S. D. Domnikov in his book “Mother Earth and King City” offers to consider a city as a place of origin of the “universal non-local tradition” as well as a synonym for power directed from the center to the periphery. On the contrary, the peasants are inclined to the local tradition perceiving the world as a hostile chaos. This opposition between the town and the country was reflected in the views on the ideal structure of society, especially in the light of the eschatological sentiment of the early 20th century. The city as a perfect hierarchy and the peasant community as a perfect agreement.
Specific features of the artistic life of Russia during this period determine the broad interpretation of painting’s meaning. Some artists consider painting not only as a presentation of material objects, but also as a life building practice, based on the functioning of artistic values in the society and totally affecting its formation. Among them, P. Filonov and E. Chestnyakov are of particular interest, both perceived their art as a social service; P. Filonov in the city and E. Chestnyakov in the village.
An artistic language of Filonov and Chestnyakov, despite the academic background, is based on the primitive. Primitivism in art from the 18th century until the mid 20th century remained within the classical paradigm, seen more as an idea not associated with the specific visual sources, because the concept of “primitive” was largely due to the perception of a particular author. This leads to the assertion of primitivism within the classical tradition in the paradoxical non-classical forms. Paradoxical, because in the classical tradition the non-classical form implies only the negation of illusionist similarity, leaving aside all other qualities of the primitive. This allowed the use of the primitive language to express complex utopist concepts.
Hidden controversy of the social concepts — “Winner of the City” by Pavel Filonov as the triumph of the individual, overcoming anonymity and hierarchy of an industrial metropolis, and “City of commonwealth” by E. Chestnyakov as a celebration of the community.