White Space Gallery is pleased to present a group-show featuring an eclectic and international group of artists: Leonid Borisov, Olga Chernysheva, Nicolas Lefebvre, Boris Mikhailov, Giorgio Silvestrini, Rimaldas Viksraitis, and Grigoriy Yaroshenko. The works on view, including photography, painting, drawings, and sculpture, all demonstrate a search for the representation of the figure, the person, or the self.
From rural Lithuania, Viksraitis illuminates a romantic poverty, that begs the question of where communality, sociality, and human bonds are produced, and subsequently where they are sustained. In his photographs, we encounter scenes that seem worlds and decades apart in deeply personal and intimate compositions. In Farmstead Dreams (2004) two figures sit in a shabby room where religious iconography shares a wall with a Mona Lisa reproduction. In another, Grimaces of the Weary Village (1999), an old married couple sit laughing at a joke not shared with us. Perhaps the “fictions” portrayed here are more “true” than any historical document. In another such personal photo, a man’s face, occluded by the smoke of his cigarette, is shielded from the camera’s proposed objective portrayal, denying its documentary aim; the work asks us where to position him and whether his representation will ever do justice to that intimate moment of respite. Other stories are found in Mikhailov’s photographs, which comprise his well-known series Salt Lake (1986), taken at a “lake” near Slavjansk, Ukraine. There, industrial liquid waste and sewage were believed to have a healing and therapeutic nature. The characters constituting the rural—though decidedly not bucolic—scenes seem transposed from a faraway beach. Older men and women swim in the factory’s effluents as children play on industrial pipes. The perplexing out-of-place “beach-goers” constitute somewhat spiritual scenes. Also exhibited are photographs by Yaroshenko taken throughout Russia and Uzbekistan between 2013 and 2016. One site for the images is the rural industrial area of Norilsk: a city built in the 1930 “on the bones” of Gulag prisoners. Now the city is one the country’s most important producers of nickel, copper, and many other metals. Here Yaroshenko has captured the faces, stories, and lives of characters as diverse as children in an orphanage for the blind and deaf, and Uzbekistani migrants working in the outskirts of Moscow.
Lefebvre’s sculptures, instead seek to transcend historicization, and invoke a symbolic and “anthropological” quest for representation. On view are small sculptures that create allegorical portrayals of various figures, some anthropocentric, others abstracted. In La fille précieuse (The Precious Girl, 2013) for instance, Lefebvre constructs the image of a young girl via objects and elements that abandon their material characteristics. Silvestrini, a Sicilian painter working in Paris, also produces physical objects portraying unknown characters, but choses to display them on a painted canvas, keeping the models at a remove from the viewer. His harlequins and figures, “faceless” in every sense of the word, are devoid of any personhood. Instead, they abstract the model, down to a singular form bursting with colour, as his imagined forms and subconscious interpretations take hold.
Lastly, Borisov and Chernysheva—two Russian artists separated by a generation—demonstrate different artistic approaches to representation. Borisov employs a decidedly abstract and “Minimalist” understanding of space and visuality, and utilises found photography to create collages that demonstrate his interrogations of the picture plane and of abstraction. On the topic of the elusive “figure,” his photographic self-portrait creates a tautological understanding of the (artist’s) self. He creates a mirror, to which we hold up our own image. Chernysheva is instead influenced by her development in Moscow Conceptualism’s circles, and works across the mediums of film, photography, drawing, and installation. Her drawings and photograph on view asks instead that we remain in figuration, in representation, and in expression.
Through painting, sculpture, and photography, this exhibition seeks to open dialogues between the works by this group of artists, exploring further how representing “the figure,” or the character, continues to intrigue artists. While some works seek objectivity, and others omit such concerns for the subjective, we remain inquisitive spectators, trying to understand the underlying narratives, if there are any, constituting each scene or form.