Igor Gusev

Eröffnung am Donnerstag, den 2.03.2017, um 18 Uhr





Igor Gusev’s three most recent exhibitions – The Platforms of Eternity, at the Dymchuk gallery in Kiev, Resident’s Confession, at the Dukley Art Center in Kotor, Montenegro, and Meeting in the Interval, at the Museum of Western and Eastern Art in Odessa and the National Museum of Russian Art in Kiev – have at their centers series of paintings which are linked by a certain fleetingly visible and intriguing duality in the structure of the scenes. Most of these scenes “redouble” the principles of figurative mimesis, on the one hand, and of the visual language embodying “ab- straction”, on the other. A smaller number of the painitngs “redouble” two types of abstract painting: abstract expressionism (or Informel) and ra- tional structuralism. Nevertheless, in both cases we are faced with the establishing of an internal dialogue between two models of visual language, of a highly specific type of intervisual relations. However, if we understand the painting as a type of text, and it is only in this way that it appears in the field of interpretation, we could say that these “redoubled” images in Igor Gusev’s paintings reveal a kind of intertextual fluctuation. Such forms of artistic practice, i.e., forms which include the development of the principles of intervisuality and intertextuality, are very common in the history of modern and, particularly, postmodern art. Without doubt, they both point to a symptom and represent its expression – the symptom of the inability of the modern world to perceive a whole and coherent image of the world and its meaning; of the world which has “lost its horizon” and which has been hopelessly scattered into an infinite multitude of fragmented “little worlds”. It is my opinion, however, that the principle of “redoubling”of unrelated languages in Gusev’s paintings is not based on any conceptual intention of the artist to simply contrast them by suggest- ing through their discord the impossibility of establishing the elusive unified image of the world or to seek unusual, nearly surrealist aesthetic ef- fects. For Gusev, these languages are both formally and substantively merged in a single, indivisible whole. In the paintings which are based on a figure in an interior or exterior setting, the figure or figures have their “abstract” extensions, stripes which spread out from a nearly organic “su- ture” with the mimetic fragment of the figure to the very edge of the painting. These stripes have an appropriate colour structure which is in ac- cordance with the painted base from which they start. This results in painted stripes which clearly resemble the stripes which appear on a screen during any interference or malfunction in the broadcasting of a digital image. Naturally, this reveals the reasons for the formal merging of two different languages, the mimetic and the abstract, and the internal circulation of meaning between the two types of visual representation of the world of objects: one based on the recognition of objects by analogy and another which rests on simulating some form of the numerical structural- isation of the image of that same object. It is worthwhile to draw an art-historical comparison here. Gerhard Richter’s digital prints, exhibited under the title Strip Paintings, came about in 2011 as the result of a complex work process by the artist – a computer manipulation of a digital recording of his own painting from 1990. These Strip Paintings, consisting of a nearly unsurveyable series of horizontal painted stripes, represent a kind of cold objectification of the digital deconstruction of his own chosen painting, executed with specialised software through a series of ra- tional and methodical mathematical operations of mirrorring, repetition and multiplication. Unlike Richter’s “cold” objectification, Gusev’s series of paintings constitute a manifestly vitalist type of “joyous”, hedonistic articulation of the image, in which the object and the simulation of its dig- ital extension are laced into a unique scene, saturated with the materiality of the paint.

Although he is very much aware of the “totalising requirements of technology” and the domination of digital culture, which is completely taking over the visual field in the public space, Gusev actually does not intend to grieve and lament over this threat, but rather wishes to use the threat, the domination and the omnipresence of digital images as an inexhaustible reservoir from which to “feed” his traditional painting practice. In other words, if Richter destroys the painting (his own, at that) in order to translate it into a digitalised matheme as the expression of its ineffable essence, Gusev, on the contrary, “deconstructs” a digital visual source and takes from it the model for his own painting, and searches for its as yet unexpressed essence. Unlike the nearly laboratory character, objectivity and strictness of Richter’s working process, Gusev, while “having his morning tea”, watches films streamed from pirate websites and, at the moment when he likes a shot, presses “stop”. Then, “in the evening”, as he says, comes the process of metamorphosis, of “deforming” the selected shot.

Executing this “pirate” operation of selecting and taking freeze-frames – that is, already existing images – Gusev is clearly following the practice and procedures of “appropriation”, which are highly characteristic of the art of recent times, particularly the art of the so-called Postmodern. This introduction of an “external” element into the work of art, of some preceding visual representation, indicates a shift in the artist’s interest with re- gard to the world: this relationship is no longer based on a direct representation of the world’s objects, but is mediated by already existing repre- sentations. In turning to the “virtual” world, to the domain of existing images and to their adoption, in the nature of things Gusev not only follows an important characteristic of any appropriation, that of its being based on a “distortion, not a negation of the prior semiotic assemblage” (Robert S. Nelson), but additionally strengthens this “distortion” by also expressing it in the formal-linguistic procedure of aberration of forms within the chosen model. Although these deformations can be understood, inter alia, as a way of humorously “outsmarting” copyright rules, that is, the “permission to reproduce photographs and other copyright material”, as the term is explained in Google’s most widely available translation serv- ice, by their formal character they point towards a powerful force that moves them in order to either “introduce” them from some undefinable space into the painting or “extract” them from it and try to convey them to this same undefinable space.

From the movement of the hand which presses the “stop” command in front of a screen on which a film is running and then stores the freeze- frame in files, to the moment when the stored freeze- frames are used as the basis for a painting on canvas, including the obligatory metampor- phoses, a “whole ritual” is enacted of which the final act is the painting, which, along with everything else, bears witness to the magic of creation when faced with the inexpressible and ineffable, as well as to Igor Gusev’s faith in the undeniable power of painting as a unique aesthetic experi- ence.

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