"Emptu - Void" is the title of one of Alexander Yanushkevich's works in "The Big Game" series. Apparently this is not just an age-old term used by domino players who with an air of dignity about them, used to sit with an air of dignity in old Moscow courtyards; it is also a term denoting something directly related to space, to the endless void of Space enveloping us.
Yanushkevich does not depict people. He stays in the world of objects, arranging them against a neutral (that is "space") background. The title of his exhibition - "The Object" - is not random either. The object as in a sign, a symbol, an object of a game; a game in which it does not really matter who the players are - children or adults. What matters is the beauty and the purity of the act, in other words - the style. In our century it was Amedee Ozenfant, a "purist", was the painter who understood and limned this; then it was taken up and developed by "minimalists" of many countries and other painters, who believed in the beauty of geometric pronounced bodies and bare surfaces.
Yanushkevich consistently paints still-lives. In particular, at different points in his life, time and again he goes back to "tricks" - which is a patriarchal and gracious still-life genre. Goose feathers, shuffling paper and scraps of paper as well as other tabletop bits and pieces are affectionately depicted on canvasses of different sizes. The painter openly assembles his world of objects. He does not shy away neither from symmetry, nor from soldierly dressing of select objects which are often aligned to one horizontal line, parallel to paintings' horizontal edges. Something of the nature was once dauntlessly done by the Spaniard Francisco Surbaran in his austere 17th century.
"One can feel the icy dead coldness of separation from the immediate warm and living reality. While Yanushkevich can affectionately admire an object and assiduously stroke its shape with a hair-pencil, we must not forget that he does this not because the still-life painter is suddenly overcome with emotion, but purely because of the love of the ideal and therefore, removed shapes. This method is one step away from pure abstraction and maximum minimalism in painting, from what the author called "Utter Painting" with nothing but a rectangular or a square shape painted with white, golden or black paint. And naturally, there is a direct link from Yanushkevich to our very own Kazimir Malevich and all of his diligent followers in the areas of fine arts, design, architecture, etc.
"Playing with things" (Yanushkevich's 1997-1998 series) does not always lead to prophetic games. However, the artist is consistent in striving toward making games prophetic. More specifically, what is involved is not just his personal desire or yearning, but rather a fateful fascination, an impossibility to break away from the logic of inner growth and from what "governs your head".
"Abstract circles, squares, triangles, magically real perfection of an egg or a shell - all are perpetual signs that remind us of the eternal. In this realm I perceive Yanushkevich not as a scholastic painter, but as a living contemporary, who, in our changing and troubled times, wants to lean against something that was and will always be.
As a child, whenever I thought about " where the void ends", I would fall asleep unable to tackle the enormity of the question. When I look at the voids and eternal shapes on Yanushkevich's canvasses, the words of one little-known writer come to my mind - maybe it's true that "the closer to truth, the colder it gets".
William Meyland, 1998