Kyiv . Ya Gallery Art Center
School of Painting
15.12.2010 – 16.01.2011
Almost every decent city in the world has its art gallery where a series of images flowing through centuries can be seen. It is not surprising that painting carries all the weight of art history and is unavoidably connected to a whole system of classifications.
The concept of a "school" has a key meaning to systematization of historic heritage and means a unity of style or a location of "study".
The majority of Ukrainian painters have academic education that has always suggested studying traditional materials and artistic technologies. But it seems that work by a contemporary artist cannot be linked to his or her education. It is true not only for Ukraine. Reasons can be different but the result is the same. Craftiness stopped being a mark of "good" painting and the "school" criterion is too old. Very different artists unite having turned up in the same space and time and developing individual systems of signs and codes. First the term "school" turned into a romantic "new wave" and then into a more prosaic "artist group" in Ukraine.
"Painting School" exhibition as obviously follows from the title is dedicated to painting - one of the oldest forms of cultural communication and the most vital one in contemporary Ukraine. It does not include any paintings though. It consists of images where everything necessary for its realization in academic tradition is present: canvases, paints, frames, underframes, palettes and paintbrushes. Works are performed in different media - photography, video, sculpture, object and installation.
In the XIX century painting and sculpture were regarded as a continuation of an artist's body. Creations of hand work provided an opportunity to feel the author's presence even after his or her death. In this sense an author's work was not "alienated" like in case of industrial production that does not suggest connection between the product and its creator's body. The situation changed radically when Marcel Duchamp introduced the concept of readymade into art. The main change in the post-Duchamp art was not just that readymade objects could be presented as artwork, but also that artists were allowed to create their works in a non-hand way. These technologically created objects proclaimed their full-fledged existence. In the XX century connection between an artist's body and his or her creation was torn. Moreover the author himself was pronounced "dead" while remaining quite alive and "organic" character of the work was interpreted as an ideology illusion.
Painting has always been subjected to hot hearted arguments. It used to be called the queen of art. During the last hundred years it is periodically proclaimed a marginal genre compared to the main discourse in contemporary art and then again greeted loudly. Painting appears in various forms again and again after the yet another pronunciation of its death like phoenix from ashes. Many international curators neglect it today considering the two dimensional imagery a conservative and static verge of art. Yet art market could never exist without it. That is why it is still praised by refined art dealers and collectors.
An artist faces two major problems in painting. First one is to understand what is painting, second is to understand how to make it. The difference between modernists and contemporary artists is that modernist painting was predominantly concerned with "what painting is". The question often included a "clean" formula of a plastic solution. Today artists are more interested in "how to make painting" which leads to the obsessive idea of style. Regeneration of different styles and technologies or new ideas of how to apply materials, methods and concepts - today all of the above serves the creation of artwork that in conclusion does not necessarily need to be called painting. Art is what we want it to be. In 1978 Rosalind E. Krauss in her essay "Sculpture in the Expanded Field" noted with surprise that strange things are now called sculpture - a hallway with a TV-set in the end or mirrors placed under weird angles. It has been a long time that innovative forms in "archaic" genres like sculpture or painting became an ordinary phenomenon, not a revolutionary act, in contemporary art.
A process of various mutations is happening in painting in the so called "expanded" field. Now its special effects can be imitated with a series of instruments and means: photo or video camera, computer, printer, stencil, collage, object or burning machine. It has saved its major traditional forms - easel and monumental, but started an active dialogue with photography, video, sculpture and installation.
Though being of a "serious" age painting is in a good form. It is able to absorb, transform and pass impulses from the other disciplines. It doesn't only absorb but also spreads its influence through the entire variety of cultures, styles and media attributable to our time. It inspires other media and breathes life into the art process. Very different works by Ukrainian artists gathered together to demonstrate the "technology" of painting and to conduct a peculiar pseudo research of the artistic process appear in a new conceptual perspective. Then an opportunity to watch the mobility of concepts in contemporary art, their capacity to continuously renew in different context regimes is born.
It turns out, contemporary art is considerably weaker in this compared to classic which remains stable in any surrounding environment.
