art

Inside the artist’s studio – Ani Menua in conversation with Marc Chagall

October 16, 2017
An interview with Marc Chagall with Ani Menua; Illustration by Ekaterina Koroleva exclusive for berlinograd.com

The author Ani Menua, the illustrator Ekaterina Koroleva and the Russian-Jewish painter Marc Chagall met for a (fictitious) conversation at Galerie Van Diemen in Berlin, where Marc Chagall and other Russian contemporary artists held a first exhibition. With his genius he transported art into a new era. The intense colors he uses reflect his emotional access to a world full of hate, death and ignorance. Chagall makes the principal of love the center of his visions and creates a world, where lovers can fly and dreamers can be. Marc Chagall fled the Soviet Union with his wife Bella and their daughter Ida because of persecution of anti-Soviet propaganda in the early 1920s and spent most of his life in France.

A.M.:

Mr. Chagall is it true that you were born dead or is that just a myth around you being an artist?

M.C.:

Yes, it is true. While my mother was giving birth to me, there was a fire destroying the whole town of Vitebsk and our house was the last to be burnt down, after being born not alive and then being reanimated with needles by my mother’s midwife, my family got out of the the burning house and we all were rescued.  This was my entry into this world.

A.M.:

You count as one of  the most talented and virtuous artists of our times. While you are reject academic art, you create your own aesthetic and develop your methods of depicting. You are undoubtedly an autodidact, but how do you know which way to go and what does assure you in taking this or that path?

M.C.:

The first time I opposed my teacher I was very young and was taking painting lessons in my hometown. It just didn’t feel right to me being taught something, which did not suit to my aesthetic feel, so I resisted. I made an unconscious, but a weighty decision in my youth, which turned out to be pathbreaking for me.  It was a matter of my instinct and of my heart as an artist. I see and I feel things and I exactly know how to bring them on canvas. I don’t want to be improved or disturbed in this process. The academic art takes my space to expand and to be as an artist. Beyond that it is a kind of a contradiction to teach an artist to be an artist.  I can’t act against my mind, it would be like suicide. I feel obliged to determine myself on my own and not to be determined. There is only one person I would accept as my teacher, it is Rembrandt. He truly is a master.

A.M.:   

How is life in Berlin as the new melting pot for art?

M.C.:

A large amount of people and especially artists emigrated from Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities to Berlin and found shelter. Russia’s almost whole cultural life shifted to here during the last few years, so people even speak lovingly of Berlinograd from time to time. And I sometimes get lost in this Jewish-Russian microcosm. But I personally am also glad and thankful to be here and have the possibility to get among other Russian artists a podium for art. Berlin is pure anarchy and it is transforming to something new, which makes the city to a very raw place, where a lot of contradictory things happen. This city never sleeps and is a kind of an orphanage for displaced people like us. Paris, for example, is the exact opposite. I admire and adore its pure elegance.

A.M.:

What do you think of other artists of our times and is there any interaction between you?

M.C.:

It is not important what I think of other artists. My task as an artist is to create and concentrate on my own work. You see, every artist creates a world in which he exists and his art takes place. So, the art takes connection with worldly things and it comes to a transcendency, like a marriage, when two things become one. This process of transcendency itself is not an object of opinion, but of eternity.

A.M.:

One of those artists who creates a fundamentally new world of aesthetic is Picasso, what do you think of his visions?

M.C.:

Everything is already there, even when it seems to be “fundamentally new” as you say, it is only a question of receptivity. The world is to recover from a brutal war, so many people died, so much grief shoots through our lives. Art is our light in this darkness. Only art can have an answer to evil, so it is essential for all human beings. Art is hope, it is sublimity, it is love. Every artist must show where to find the light in his own way, accordingly to his inner world and pave the way out of cruelty and atrocity, because light is nothing less than life. The world of images influences people in the very moment they see it.  It is a big responsibility to influence people in a way, so they start questioning or finding answers they need in artist’s world.

A.M.:

What is your suggestion to survive this unfriendly, inhuman world, where life has no worth? What to do to stay unless a human being?

M.C.:

Undeniably, the answer must be love. It is hope and it is the reason why we do exist and the source of the human being at all. Because of love we strive harmony and peace, it is something deep in us, it is the seed of beauty. We all obliged to serve this life with love, if we define ourselves as human beings.

A.M.:

May I ask you a hypothetical question? What would you say to God as you pass the Heaven’s Gate?

M.C.:

It was worth a try.

 

Ani Menua interviewed Marc Chagall for berlinograd.com at his Vernissage „Erste Russische Ausstellung: Berlin 1922“ at Galerie Van Diemen on October 15th, 1922.

 

 

*The conversation was conducted in Russian by Ani Menua.
**Illustration by Ekaterina Koroleva 

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