed to me I saw over there certain buildings with tiled roofs. I was sure there was China behind the railway station, and there, through windows of houses I saw Chinese lanterns and Chinese beauties on printed pictures pinned up on walls. Poland was nextdoor, in granny Jadzia's flat with its fireplace made of black stone tile, with its wall with heaps of small photos, Catholic pictures and crucifixes. But the most unforgettable and vivid impression in my memory stays the old cemetery. It seemed to me that was the place where in the shadows of giant-like maples and lindens, among embossed gravestones my happy childhood is left, sometimes it returns to me in my dreams. After my service in the Army I got to Minsk, I settled at my relative's. The old house where she lived - it is called the Masons' House - was in the Upper Town, the most picturesque district of the city, so it really was a great luck for me. From 1975 to 1980 I studied at the Academy of Arts, the Department of Design. After graduation I worked in the style of book-art, many of my works are awarded, also I worked in the sphere of advertizing. The first poster co-authored with Sergei Voichenko was done for «Pesniary» band in 1979".
"I was born November, 15 1955 in the town of Mariupol (former Zhdanov, Ukraine) in a family of a sailor. Since 4 years old I have been living in Minsk. All my mother's relatives are from here. Old, survived through the war streets (they do not exist now - they were demolished because of new buildings), people who lived there and who were of different layers of society and faiths - have formed my attitude towards the world and defined my way in art. In 1969 I entered specialized secondary art school, the sculpture department. But the smell of oil paints moved me and I changed my subject to painting. It was one of the best art schools in the former Soviet Union. In the school I got good drawing and classical painting. All I had to do was to find my direction and style in art. Those were the years when my tastes in cinema, architecture, art and even in cooking were cleared and formed. We had to work in the night in workshops as the days were not enough. We would listen to music which was impossible to get in Soviet shops: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin. In 1974 I finished my schooling and in 1975 I entered the Academy Of Arts, the Department of Design, where I met my present co-author Vladimir Tsesler. New fresh ways of projecting, of experimental painting were favoured at this deparment contrary to the other departments of the Academy. Inspired by that wave of experiments I started painting and posters and in 1984 I proved my diploma with the set of posters "History of Minsk". Since then I have been always taking part in international posters' biennale. After perestroika it has become possible to hold expositions of non-traditional painting and objects' sculpture. I think that my ideation formed by design studying allows me to find non-standard decisions even in traditionally conservative art spheres".
"One window of the old HOUSE ATTIC faced a noisy street and the other - a silent yard, quite green in summer. Friends often came there, under the roof, to the artists' studio and stayed there long after midnight." Sketch from Old Monmartr series. Or Artistic Petersburg. But scarcely Minsk. There are few old attics here. Since there are few old houses- if not with pedigree, but with history, pitched roofs and wooden beams at the attics: the signs of age on the face of the 900-year-old city have been erased by such radical plastic operations, that this Brugge's coeval does not look more than 80 at first sight.
However, Tsesler and Voichenko managed to find their wrinkle-fold, chink-crack on the smoothed by road-rollers surface of the ordinary (in the sense of a model) Soviet city about fifteen years ago1. Since then friends have been coming and staying here long after midnight2.
Most brick houses with gabled roofs in Minsk were built by German prisoners after the war. But the house at the intersection of Pervomaiskaya and Krasnoarmeiskaya streets3 was erected really before the revolution. At one time Guards barracks were situated there. Horses were kept not far from the house, and hay was stored at the attic. There is a document proving that at the last checkup in 1924 strong roofing beams were considered fit for the further exploitation despite their respectable age. So, they have been exploited up to now. Polished dark trunks cross the space of the studio and create the middle (birds?) storey of some huge relict forest. Its roots and tops push through the floor and ceiling beyond our vision- into the early 19th or first half of the 21st century…Instead of lianas all sorts of things: flags, amulets, some devices for unknown purposes, ceremonial helmet of the British policeman, somebody's pants…-hang down on them.
But if there was not a document of 1924, does not matter. The myth is enough here. And necessary-so that the acrobat executing a somersault out of the epoch, could spring at run in view of the almost utter absence of real support for the quick leg. Hand. Imagination. It is not Saint Petersburg at all. None of the real atlantes and caryatids would knit their marble brows reproachfully - if only they survived in this city in the last century4. But for the reinforced concrete "Girl with oar" it is all the same.
