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valery shalabin

Visual Image, Mushroom & History Wild nature is the primary source of any art, but this supposition is too general to be of any use. Dichotomy between “material” and “spiritual” for many centuries dominated European mentality thus preventing it from perceiving the World as a whole. Only some of the XIX century researchers & artists approached the idea of live and material agents of the Spirit existing on this planet since the time it was born. Among them we can list Guido von list, Matias Castren and, last but not the least, Vassily Kandinsky, who was not only an artist but a well learned ethnologist & most probably a descendant of Mansi (West Siberian) shaman. Long before the discoveries made by Gordon and Valentina Wasson, he realized the importance of the mushroom in ancient cultures and its possible (or eternal?) role in modern life. Kandinsky was committed to the concept of art as a “resonant” and syncretic experience as full of magic as the shaman’s drum. Often he compared painter’s canvas to shaman’s “buben” drum. Viewed within the present ethnographic context it becomes apparent that Kandinsky intended his work to serve both as a metaphorical vehicle of healing and as a symbolic musical instrument of the artist/shaman, and even as his vehicle of trance induction: “from every corner comes a humming”. The “humming” from every corner manifestly refers to the ventriloquism practiced by shamans and reported, for example, by Russian ethnographer Tan-Bogoras who described the sounds of the spirits coming from every direction in the shamans tent. But perhaps most striking are Kandinsky’s repeated references to the shaman’s hallucinatory agent, the mushroom. Both mushrooms and healing wounds appear in conjunction in the poem “In the Forest”. This forest magically fills itself with mushrooms, and the intruder stepping on them speaks repeatedly of “healing scars, corresponding colors”. This way “abstract” art, which was considered a purely XX century innovation was born. Nearly half a century later Gordon Wasson and his followers (Gaston Guzman, Peter Furst, Carl A.A.Ruck) traced evidence of influence of mushrooms and other hallucinogenic plants in Mesoamerican, Siberian, Scandinavian, eastern-Slavonic and even ancient Greek art. But all this information was completely unknown to me when I started experimenting in abstract painting, considering it just a radical modern trend at that time (late 70x-early 80s) condemned and rejected in the Soviet Union. Later mushroom experience led me to the understanding of the ancient nature of this kind of art. My background in archaeology and cultural antropology really helped me to integrate it. Works, presented here, are the result of such syncretic/resonant improvisational approach. Please note that I’m not a strict follower of Kandinsky or anybody else but just a person trying to express eternal mushroom sounds and visions in an up-to-day visual way. Personal and very intimate impressions of mycological expeditions, walks in the woods, communication with Nature Spirits and long highways of the Upper and Lower worlds are expressed in these oil pastels. Let’s have a trip together!!






singing head

i've tried to capture images & vibrations sent to me by wild nature 'cause i had no other choice. i've no idea what the purpose of art is in modern society but i've some insights concerning its purpose in archaic societies.


many faced bird

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