Maxim Mamsikov's installation "Big City Lights" consists of many different underframes with a clean canvas that have paint on some of the sides. Under a certain angle of light clear bright colors give an expressive reflex on the wall. There colorful reflexes are the main element of the work. Author's designer thinking turns "empty" paintings into optic installation modules. Here the artist addresses conceptual art and minimalism traditions, refrains from the canvas as a setting of action and crosses its boundaries. He is not interested in any the painting's goals. He is concerned primarily with the form of interaction between the space and the object that are wittily connected by a light effect.
"Palettes" by Kyrylo Protsenko accomplished in a traditional for the author burning on wood technique demonstrate the creative essence of fire. A palette, a match, a bath drain or his other objects change their original meaning being enlarged to an absurdly big size. A picture of brain on a retro palette can be interpreted as the author's message that today a painter and an artist in general cannot be just a "craftsman", but also an intellectual - a carrier of ideas and concepts. Contemporary art differs from any other kind of art in that it has become a research and a gnostic practice. There is no differentiation into "graphics", "sculptors" and "painters". The artist is supposed to manage different technologies.
New works by Volodymyr Say are a continuation of his experiments with tube paints and macrophotography. He continues to use a well-known in contemporary photography maneuver - physical modeling of an object's image. But here he turns from creating "abstract paintings" to landscape. A miniature model becomes a wave of almost natural size upon printing. His photography is a witty substitution of regular oil landscape painting with a landscape physically constructed from oil paint and then recorded on photo film.
Frames and underframes made of concrete by Vitaliy Kohan were initially regarded by the author as an image of contemporary art's "petrifaction". Besides that, his playing with materials is obvious - canvas so easily damaged stretched between thin strips of wood is presented here as a very firm construction. Discarding art's alabaster "death mask" and choosing concrete as a material for his sculpture this artist automatically fits into the sphere of architecture and design. Concrete is used not only for facades and fences, garden trails and benches, but enters interiors as designer furniture and even a coffeemaker. The next step - art made of concrete - looks conceptually and fashionably and can easily be mass manufactured. Especially since, in author's opinion, painting had turned from an image on a surface into an object of design a long time ago.
A fragment of Janna Kadyrova's project "Fittings" differs from her previous sculptures that consist of chopped edges and broken tile pieces. Here we observe a completely different approach. Various containers literally "filled with content" by the author are sculpture ready-mades. Colored tile circles are put into barrels, pots and bowls. There is nothing under them, but effect of being filled with colored liquids is present. A "home" story with a light surrealistic sense is created. It seems that some artist mixed paints for some grand future project in his or her kitchen.
Plates painted into different colors - Dobrynia Ivanov's improvised palettes are placed on the wall in a strict order. Fruits of preparation stage of creating a piece - paint mixing - are presented as readymade art. Installation made of circle plates with spontaneous watercolor-like brush traces remind of Damien Hurst's painting circa the beginning of 2000ies. His "dot paintings" series prints are white canvases with colored same-sized circle stains. One of them was sold at an auction for almost a quarter million dollars. Makes you involuntarily think of light gestures and ornamentality in art, artists' and their works' fates and price formation logic.
On the 25th of September Ya Gallery was set on fire. After the fire black and brown burn marks remained on the walls, but in the places where paintings were hung light rectangular silhouettes of underframes with crossbars were left. Nikita Kadan's graphics imitate these traces on a burnt wall. A work of art as a carrier of its author's message is born at the moment of exposition. As an element of functioning in the society it is born at the moment of sale. Its materiality comes to the front view at the moment of its destruction. Decades of modernist reductionist work (Mondrian, Reinhart, Fontana, Buren) pass in minutes. A painting from a carrier of a more or less convincing illusion turns into a frame wrapped into rough painted canvas and then into a sort of a leftover, a trace - "there was a painting here once".
Everything presented in the exhibition is united into one whole with a video work by Alexander Gnilitskiy and Lesya Zayats entitled "Work in Progress" where a new painting appears for the spectators to see. Painting is like stiffened magma or like a last shot of a film. We see the final and already motionless image that is a result of lengthy and stormy process. Authors manipulate with time and give us an opportunity to see witness this process from the beginning to the end - the magic of creativity and technological routine at the same time - in a shrunk regime of time-lapse shooting. They turn the process of creating traditional figurative painting into a happening and show that it is no less exciting that Jackson Pollock's actionism.
Natalia Filonenko, December, 2010