One night Konstantin Volkov was returning to his hotel at Chistye Prudy. The rain was drizzling. The autumn chill rolled off the water. Walking along the path Volkov heard bangs against metal in the distance. He reflexively looked at his watch, it was 3.20 AM. Under a projector Ali Al Mohammed, a member of the Bahrain royal family, was woking on his sculpture. “Ali, why aren’t you sleeping?”, Volkov asked. “Inspiration!”, the sculptor replied perplexingly. When an artist is inspired, the fact that it’s dark or cold can’t stop him. An artist is internally motivated, he’s stuck with epiphany as if it was lightning.
600 kilometres from Moscow, in the Penza region, on the edge of Chistye Prudy, there’s a place where artist and sculptors can live a life they dream of. They don’t have to think about food, shelter, materials or workshops. Their goal is to let their creativity soar, the rest is taken care of, just paint paintings, create sculptures, cut and weld metal, sculpt marble. After a month of work they disperse all over the world, leaving the result of their inspiration in the Art-Penza gallery and park — angels and knights, beautiful women and satyrs, centaurs and dragons, beautiful faces and perfect bodies. .
Legend is one of the biggest sculpture parks in the world. It houses over 300 sculptures, as well as over 3000 paintings, exhibited in the Art-Penza gallery. It has more works than the Tretyakov Gallery’s modern art building. The object is under the aegis of UNESCO and is considered to be in the Top-3 of destinations in Russia. But that’s not all. Volkov and his team decided to make Penza into a world-class modern art centre.
In September 2008 the first group of sculptors arrived at Chistye Prudy, for the opening of the Fall. Penza. Inspiration. international sculpture symposium. “It was just an empty field, bad roads, construction, but even then many experienced an amazing creative impulse and inspiration”, the director of the Legend sculpture park Yury Tkachenko remembers.
Back then Tkachenko was an assistant professor in the Penza Architectural and Construction University, working for a modest teacher’s salary. Everything changed when Volkov offered him a chance to organise an international sculpture symposium in Penza. Tkachenko left the University and became the director of the Legend sculpture park. “The park itself was sculpted by Yura like it was made of clay, and he’s still going. He continues to find new ideas and interpretations, travels the world reading lectures and inspiring others”, the director of the Art-Penza gallery, Valentina Dusavitskya says. The Penza native could have left many times, but he can’t imagine life without Chistye Prudy. He even built a house nearby.
In the nine years of the park’s life over five hundred painters and sculptors from 68 countries have come for symposiums and festivals. Symposiums are held all over the world, but legends of modern art and rising stars are coming to Penza year after year. Why did Chistye Prudy become a magnet for creative people?
Pierre Karam, a leading Lebanese sculptor and a graduate of the Sculpture Department of the Kiev Art Academy has visited Penza three times. He says those times were the best in his life and dreams of visiting Legend again. “It just feels different to work here. You’re fully submerged in a atmosphere of creativity, you talk to people that are inspired by a common goal, you’re almost gripped by a flow of new ideas, you create things you could only dream of before”, Karam explains. Karam created three amazing sculptures at Chistye Prudy from marble and bronze, three symbols of beauty, love and selflessness. After the artist returned from Penza, he received a flurry of new expensive orders.
Another artist, the well-known French sculptor Pierre Debien, author of the Blue Rhino and a master of installations, agrees that he’s never experienced inspiration on the level he gets in Legend park. “It’s just an amazing flow of inspiration and capacity to work”, the master gushes, promising to come back. Boston University professor and sculptor Batu Sikharulidze also talks about inspiration. He was born in Georgia, but he’s been living in the US for the last 20 years. He rarely leaves, making an exception for Penza. He forgets about being tired, he just works day and night, leaving two big sculptures behind after a symposium
Chistye Prudy also have a positive effect on painters. “Typically an artist paints two-three paintings in a month, sometimes, rarely, four, but here it’s like a dam broke”, the director of the Art-Penza gallery, Valentina Dusavitskya says. “I don’t know what specifically does this to them — the air, the energy of the water, the nature, a creative atmosphere, or all of it together, but many say that they’ve created their best work here. And they want to come back time after time to experience that”.
Basu Ganesh from India comes to the spring every morning. In the far reaches of the park there’s a big spring flowing from deep underground. “I get this massive charge here, and I’m not sure where it comes from — the water, the birds, the colors… Everything is filled with art and that’s inspiring”, the artist says.
Ganesh has his own approach, he blows through a tube to make his paintings, and now many artists are part of his school of work. To blow a painting you need lungs like a glassblower. Ganesh is no strongman, but his colourful multi-layered paintings warmed by his breath are presented in the world’s leading museums. He considers himself a happy person because he can travel the world and do what he likes. While Ganesh is blowing new paintings in Penza, his mobile exhibition travels all over Europe.
