The Metaphysics of Presence and the Invisible Traces: Eduard Steinberg’s Polemical Dialogues
The article examines the paintings by Eduard Steinberg, a Soviet non-conformist painter from the 1950s to the 1980s from the standpoint of the plastics of his language. The author focuses on Steinberg’s polemical dialogues with the greatest names in Russian and European avant-garde art, including both common points and disagreements. By analyzing the painter’s texts through the prism of poetics of the invisible and the ontology of traces, the author observes Steinberg’s early art of the 1960s and 1970s as an attempt to create a symbolic language and attach an ideographic status to art. Through simultaneous use of two artistic strategies—mystical and religious symbolism, coupled with metageometry Steinberg arrives at optical formalism and spectator dialectics, vying to see the invisible and record the polysemantic nature of the symbolic sign. The article analyzes the influence Vladimir Veisberg and his “invisible painting” had on Steinberg, including the “white on white” style, as well as Giorgio Morandi’s still-life vision of metaphysical painting. The author believes that by relying on analogies and reminiscences, Steinberg refers his audience to his predecessors and joins them in an intertextual dialogue. A special place here belongs to Kazimir Malevich with his radicalism, his trend towards metasymbolism and the language of the basic forms—the circle, square and cross. All of these are close to Steinberg’s geometric plastics of the 1970s and 1980s. Staying true to the pure forms of Suprematism, Steinberg builds up an aesthetics of the geometric forms of his own, where abstract art comes together with the ontological progress towards God. The Countryside series (1985–1987) shows influence of Кazimir Malevich’s Peasant Cycle, some principles of icon painting and Neo-Primitivist art.