Word GARRET fitted better the romantic confusion of the non-cubic (cubic?) space under the creeemed, i.e. pitched roof. And perennial twilight, where a guest, blind after light, could find the hosts' position only by flying hieroglyphs of cigarette smoke and coffee smell. Striking of the antique clock signified the visitor's final switching off from the rhythm of the strictly regulated life, left beyond the threshold. Exactly under the threshold: those who chose the garret, not the basement, are rather over- than underground. The Great Redecoration destroyed physically, but did not erase from public memory the former studio-the two bears' lair, where what a goblin have not dropped in, and Mashen'kas stayed and magic tablecloth worked properly5. Some are not here anymore. For those, who are far from here, these pictures do not fade longer than the others do.
Why was the ordinary garret perceived as a strange place here? Strange, attractive, attracting wanderers. Just because all the other places were not strange at all according to Lewis Carroll… A known optical effect-a white spot on the red background seems to be green: in some 19.. Brezhnev year about twenty artists and poets, surrounded by the same number of militiamen, celebrated Chagall's birthday on the bank of the River Svisloch. As a result making and flying a man of many-coloured balloons (Tsesler's idea) was laid off till the other times. Which came after all. With the change of the epochs the garret-basement gatherings lost their meaning of the refuge- breeding-ground - nomad encampment. Having shaken the dust from the feet and repulsed the attacks of the avid ones in the post-Perestroika epoch of real estate redistribution, Vladimir Tsesler and Sergey Voichenko took only the essentials into their new life: Table, Kettle, Coffee, Cauldron, Computer some books and small memorable things, well lighted and seen against white-white walls of the today's ARTSTUDIO.
TABLE, oak, 76x 185 cm, is placed at the hearth (electric cooker) and linked with it functionally and inseparably. The sacred center of the studio - old, new, any one, it will become… Everyday more or less solemn sacrificial rite to it can not be abolished or substituted by anything. Pilau, stuffed fish, mutton chops, stewed ribs, sturgeon soup, stuffed cabbage-rolls, meat with prunes, pancakes with curds and raisins and other weighty arguments and factors reconcile jealous colleagues and critics with Vladimir Tsesler and Sergey Voichenko's art and indicate the source of inspiration and birth place if not of the majority, but, in any case, many works of art and projects10. Metronome, marking off the most important points of the day and gastronomic landmarks of the year, including opening of hunting and fishing seasons. Axis, against which bears rub their backs. Centre of gravity (not only in stomach). At he table it becomes clear, why the artists are not afraid to get lost in the labyrinths of the introspective analysis and twilight of the own soul. In response to the statement, that life is tragic, and you are lonely and misunderstood by this cruel world, they pour borsch or pearl-barley mushroom soup silently, demonstrating the subtle knowledge of the human nature secret strings. For soups as well as smell of meat with Uzbek spices structure personality with all its values especially effectively, eliminating the problem of choice and bringing the knowing of the truth: political regimes, professional passions, glory and alas love come and go away, and real pilau taste remains. Though neighbours at the Table are beautiful indeed. The Table is always in use. Voichenko paints at it and leaves a heap of sketches for Christophorovna to throw away. Picnic in the open air on the 30th of April, Tsesler's birthday, which is organized at a traditional place not far from Minsk for the close circle (maximum 100-150 people) of the most intimate friends, has been yearly apotheosis of the TABLE for fifteen years.
FRIENDS. If to parachute Tsesler and Voichenko in Cameroon jungles, for instance, one can bet that in a year, when you return, you will find them in the same in principle stage setting, as everywhere they stay longer than for two days. Imperturbable Voichenko, surrounded by noisy from palm vodka guests, cuts intently a statue of the local goddess (the chief's order) in the shade of a dried crocodile, arousing local masters' envy. Ebony youth, adorned with tiger fangs, drives fascinated Tsesler on the best ostriches away. Or on deer, if it happens in Lapland, or bikers' motorcycles-if in Minsk. Even in Africa charisma is charisma. Though they accept such terminology only in chastushkas: As above our town / There is a green aura / It means for us karma/ To buy fortified wine. What do their friends love them for? For the Table, of course. One must admit it. But not only. For the past days' anecdotes from Romul up to the present time… For they can transform everyday life absurd, marasmus and chaos into an anecdote (poster, object or product), thereby overcoming and correcting them. For the hawk eye and snake tongue. Not evil really, but objective, what is characteristic for the designer-- probably, sometimes they are not happy about these professional challenges themselves. For the sound mind, light-heartedness, whims. For the ideas, which are always ready to appear, and for their volcanic abundance. For answers to the questions about, what is good and what is bad, and what is actually going on? Or has already happened: posters "Rustproof Stalin", "1939, beginning of the war in Poland", "Karl Marx of the 1990s", "Afghanistan" appeared not to order, but as a result of reflections). For love. For love to friends particularly.
