Through a glass darkly
Vladimir’s fundamental objective in his paintings was to create a strong perspective without any visual or natural support such as skyline. As he was reticent to speak about his work, it was only when pushed to provide some explanation by those who sought something beyond visual representation, that he confided he was trying to create perspective. In the summer of 2001, with death on a quickly approaching horizon, he lamented that recognition of what he was trying to do would be posthumous.
It was – perhaps differently from how he imagined. He could not guess how concealed his vision was. We were living in Somerset with many of his paintings hanging on the walls of our home, still keenly feeling his loss, when friend and neighbour Christiane Bamberg, a talented master glassmaker from Germany, studied one of Vladimir’s paintings and asked whether he had been blind in one eye.
Vladimir had continuous difficulty in obtaining lenses that would restore his eyesight to acceptable vision. When taking delivery of a new pair of glasses, he would complain with impatience that the optician had made a mistake, that the lenses were useless, his money ill-spent. Vladimir was partly blind in one eye and angry that nothing could correct his diminished eyesight.
Standing a few metres away from the painting, Christiane told us to close one eye, whichever, left or right, and Vladimir’s creation took on a completely changed perspective. The multi levels of different coloured paints now faded. Out floated key objects of the canvas in a type of Magic Eye transformation, creating a new, brighter and closer reality that was no longer part of the canvas itself . This is what Vladimir saw, this is what he painted – and this is what he would have imagined others saw as well. The key objects that were floating in the air on another plane, a few inches off the canvas were no longer dependent on their support, existing on their own. The still lifes transformed into moving lifes.
This one-eyed vision that wrought a change in Vladimir’s paintings could not be repeated with paintings by other artists. Closing an eye had no effect on their appreciation: this was a mode of vision that is specific to understanding Vladimir’s paintings alone. He took his ‘secret’ to the grave, and it was only after this fortunate perception by a master glass-maker that it was revealed to his family. We cannot help marvelling at the near impossibility of any spectator or family or friend understanding reality seen and lived by another, whether artist or not.
Jane Macgillivray, June 2003