All in the mind
In Pavel Filonov’s response to the expressionist composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s First Symphony, the canvas swarms with abstractions. They feel like notes or beats, from which faces emerge; thoughts taking shape.
Make it new
Part of the generation of artists who came of age around 1917, he wanted to change the world and rethink art, with his obsessively detailed work.
Taking cubism’s multiple viewpoints and futurism’s interest in movement, he developed his own theory of “analytical realism”. A mix of scientific observation and metaphysics, it led to pronouncements about “universal flowering”, where “the people” ascend to power. This is reflected in works in which minutely realised individual parts form a whole.
Like many artists of the revolution, by the time Filonov made this painting his work had been repressed by the state. In spite of the prohibitions placed on him, he continued to paint, before starving to death in the siege of Leningrad.