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Elena Keller

The most striking thing about the books of the deaf-blind Elena Keller, and she has written seven books, is that reading them does not cause either condescending pity or tearful sympathy. It’s like reading the notes of a traveler to an unknown country. Bright, accurate descriptions give the reader the opportunity to experience the unknown accompanied by a person who is not burdened by an unusual journey, but, it seems, chose such a life route himself.

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Excerpts from the new book & nbsp; “THE SOUL AND THE SAIL WILL COME OUT OF THE DALI” …

I conceived this book a few years ago, when life seemed like a smooth and endless road. But the circumstances of recent years forced us to accelerate the preparation of memories. And the coronavirus pandemic, due to which we spent the spring months of 2020 in self-isolation, helped to complete and finalize the book. At home, in parallel with remote work on the VES magazine, it was easy and fruitful to write.

Each of us has met a lot of people in our lives who have left a good mark on our souls, actions, destinies. And the older we get, the more often we have to say goodbye to relatives and friends who leave for another world. But this goodbye is not forever. Everyone who departed comes to us in memories, in moments of reflection, in moments of sadness or joy, in dreams. And so, as long as we remember them, they are alive.

Childhood years in the Urals, the fate of my mom and dad, family and friends. The first teachers who gave so much to my soul. My second homeland is Pavlovsk, where I was fortunate enough to get to know such wonderful people as the founder of the LVTs-ICR Joseph Geilman, teachers Alexander Kolokoltsev, Mukhar Satkoyev and many others. Friends of student years, some of them are no longer with us. Moscow, there is so much in this sound … The city where I now live and work. Colleagues in the magazine Leonid Godin, Klavdiya Rodkina, Vasily Shirkov, Ivan Barinov. Talented artists Alexey Gladkov and Alexander Nazarov. Writers and poets Ivan Isaev, Vladimir Opoikov, Alla Slavina. I have named not all the heroes of this collection …

In this book I wanted to tell about the fate of people dear to me, to resurrect them at least for a moment – both for myself and for the readers. It is no coincidence that I took in the epigraph the poems of the famous Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. After all, it is only an appearance that the sail and soul disappeared over the horizon. It takes just a little effort from us to resurrect them in memory – and then “the soul and the sail will float out of the distance” …

Some memoirs were previously published in different editions, but were reworked for the book. Most of the chapters were written very recently.

I would like to thank my friends who helped in word and deed in the preparation of the book: Yaroslav Pichugin, Valery Kuksin, Viktor Karepov, Viktor Palennogo, Maria Evseeva, Natalia Sofronova, Alexander Lapko, Vladimir Sychev.

The photo selection uses pictures from the family archive, from the storerooms of the magazine “In a single system”, frames made by Valentin Prikashchikov, Yaroslav Pichugin, Oksana Smidovich, Yuri Popov.

The title of the book is a line from the poems of Fernando Pessoa, translated by Anatoly Geleskul.

Here is the whole poem:

Already beyond the edge of the sea the jib!
So the horizon of the departed hides.
Do not speak at the deathbed:
“It ends.”
Say that it is sailing.

O sea, impenetrable in the distance,
Remind to believe and wait!
In the cycle of death and earth
Soul and sail will float out of the distance.

HAPPY MAN. & nbsp;

Alexey Gladkov

All this day one artist
painted everything towards me,
but his tripod sketchbook
he moved the landscape outside …

Yaroslav Pichugin

With nostalgia and sadness, I look at the footage shot by Viktor Nelipa in 1984, when we were preparing our theses at the art department of the LVTs in Pavlovsk. With sadness – because I see a young and cheerful Alyosha Gladkov, who died so early and untimely from a serious illness. But let’s not be sad – he was a cheerful person! Always – both in youth and in adulthood …

We entered the LVTs Polytechnic together, in 1979. But we studied in different groups – he – with deaf artists, and I – with hard of hearing. Thus, we were then divided in Pavlovsk. But we all communicated freely with each other, although the hearing impaired, perhaps, turned up their noses a little: they say, we are “talking”.