It’s thought that artists lose their creative energy over time. How do you cope with burning out? Tkachenko says that there’s never any issue with inspiration at Chistye Prudy, the air is filled with creative energy, and an artist gets the most incredible ideas, approaches and solutions.
The power of art and the simple Central Russian beauty heals the body as well the soul. Indian artist Utpal Barua came to a symposium soon after suffering a stroke. The artist was bound to a wheelchair, his left hand didn’t work at all. He was treated with acupuncture and beauty. His room had a view of a birch alley, the mirror-like pond, and the beach where people would sunbathe. He left Penza without a wheelchair, his hand came back to life. Soon after Utpal Barua went to Beijing and received the Olympic medal in art. His painting with figures of ladies in red bikinis in the Art Penza gallery a reminder of the miracle.
Moving these multi-tonne granite rocks from the quarry is only possible by truck, but here, on Chistye Prudy, even a child can make it spin and dance. Created by François Weil, a French sculptor, there’s an installation made of moving rocks in Legend park. The master’s exhibitions are held in prestigious European galleries, and he’s been to Penza twice. When Weil came back from Russia, he received an invitation to hold an exhibition of his moving rocks in Chateau de Chambord, the castle, where Leonardo da Vinci supposedly worked.
Another Frenchman also had success, Vincent Di Vincenzo. He created an 8-meter composition from stainless steel in Penza, then received a prestigious invitation form the Louvre. Now he has a regular exhibition in the Lens, the branch of the French museum. “It’s a miracle”, Vincent says.
There’s a lot of miracles like that in Legend park. Artists find new dimensions in themselves. Sculptors start to paint, like Argentinian Juan Carlos Bejarano, a professor of art at National Academy of Arts. His series of paintings, History of the Family, The Transformation of the Woman and Time are striking in their depth and emotions, and cause a real whirlwind of emotions, all the way from a smile to tears. “Legend park inspires me with its beauty and the amazing creative atmosphere. Even in the faraway Argentina my artist friends know about Legend park and its amazing representation of international modern art”, the master admits.
Sculptor Laetitia de Bazelaire, a wonderful lady from Paris, also picked up a brush in Penza. Laetitia even won two international competitions with these works! Her creative approach also changed, she never worked with sheet metal and bronze, but in Legend park she tried using new materials. Now her works are among the most beloved in the park.
Anka Mussat, an artist, was also inspired at Chistye Prudy. And she created her own alphabet that she uses in her paintings. She never repeats a letter. Her Golden Tree is a true jewel of Art-Penza, and Parisian gallerists are lining up to have Anka work with them.
The famous Chinese sculptor Yang Liu didn’t just create a new style when she was in Penza, where a bright colourful metal sculpture contrasts with a rusty backdrop. She also founded the alliance of international sculpture symposiums, where Penza is first.
When the welding machine is turned off you can hear the twitter of swifts scurrying hither and thither. Belorussian sculptor Valentin Bordzyi smiles, he likes the sound as a backdrop to his work. “From Moscow to Vladivostok you won’t find a place with such creative energy, even in big cities”, Bordzyi says. His Siren is a mythical half-bird half-woman with a face that’s either from James Cameron’s Avatar or Angelina Jolie.
His workshop colleague, Portuguese sculptor Ferreira Thierry, holds the model of his next work, The Magical House. All the parts are ready, he just needs to put them together into one giant seven-meter composition, a pop-up house. Thierry’s works can be found in Brazil, Argentina, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, China. This work will be his first in Russia.
Each master has his own unique approach. Moussa Kabore from Burkina Faso, a giant African man in burned work pants was the only sculptor that didn’t cast his bronze in a foundry, instead he did in a handmade oven designed in the 16th century. To make his casts he asked to find elephant dung, but had to settle for horse. When the actual casting was taking place he worked his magic so hard there were storms and rain showers over Legend park.
Emil Adamec, one of the best-known Czech sculptors, makes his sculptures with a flamethrower. When it’s on, you should keep at least 10 meters away, there’s stuff flying everywhere and it sounds like a jet engine. Emil lives in Hong Kong, he has a map with marks on every continent, where his sculptures are installed. Here in Penza Adamec, a member of the Monarchist party, decided to run for president of the Czech Republic. If he won he would have transferred his power to the king. He didn’t become president but, to the joy of his fans, continued doing what he knows best.
At the entrance the guests are greeted by the Yes, Kiss sculpture. Its author is Belgian Thierry Lauwers, a big bearded Flemish man. It turned out that his manly exterior hides an emotional and romantic heart. In an emotional state Australian Dago Franco and German Suzanne Parker created a collaborative sculpture known as Love and Flame. “The foundation of the composition is the god of love, Cupid, while Venus is above him. For me love is a battle, fire and passion”, Franco explained. It’s worth noting that Franco made Venus, while Parker made Cupid.