1. Regular rejuvenating treatments and a thick coat of make-up leave less wrinkles of that kind. Minsk- a shy provincial girl, who won by chance a ticket in the historical lottery "I am a capital"- had to change everything: manner of speaking, clothes, figure, coiffure, friends… Famous Petersburg- Petrograd- Leningrad architect Joseph Langbard had cut out a presentable image for the newly-made capital of the BSSR from 1920s to 1940s. He dressed a client in a hard corset of representative buildings- gigantic, officially cold, neutrally grey… Former clothes of the provincial maid were condemned pitilessly (of course, many inhabitants: an aboriginal of Minsk, a true townsman fitted into the category of "old stuff". It is impossible to put this relict down in the Red Book, as almost nobody of Minsk inhabitants of today has ever seen it.) Since then the "old stuff" has been removed regularly and successively. The River Nemiga, mentioned even in "The song of Igor's Campaign" flows in pipes underground (the whole old Minsk district of the same name, which had not been damaged during the war, perished together with the river in 1960s). The islands of one-storeyed private buildings melt as the last snow in April (not all houses were lucky to become the House-museum of the first Congress of RSDRP*). Few remained historical buildings undergo dubious redecoration, called restoration for some reason. However, the city is clean, green, with straight wide streets and avenues and quite suitable for supervision and control. Visitors like it very much.
*Social Democratic Working Party of Russia.
2. Earlier, before getting the studio of their own, Tsesler and Voichenko themselves stayed long after midnight at someone's, who led the same way of life. Their friend Sergey Filippov recollects, once at the beginning of the 1970s he wanted to find Tsesler to congratulate him on his birthday. What was rather problematic, as Volodya lived here and there, at his friends' places and different flats. Suddenly the doorbell rang. "I came to celebrate my birthday", - the celebrity notified in advance from the threshold. After the minute of host's happiness passed, he added:" But I am not alone", -and about twenty guests appeared behind his back. They all were not acquainted with the host of the flat and, besides, they spoke a foreign language. They were the Greeks. Tsesler had met them only half an hour before in the Leninsky Avenue of those days (the chief avenue in Minsk was called Stalinsky formerly, now it is called Skorinsky after Franciscus Skorina, Byelorussian enlightener and first printer) and invited them to his birthday party. The guests came with Greek records and liqueurs. As a result, friendship won, of course.
3. It is impossible to trace the ? toponimic" insonification" ("soundtrack")of the history of this place deeper than by the end of the 18th century. During the" Empire times", i.e. since the time of including Minsk into the domain of the Russian crown in 1774 Pervomaiskaya Street had been called Nizhne-Lyakhovskaya Street, and Krasnoarmeiskaya at different times-- Kosharskaya and Skobelevskaya.
4. On a strange whim of the fate little Putty survived here. A plump baby- angel, embracing a wonderful bird: in 10 minutes' walk from Tsesler and Voichenko's studio there is a bronze copy of the "Boy with a swan" of the great master of baroque sculpture Lorenzo Bernini in the shade of branchy trees. The statue is better known to the Minsk inhabitants of today as "Panikovsky** in boyhood" (for this reason people call the old Alexander square- the highest place in the city, where in 1884 the fountain with "Boy .." was erected, - Panikovka). The huge former building of the Central Committee of the Communist party of Belarus (now the President's Residence), Langbard's House of Officers and the Palace of Republic face severely the charming boy… The granite tribune, from which many years running military parades and demonstrations on the Oktyabrskaya square on the occasions of the 1st of May and 7th of November were worth seeing, turns its back to him. But the lad, paying no attention to the seriousness of the situation, is embracing his swan to the murmur of water so serenely, as if ladies with lace sunshades and men in bowlers are still walking about. In fact he even did not notice a gigantic moustached man* in jacket appear in the center of the square right opposite him. Many years later, at one wonderful night of 1954 he was dismantled so quickly, noiselessly and neatly, that in the morning people asked themselves, if there was the man?
5. In this odd place you can meet people from such different cultural and social spaces and subspaces, that a guest book- if only someone kept it- could provide a textbook on sociology with rich illustrations. The mix here can be really fantastic, in the sense of incredulity, as so varied ingredients can gather at one time and place. Art, Business, Army, Abroad, Zona (prison world), Power, Professionalism of all kinds are represented in the collection by bright characters and unusual fates.