We crossed paths with Alexei right away, in the first year of the LVTs

… Before the start of their studies, all freshmen were sent to chores in the park and at the stadium. And there I noticed a beautiful girl Lena Ursol. We quickly got to know her and found a common language. It turned out that she was also an artist, but she was assigned not to our group of the hearing impaired, but to the group of the deaf, together with Gladkov (at that time I was not familiar with Alexei yet).

I liked Lena so much that I almost fell in love with her. But only “almost”. Because soon my heart went over to the pretty translator Tanya, who turned out to be my compatriot, although this was not the main reason for the amorous gloom. And while I was unsuccessfully courting the unapproachable hearing “tsatsa”, Alexei wasted no time and quickly began an affair with Lena. All five years that we studied in Pavlovsk, they were together, they got married, it seems, in their third year. Looking ahead, I will say that the Gladkovs raised three children, but after a while they parted.


At the same time, in the first year, Alyosha and I spent many evenings at joint dinners with the girls who were translators of sign language.

This is a funny story. As you know, student life does not indulge in abundance and proper nutrition. In the morning and in the afternoon we ate in the dining room, while there was enough money from the scholarship, and in the evening we interrupted ourselves with bread and tea, sometimes feasting on fried potatoes.

It turned out that in front of the room where I lived with Sasha Lapko and Vova Sychev, there were student translators, and they offered to arrange joint dinners. The guys gave money, the ladies cooked and set the table in their room. In addition to the three of us, two more artists – Gladkov and Abiev – decided to boo. By the way, the same Ermek Abiev, who later entered the Academy of Arts in Leningrad, but a few years later drowned in the river.

These delicious evening meals in the company of pretty young translators were like secular receptions for us. We came to the girls in a stately manner, in full dress, perfumed. They tried to show off their wit. Gladkov showed himself there as a cheerful, relaxed, joking guy, flirting with all the translators. In sign language, of course …


Alexey’s diploma work at the LVTs was a large oil painting “Making dumplings”. The name is conditional, I don’t remember exactly. But the plot is just like that. On the canvas we see a family engaged in making dumplings – an elderly woman, in which Alexei’s mother and children are guessed, and the central place is occupied by boards with dough, minced meat, round meat, rolling pins, and finally, ready-made dough products.

This topic was close to me, because in the Urals, dumplings are an important part of life and food. But as I knew, Alexey came to Pavlovsk from sultry Ashgabat, where his father, a famous artist, worked in an art fund. After asking Alexei, I learned that he was born in the Amur Region, but my father was invited to work in Turkmenistan, and they moved. And grandmother and grandfather stayed in Blagoveshchensk, and little Alyoshka often visited them, where he was fed with dumplings.

After defending his diplomas, Gladkov and his wife returned to Ashgabat, where he continued his father’s work in an art fund. And what was my surprise when I went to the Surikov Institute in Moscow to visit my old friend from the LVTs Anatoly Ryzhenko and found Gladkov there. He also entered the painting department of Surikovka. And then I already worked in the editorial office of the magazine, that is, I retrained from an artist to a journalist. That’s why Alexei was surprised at my somersault.


And after graduating from the Surikov Institute, Gladkov stayed in the capital, married a Muscovite Masha. At that time, in his work, he was carried away by images of nude female nature. Perhaps even too carried away. No, everything was in order with his skill – juicy, bright colors, lush flesh, written with knowledge of the matter. But when the same motive is repeated in the pictures, albeit with various variations, it gets tired.

Just then, in 1994, Alexey went to Italy to the traditional International Exhibition of Deaf Artists in the city of Trani. And immediately – a triumph! Gladkov won the Grand Prix there. Moreover, it is precisely for the composition with nudity that Alexei combined the theme of female beauty in the painting with the direction of “art of the deaf”: many women of different ages who speak sign language.

After that Italian exhibition, I interviewed Alexei for the magazine. In it, the artist assured that he was not an adherent of the same theme: “I have a lot of landscapes and genre works, and not just the perfection of the female body.”