Bulgarian sculptor Vassilev Milen created Gates as the border between good and evil, light and darkness, war and peace, love and hate. But they have a life of their own, and they became one of the symbols of the park. People go to them to make a wish, which people say come true. Newlyweds take their pictures in front of Love by Korean Kim Bong-soo. It’s a marble hand that seems to be drawing a heart, while also healing it. People say that if you take a selfie there family troubles will pass you by.
Chistye Prudy has a lot of “living” rocks. We’re going past snow-white sculptures from marble and multi-tonne rotating granite rocks to the place where, on the shore of a pond, in the centre of a white ravine with crushed marble, there’s seven groupings of rocks. Granite is from Karelia, the red and green boulders are from Dagestan, the marble is from the Urals. All the fuss and nervousness float away. And that’s not an accident — a Japanese stone garden, according to Zen Buddhists, teaches silence, patience and contemplation.
Chistye Prudy has the biggest stone garden in the world, 45 by 20 meters. The author is Satoru Takada, a famous Japanese sculptor. In 2008 Takada visited Penza for a symposium and he’s been coming back every year since. The 73-year old sculptor moved the stones in Legend park with his hands, together with Hideo Shimomura, who continues the Japanese dynasty that specialises on creating traditional Japanese gardens. Each stone was chosen and installed personally. It’s not a surprise that the people creating these gardens are known as monks that can parley with stones.
Soon this place will have a Japanese corner. Near the Stone Garden there’ll be a stylised Japanese culture centre, a bridge closer to the pond, a river with waterfalls and the biggest work Satoru has undertaken — a kinetic sculpture called Biofountain, made from stainless steel. Red leaf apple trees have been planted near the future Japanese culture centre, they are reminiscent of sakura when blooming.
After returning home Satoru received a prestigious invitation to become the curator of the biggest Japanese museum of modern sculpture made from metal. Satoru has visited Chistye Prudy several times, he says he’s drawn to the country where Tatlin is from. And he also notes that here he experiences such a creative boost that he’s capable of doing even more than he wants!
Art and communication with artists has changed the founder of Legend park too. Volkov became a vegetarian, learned English, started painting and salsa dancing. “There was something in the way all my life. It’s very important to clear your head at the right time and find your place of power. I’ve found mine. We’ve found a source of limitless creative energy. And we’re ready to share it”
Symposium participants whose works are presented in the sculpture park at Chistye Prudy
Leading Lebanese sculptor, graduate of the Sculpture Department of the Kiev Art Academy. He participated in three symposiums in Penza. Here the artist has created three magnificent sculptures from marble and bronze, three symbols of beauty, love and dedication. The time spent working at Chistye Prudy is remembered by Pierre Karam as some of the best moments in his life, and he dreams of coming here again.
Successful Japanese sculptor, curator the Museum of Modern metal sculpture in Japan. Works Takada installed in many countries of the world. Satoru - the constant workshops on Clean Ponds . Here he created his greatest kinetic sculpture " Biofontan " stainless steel , as well as the world's largest Japanese garden of stones the size of 45h 20 m.
Born in the Fujian Province in 1963. Study sculpture at the Academy of Arts and Design at Tsinghua University in Beijing. In his work the master uses bronze, copper, stainless steel, granite and sandstone. Over the past 25 years about 50 Sihua sculptures were installed in China, in places like the Olympic Park, or the ZhuDe Memorial Hall. Many were installed abroad - in Italy, Denmark, Russia, and the United States.
Born in Georgia, he graduated from Tbilisi State Academy of Arts. He has participated in over 70 international sculpture symposiums. “I’m in the Penza region for the third time, and I have only the best impressions. A warm welcome and beautiful nature have allowed me to enjoy creativity to the full”, Gogaberishvili says.
Honored Artist of Russia, curator of symposiums, head of the Legend sculpture park. He graduated from the Savitsky Penza Art College and the Faculty of Sculpture at the Kharkov Art and Industrial Institute. He made statues of V. Meyerhold in Penza and of Marquis de Lafayette in St. Avold in France, " Petrovich " in Venice. His works are found in public and private collections in Russia, Ukraine, the US, Italy, France, Switzerland, Slovenia , Egypt , Turkey, Korea , Bahrain , Lebanon , India, Thailand , Vietnam, China , Japan. At Chistye Prudy the artist is creating Source of Power, and his sculpture series Women on Pillows is also presented there.
