Kyiv. Pavlo Gudimov Ya Gallery Art Centre
Artist and Model
07.02.2018 – 05.03.2018
“Ask the mortals what is the most beautiful thing they have witnessed in nature: have they ever seen a side that could have matched the left side of Belvedere Torso?"
Johann Joachim Winckelmann, History of Ancient Art, 1764
The statement about how an artist and a model should work together once required three exclamation marks: “No sex, only erotica!!!" Modernist painters could do with only one: “No erotica, only sex!", Pablo Picasso assures on Volodymyr Kostyrko's painting. The history of art is full of paradigm changes, so it should be reviewed on a regular basis.
An art critic by education, Kostyrko acts as one in the artistic field itself – as a painter. Using an ironic intonation and dispelling the romanticized views on the world of art and the artist's figure in particular, he defames the established and depleted set of myths and creates his own myths – the ones that are relevant to the present and appreciate the old masters.
The Artist and Model exhibition, which comprises the author's new paintings and graphic art of the 1990s, addresses these problems, namely the connection between a painter and a sitter, the transformation of a body into an object and the relation between an image and a preimage. According to Kostyrko, “…most works were painted with a thought about objectification of a body and what stage this objectification takes places at". The painter recollects the fragment from one of Wolfgang von Goethe's works dedicated to the description of Belvedere Torso by Winckelmann where he highlighted an interesting moment: “…the nature itself in a beautiful manner has made a human being an object of its interest – the one that it considers the most distinctive, noble and the best." This raises the question: what is a model – an ideal but man-made torso or a live sitter's body? But Kostyrko makes the answer to it only more complicated, fouling the trail when it comes to authorship, demonstrating rampant borrowings that go unceasingly in all directions.
Kostyrko combines Albrecht Dürer's works with Damien Hirst's whimsical perpetrations within one canvas. A fragment of the Nude Self-Portrait (1500-1512) turns into a tattoo that acknowledges the expressiveness of the natural acquisitions of a man's body, while the same fragment of Dürer's sketch – the penis – is complemented with Hirst's blue spots in a separate frame. Such an exchange of images refers to two different facts in the history of art: Dürer's personal sketch that he would keep to himself until his death, and the public demonstration of a penis (it also being painted on) as a leitmotif of Hirst's creative biography. The other work shows Tracey Emin running naked with only the flag of Great Britain on – she is another leader of the Young British Artists, now the Professor of the Royal Academy of Arts and the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
If “young" artists show their bodies, Leonardo is the “example of a strict sexual abstinence which is hard to expect from a painter who depicts the woman's beauty". That is how Sigmund Freud commented on him – the psychoanalyst who he found implicit yet haunting images of homosexuality in the artist's works. While this scientific reconnaissance may explain the inversion of the penis and breasts on other Kostyrko's, the painting Leonardo da Vinci and joho mama tells us about Leonardo's Oedipus complex – an alternative continuation of Freud's interpretation.
The painter, at the same time, demonstrates that the body parts are not correlative. Using a fragment from Delacroix's work, he documents a historical moment where breasts placed in the composition centre of the painting become a symbol of a revolt.
Kostyrko also marks the 100th anniversary of the ready-made with the nude woman's portrait. The painting presents, instead of Marcel Duchamp, his sitter Elsa Hildegard Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven who was likely to be the one to suggest that the artist should submit a urinal to the Society of Independent Artists exhibit. The position of a “mother of Dadaism" she was in on the 1910s' paintings evokes associations with La Source by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Thus, the baroness holds the “fountain" of 1917 on her shoulders – the source of new art.
His flow was characterized by a definite unity of image creation and art critics when in the 1970s “…critical theory <…> occupied the position of high art, at least to the extent that it retained such values as difficulty and distinction after they had receded from artistic form"*. Kostyrko formally imitates the collage technique with oil depicting only the images that had already had their initial medium – engraving, oil painting, photograph, reproduction on paper etc. And right now it is this “collage" rather than its separate elements that is the model the painter works with to approach the challenges of modern art.
* Hal Foster. The Return of the Real: the Avant-Garde at the End of the Century