It was during that period that I bought from Gladkov one of his best paintings – “Bathers”. There, too, there were some naked beauties, but they were amazingly inscribed in the emerald landscape. A huge spreading oak tree, bathers are in its shade, a river shimmers nearby, everything is enveloped in a gentle foggy atmosphere …

Later, Aleksey, realizing that the repetition of one theme for an artist is a dead end, began to more often choose a variety of subjects for new paintings. He began cooperation with the cultural center “Hephaestus”.

In his workshop, located near the Semyonovskaya metro station, artists and journalists often gathered due to its convenient location. Almost always someone was visiting the studio. It is clear that everyone tried to mark the meeting with a glass of tea and chat with the owner. It’s amazing that Alexei managed to create new paintings even in such a situation. He wrote a lot for exhibitions of “Hephaestus”, went with colleagues to openings in Finland, France, Belgium. Since such exhibitions were thematic, Gladkov’s works were prepared according to a specific topic …


There have been changes in his personal life. Gladkov’s second wife Masha died. He grieved, but time heals. Began to meet with a new muse – Olga, who lived in the same house with me in Krylatskoye, in the next entrance. Here is another intersection of our destinies. Alexei often lived with Olga, walked with her grandson, we met more than once in the yard and recalled the past days on the run. But this did not last long.

When Gladkov was 50 years old, Olya helped Alyosha arrange a wonderful holiday at the Theater of Mimics and Gesture, where his friends gathered. The evening was hosted by the inimitable clown Kiryushka – in the world the artist Vadim Kiryukhin. I think that everyone who attended this anniversary will not forget this holiday.

But the main thing – for the anniversary, Alexey made a small personal exhibition of his works. There were early sketches, nudes, and pencil sketches. And we saw how diverse and strong the talent of Gladkov as a painter is. I especially liked the sketches by Alexei – even those times when he was a student at Surikovka. By the fidelity of falling into the tonality, by the depth of color, these landscapes reminded me of the early Levitan. Or Korovin.

Then it seemed that with such a level of skill, Gladkov still had everything ahead. He could have created many more talented canvases. Unfortunately, just a few years after the anniversary, Alexei was diagnosed with a serious illness. And they discovered it too late. It burned down in just a few months.


Still, I don’t want to end on a minor note. Surprisingly, in the last years of his life, Alexei became a recognized artist of the storytelling genre (stories in sign language). I told you – he was a cheerful person. And from my youth I used to amuse my friends with tales on gestures. He did it great, but did not go beyond the framework of home fun. And only thanks to the storyteller contests initiated by Viktor Palenniy, Alexey quickly became the star of the stage. The famous artist Vadim Kiryukhin even invited Gladkov to perform with him. And Alexei managed to learn the taste of success and recognition of the audience on tour in St. Petersburg. Just a few months before his death.

I am looking at a photograph taken in 2013 at the anniversary of the VES magazine. We see that Alexei speaks with a story in sign language, and a crowd of laughing people stands around him in a semicircle. He was inimitable! He knew how to tell a simple everyday case without pathos, but in such a way that it was impossible to refrain from laughing.

His stories in sign language, fortunately, have been preserved in video recordings, which can be viewed on the page of the Center for the Education of the Deaf and Sign Language. And the pictures remained with friends, in the illustrations of the VES magazine, in albums representing the best deaf artists in Russia. I am convinced that many years after the creation, & nbsp; created by Alexey Gladkov, & nbsp; will remind you that he is with us …


Alexander Kolokoltsev

When will the angel carry the soul,
Embracing her in the fog – and into the flame,
I have no body and I have no tears,
But only a bag in my heart with verses.

