Go to Homepage   Volodymyr Ivanov: An Arrow from the Past

 

Mythology and electric welding may seem like the oddest marriage this side of politics, but the art of Russian sculptor Volodymyr Ivanov makes it work. Part of the secret lies in the way Ivanov layers metal to reveal the inner and outer reality of his subjects.  

In Ivanov's Minotaur, thin sheets of metal billowing like wind-filled sails define the great bulk of the bull's shoulders and haunches. But between and through the beast's metal hide you see the belligerent arch of its spine. The gaping hole of the bull's belly suggests a hunger that nothing can fill. 

Unlike sculptors who cut away stone to find their statues, Ivanov works from the inside out. He created armatures -- metal struts or supports for statues and other figures -- before he began creating his own sculptures. 

"My first sculpture was Pegasus," Ivanov said. "Pegasus was a combination of armature and sculpture. From the armature, I began to build skeletal creatures. And from that came my present work -- large pieces of metal that suggest the body, the wings, whatever." 

The choice of a mythic, winged horse as his first welded metal sculpture was no accident. "Horses have inspired me more than any other images," Ivanov said. "I made my first horse figure when I was three years old from plasticene [Play-doh ™]." 

As he grew older, Ivanov developed a passion for history and ancient literature. He became fascinated by ancient warrior cultures, such as the Scythians, who flourished near the Black Sea from roughly 800 to 200 B.C. The Scythians depended on horses for every aspect of their lives, from art to war. 

But horses, history and sculpture didn't really come together for the sculptor until a 1986 visit to a Black Sea archeological dig. Watching golden sunlight pour over Greek and Scythian artifacts buried 2,500 years ago struck a deep chord within him. 

"I began to get impressions while I was at the site," Ivanov said. "I felt like a pilgrim visiting a holy shrine. The black soil, the bright sunlight, people digging and occasionally something appearing from many, many, many years ago. It was like an arrow from the past -- Scythian arrows appearing from the past. The arrows were like a connection across time."  

A move to Saarbrucken, Germany, not long afterwards allowed Ivanov to start using modern "Elektro-Hephaest" welding methods to sculpt the ancient myths he loved so much. A 1997 exhibition of his work at London's World Fantasy Convention brought him to the attention of noted fantasy writer Anne McCaffrey. Appropriately enough, McCaffrey bought Ivanov's sculpture of a Scythian archer clinging by his knees to a galloping horse.  

McCaffrey also enabled Ivanov to explore another connection across time when she invited him to visit her home in Ireland. "Ireland was different than I had dreamed -- much more magical," Ivanov said. "I felt a connection like when I visited the archaeological site on the Black Sea. I had visions of magic, of a warrior culture that was different but in many ways related to the Scythians." 

In honor of his hostess's books about the dragonriders of Pern, Ivanov presented McCaffrey with a small sculpture of a dragon. He also replaced the Welsh-style dragons which originally topped the gates of McCaffrey's home with creatures that more closely resembled McCaffrey's vision of Pern's dragons. 

But again, it was a horse that made the lasting connection between Ivanov and McCaffrey. 

"I was getting ready to return to Germany when Anne [McCaffrey] wanted to go out and visit Jack, her favorite horse," Ivanov said. "For some reason, I decided to bring my camera, and I took many pictures.  

"The horse was very old, almost 100 years old in human years. I didn't know why I took the pictures then. But after I got home I received a fax from Anne saying that Jack had died. Anne wondered if I would make a sculpture of Jack to be used as a trophy for a horse competition she planned to found in his memory." 

Such connections through time and space do not surprise Ivanov. For him, the past, present and future form parts of the same whole. They are linked the same way as the muscles visible beneath a bull's hide are joined to the hidden armature of the animal's spine. 

This sense of connection is another reason why Ivanov can marry ancient themes and modern technology. His art itself could be seen as an arrow from the past. After all, Ivanov follows in the footsteps of such legendary smiths as Weiland, who could make metal birds fly.  

The fact that Ivanov uses the electrically powered, super-heated sorcery of modern technology to accomplish his marvels changes nothing. "Welding metal and forging it," he said, "is the most magical act I know." 

Teri Dohmen and Jean Marie Ward

Translation for Volodymyr Ivanov's remarks provided by Sergiy Poyarkov, a Russian graphic artist whose work will be featured in the April issue of Crescent Blues.