François Weil was born on May 8, 1964 in Paris. Graduated the National School of Applied Arts and Crafts in Paris in 1986. Two years later he earned a degree in sculpture at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris. In 1997 he won the Pierre Cardin Prize at the Fine Arts Academy in Paris. In 2007 he won the Grand Prix at the sculpture Biennale in Poznan, Poland. Solo exhibitions of the sculptor can be found in France and Belgium, while his moving stones are in Egypt, Guatemala, Mali and Russia. Weil was a member of two symposiums at Chistye Prudy.
Born in Kutaisi (Georgia), he graduated from the Tbilisi State Academy of Fine Arts, and then continued his education at the Union Academy in Moscow. He currently lives in the United States and teaches at Boston University. His works are in museums and private collections, as well as in permanent exhibitions in the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Turkey, India, China and Georgia. In Penza the artist created two large sculptural works and said that working at Chistye Prudy was easy, fun, and inspiring.
Vincent di Vincenzo
At age 18 he went on a journey around the world. To earn a living during his travels he mastered several professions. He restored monuments and cathedrals in Europe and Canada and at the same time studied sculpture, drawing, painting. He graduated from the School of Fine Arts in Montreal. For the last twenty years he’s worked in his own studios in Canada, Mexico and France. The sculptures from metal and concrete can be found in private collections, in the streets and museums in Canada, France and Mexico. At Chistye Prudy the sculptor created his largest work, an 8 meter tall sculpture made of metal.
Painters of world renown whose works can be seen at the Art-Penza gallery
Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology’s Faculty of Design; winner of the Olympic Gold Medal of Fine Arts in 2008 (Beijing, China); Gold Medal at the 2012 Art Biennale (South Korea); participated in over 25 national exhibitions in India and more than 15 international exhibitions around the world; winner of several prestigious national art awards and scholarships in India; member of numerous international art symposiums picturesque. In his paintings Utpal Barua reflects on the spiritual crisis of our time and, with the help of his images and artistic language, is trying to overcome this crisis. His paintings give the viewer hope for finding a way out of crisis.
Igor Tishin is one of the most important contemporary artists. Born in Belarus, he graduated from the Minsk Academy of Art, worked as a teacher in the Glebov Minsk Art College in the late 80's and early 90's. Starting in 2000 he’s lived in Brussels (Belgium). Tishin’s works that do not fit typical aesthetic standards, combined methods of conceptual art, abstraction, surrealism, expressionism, punk and elements of comic books.
The great painter began to draw at an early age. The winner of national arts competitions. He prefers to work with watercolor and acrylic paints. Biswaal tends to strive towards nature in his paintings: “Stone, water, roots, twisted trunks, they always fascinate me”. The artist has a series of works dedicated to Indian railways. “I love trains and the effect of water on the canvas. When there’s rain, all the subjects and objects acquire a special quite extraordinary beauty, and that’s what I wanted to convey with my painting”.
Gulshan is a Master of Fine Arts at the Winchester School of Art at the University of Southampton (UK) and Master of Political Science. To believe the artist, many of her works were influenced by post-modernism. She has a unique style that makes her work instantly recognizable anywhere in the world. Gulshan covers a variety of topics: nature, history, human interaction, social and political issues. In 2012 Gulshan won the main prize at the Autumn. Inspiration. Penza International Art Symposium, as well as the Symposium Star prize.
Sculptor, graphic artist, freelance artist. She graduated from the Higher School of Fine Arts. She restored frescoes and Byzantine icons. “With my art I’m proposing moving towards elements within the scope of mythical perception. Text, letters, symbols, they all contain creative power, and the whole world is their product. They can be interpreted as symbols of human mystery”, Anka says. At Chistye Prudy she created a painting called the Golden Tree, which is covered with letters of non-existent alphabets.
A great representative of the Ukrainian New Revelation, a member of the Artists' Union of Ukraine and the Union of Free Artists. She has three degrees — Art director of theater and cinema, Monumental Painting and Graphic Design. The main theme of her work is the internal contradictions of personality, her work talks about love, violence, and despair, with a bright streak of the grotesque.
A member of the Chinese and Shanghai Artists Association. He was born in 1970 in the Anhui Province. In 1994 he graduated from the art department of Anhui Normal University with a Bachelor degree in Arts. A participant in national and international art exhibitions. He is also deputy chairman of the artistic committee of the Hong Kong International Academy of Arts.
Graphic artist, painter, poet, writer, and teacher. Author and curator of Russian and international exhibitions, workshops, charity events. Participant of more than 100 Russian, international, urban exhibitions, and 11 solo exhibitions. Her works are in the collection of the State Russian Museum, Sakhalin Art Museum, Surikov Museum in Krasnoyarsk, Museum of Nonconformist Art (St. Petersburg), the Graphical Museum of St. Petersburg, the National Library of Latvia, galleries and private collections in Canada, Germany, Latvia, Ukraine, Italy, Russia.