Elena Schwartz

Of all the etchings by Alexander Kolokoltsev, I am most fascinated by “Province”. A small circular engraving (only nine centimeters in diameter) fits the whole universe. In this work, there is an obvious overlap with the great Flemish Pieter Bruegel. But on Kolokoltsev’s etching everything is his own, dear. Here we can see the Ural side streets with huts, and Central Russian churches, and the northern river along which the tug pulls rafts … Russian macrocosm …

And here is the opposite example – the microcosm. In the entire expanse of the etching “On the Islands” – a moth, spreading its wings, and behind it, in the background, a barely visible and such a tiny reservoir, surrounded by trees, and on it – a boat with a fisherman …

Looking now at the work of Kolokoltsev, one is amazed at his talent. Some people write that he is a genius. It’s easy to say this after death. And during our lifetime we often underestimate the artist …


Alexander Yuryevich Kolokoltsev is our teacher of industrial graphics at the Polytechnic of the LVC, who untimely passed away in 1993. He was only 39 years old. Kolokoltsev left a noticeable mark in my life, showing unexpected attention to me, a young man who still did not know much about life. Therefore, I remember him primarily as a person, not a master of etching.

Kolokoltsev began teaching in our group of artists from the second year, that is, from 1980. Industrial graphics is a challenging discipline, important for those looking to use their art education to work in the advertising business and industrial design. But some of the students-artists believed that their vocation was painting and high art, so they looked down on industrial graphics. Alas, I was also a sinner. Alexander Yuryevich noticed this and tried to convince me that all academic disciplines are important for any artist. At first, I did assignments in his subject carelessly, and as a result – a C per semester. It hurt me. The next half of the year I already worked on industrial graphics in a different way – with fiction, responsibly and received an A in the final review. But what work did it cost Alexander Yuryevich!

The fact is that in our group everyone was hard of hearing, only I was deaf. And Kolokoltsov did not know sign language. In order to talk to me, every time he asked one of my classmates to translate me into ZH. But more often he wrote to me in a notebook, and sometimes in large quantities. Not only about studying, but also about life, as I sometimes threw philosophical questions to him along the way.

For example, when I wrote in the wall newspaper of the Polytechnic, which was published by Nikolai Suslov, an article with the provocative title “The connection between the creativity of Levitan and Van Gogh”, some teachers scolded me very much. Art critic Galina Nikolaeva – for daring to speak negatively about art critics. Others – because I compared the incomparable. And Kolokoltsev himself, as our class teacher told me later, said in the teacher’s room that Vasily would end badly.

Apparently, in order to “save” me, he started a conversation with me about pessimism in painting and why Levitan should not be compared with Van Gogh. I sluggishly objected, they say, Levitan has sad pictures, because he suffered. Kolokoltsev wrote in response that Levitan suffered because he was a Jew, and Jews have suffered for thousands of years. For me, this topic was then new (what do you want from a deaf provincial), and I revived. We talked for a long time that day, and he opened my eyes to many things known to mere mortals.


Such conversations really supported me significantly and aroused my interest in life and creativity. Then I was absorbed in my undivided, as it seemed, love, and wrote decadent poetry. Kolokoltsov spared no time for me and threw up unusual tasks for my studies. For example, it was necessary to make a pictorial solution out of handwritten fonts, corresponding to the content of a particular text. He suggested that I express in font the mood of Sasha Cherny’s poems:

You are so terribly and stupidly tired –
Chasing unrealizable happiness around the world,
Or maybe he plowed the land?

Before that I was not familiar with the poetry of Sasha Cherny, although I read Blok and Akhmatova a lot. This poem does not seem to be typical for the work of Cherny – a kind of philosophical melancholy. But then I was hooked, and I depicted something suitable with the help of fonts, at least Kolokoltsov was pleased …


Alexander Yuryevich did not limit himself to his subject – he noticed hobbies among students that were not related to industrial graphics. Later he appreciated my Moscow landscapes in oil, which I showed at a student exhibition at the end of the fourth year, as well as wooden sculptures by Sergei Garkavenko. And he appreciated it not just like that, but from the practical side of the matter. That is why Kolokoltsev chose the two of us to undergo summer training at a children’s sanatorium in Pushkin, so that we could decorate the health resort with our paintings and sculptures. And the rest of our classmates at that time made design stands, which, frankly, Serega and I did not like very much.

Then Serega and I found ourselves in a creative paradise. The sanatorium was located in a green area, on the outskirts of an old park, in several stone and wooden buildings. We were given full creative freedom for a month, with free three meals a day and overnight stay.

