The end of XP20

Do you remember that I started an expressionist painters group called ‘XP20’ (‘Expressionists in the New Twenties’)? Over the last 3 years, several painters joined XP20 and almost as many left. One of them, the most enthusiastic and dedicated member, was Stas Lyashenko. He is from Ukraine and he recently fled to Germany.

Recently I have not been able to reach Stas. He is not responding. I am worried that something bad happened to him.

The basic assumption behind XP20 was – and still is, really – that great art often comes from groups of artists. XP20 was a new group, focussing on expressionism. Depicting not objective reality, but our subjective emotions and responses. XP20 was to continue expressionists traditions of the 1910’s to the 1930’s and movements like ‘CoBrA’ and the ‘Neue Wilde’.

We started on Behance, a giant platform run by Adobe, showing the work of thousands upon thousands of artists. I saw Behance as a new opportunity for world wide groups to support and stimulate each other. Earlier expressionist groups were linked to geographical areas. The ‘Blaue Reiter’ was in Munich. Abstract expressionists were in New York. CoBrA literally derived its name from the cities where it started: Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam.

As with many endeavors like this, it was an uphill struggle at first. And when finally I had a team together, several members didn’t really have the time or the commitment to do anything at all. But through many rotations, I thought we had developed an active and dedicated core. Alas, from that core one by one the fellow painters faded into the background and new additions did not really become active.

So I decided to discontinue XP20. The prospect of starting it up once more made me tired just to think about it.

I still have one more communal work in my possession, started by Stas, it is #5 I think. I won’t be finishing that one, but I will keep it safe, so if Stas ever wants it back it will be waiting for him. Our communal paintings (we made four of them) were the most tangible result of XP20.

Dead horse
For XP20, with Stas having disappeared, it leaves just me and one Russian fellow painter. To be honest, thinking of all the people who have left XP20 over the years, don’t feel like carrying XP20 anymore. I don’t know if you have this saying, but we call it ‘Pulling on a dead horse’.

It is a sad turn of events. Why did it happen this way?

One reason is that the advantages of membership were not really clear. We never succeeded, f.i., in organizing a live exposition. Members did not make any money or gain any fame through XP20.

And practical problems happened. Like Stas being bombed out of Ukraine f.i. Or Mouhcines computer breaking down in the middle of Covid when he was out of work.

Also: we never achieved ‘critical mass’. They say nothing succeeds like success. Maybe in the case of XP20, we saw the opposite. Nothing makes you leave a group like several others disappearing… something like that.

And last but not least, I am reminded of Yuval Harari, who has said that a community can start online, but in order to thrive, sooner or later it will have to move into physical reality. Apart from working on the same painting, sending it around through snail mail, we did not achieve any other offline activities.

I guess it is a combination of these factors that led to XP20 closing down. Well, that’s how it goes with many expressions groups. Die Brucke didn’t last much longer I think, at least not in an active phase. And Cobra lasted even shorter than us… Farewell, dear XP20, you had some great moments!

Fourth and last communal XP20 work made by Stas, JAAPH and a Russian fellow painter.

About the Author JAAPH

JAAPH is an expressionist painter living in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.