I was instructed to paint five large landscapes in oil on cardboard, subject to my discretion. And Sergei was given in the courtyard an old dried trunk of a linden or poplar, from which he, like Michelangelo, had to remove all unnecessary. He just made good sculptures in the form of Cossack heads – hump-nosed, folded, with forelocks and a pipe in his teeth.

And we started. It was easier for Seryoga to start, his business went quickly. And I was captured by creative torment. I have never painted such huge pictures – the size is more than a meter! In the end, I got involved, depicting in one landscape a birch grove, which I found outside the fence of the sanatorium. This picture seemed like a copy of Levitan’s famous grove, but I swear I painted from nature. Maybe Levitan was sitting in the subconscious, because even then he bowed before him, so it turned out similar. Not by the level of skill, of course, but by the plot and play of sunspots on birch trunks.

In two more works, I had landscapes with temples, based on those Moscow sketches, to which Kolokoltsev turned his favorable attention. But for the last, the largest canvas, I could not decide for a long time and find a plot, until in the last two days before the end of the practice, quickly, without preparation, I sketched the view of the ruins of the old fortress Bip, which we often climbed.

It was June, and therefore, in my picture, the fortress was enveloped in the twilight of white nights, an ominous fog rose from below to the castle. In the foreground, he depicted a telephone booth and a telegraph pole, which he took from his Ural sketches. It turned out to be something mysterious and mystical. Then I did not know the history of the Bip fortress, I did not know that it was connected with the fate of the unfortunate Emperor Paul, with the history of teaching the deaf in Russia …

In order to finish this last painting on time, I painted on the last evening almost until the morning – in that wooden building with a veranda, which they gave me as a workshop for work. And in the morning, when I finished, I fell asleep right there (the bed was next to it).

In the morning Kolokoltsov came to accept the work. He was accompanied by Seryoga Garkavenko, his sculpture was finished long ago, only it remained to cover it with varnish. When Alexander Yuryevich came to my “workshop” and saw me sleeping, he did not wake me up, but looked at my opuses and was very impressed (as Sergey told me). And left, leaving a note:

“Arrived. Had seen. Like. Sleep well! “

I appreciated his Caesar-style humor …


In his senior years, Kolokoltsov no longer taught in our group, we saw each other only in passing. I don’t know if he followed my creative efforts. But I saw his etchings several times in the Leningrad Artists’ Shop, where the works of members of the Union of Artists were sold. I liked these tiny, graceful, finely traced, phantasmagoric works, but my main interest then was painting. And at that time, unfortunately, I underestimated Kolokoltsev’s etchings. Later, after his death, finding

on the Internet of his works, I was able to slowly and intently examine them and appreciate them. I found out that he had a personal exhibition in the Dostoevsky Museum, he exhibited abroad, he managed to visit Italy, France …

When in 1993 friends said that Kolokoltsov died suddenly (heart disease), I was shocked. So young, lively, talented, and suddenly he is not … It did not fit in my head.

Elena Schwartz, a famous St. Petersburg poet, it turns out, knew Kolokoltsev closely, she wrote a wonderful essay about the work of the graphic artist. Alexander helped her to design a book of poems, choosing his own etching “Mariental” for the cover. Another reference to the Bip fortress, because this house was originally in its place.

It is clear that Leningrad poets and artists were closely related to each other, communicated a lot in workshops and exhibitions, especially since Kolokoltsev had a common workshop with Sergei Shuster, a painter who also taught in Pavlovsk. But when Elena writes that Kolokoltsev lived in solitude, this raises doubts. If you remember the sociable Shuster and the deaf students in Pavlovsk, on whom he spent so much time, then you cannot call his life solitary. However, Elena Schwartz, apparently, knew him quite well, so that she knows better. And about the tragic attitude of the artist, she is right, this can be seen with a careful and unhurried study of his creations …

Decades have passed since the departure of Kolokoltsev, but the trail left by the teacher and artist lives on in the memory of his students. And his wonderful etchings, I am sure, will remain in the history of art. Many of the master’s works are kept in foreign collections, the album “The Worlds of Alexander Kolokoltsev” was published in Germany …


(To be continued)