Photographs from Anya Stonelake/White Space Gallery collection
At The Chelsea Club, Chelsea FC
Until 30 January 2011
Anya Stonelake/White Space Gallery presents a vibrant collection of photography featuring work by Sergey Chilikov, Martin Parr, Antanas Sutkus, Andrey Tarkovsky and Rimaldas Viksratis. This exhibition, curated for The Chelsea Club in Chelsea FC, gives an inclusive overview of the ground breaking and diverse photographic practices in and around Russia, Lithuania and Britain, from 1960s to the late 90s.
The exhibition begins with a photograph of the French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre taken by Lithuania’s most celebrated photographer, Antanas Sutkus (b. 1939). Sutkus interprets convincingly Sartre’s ideas of “being and nothing”, and individual freedom. In the white desert of sand, his dark and powerful silhouette moves from nowhere to nowhere along the horizon. Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir came to Lithuania in the summer of 1965 for a one-week visit. Then unknown 26-year-old photographer Antanas Sutkus was by chance among the group of young intellectuals who accompanied the couple during the their trip to Nida. Sutkus used his modest and discreet Zenit camera, as if he was just an onlooker taking part in conversations on literature. This resulted in a unique record, consisting of nearly 100 photographs.
Sutkus has had a strong influence on the development of photography in the Baltic. His lucid and extraordinary images of everyday events in his Lithuanian homeland have been compared to the humanistic approach of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Andre Kertesz. Sutkus’ body of work bears witness to the country’s subjection to Soviet rule, presenting a visual history of Communism in an objective but humanistic documentary style. Beyond recording events, Sutkus’ keen eye finds history in human faces. Portraits such as First of September and Father’s Hand (1964) are the product of intense sensitivity on the part of the photographer. Indeed, Sutkus’ humanistic approach, in debt to Cartier-Bresson, comes to the fore in both his images of children and old people. Treading a delicate path that is rooted in care for his subjects, the photographer manages to avoid sentimentality in recording the passage of being into life – and towards death. Filled with romance, beauty and sadness, they move beyond photographic realism like stills from an unmade film. His stated aim is ‘to make an attempt at drawing a psychological portrait of contemporary man’. He continues – ‘future generations will judge our way of life, our culture and our inner world on the basis of photographs.’ As a child Sutkus worked with his mother digging peat; not earning enough to buy a bicycle he bought a camera instead. He later became a photojournalist and, since 1969, has worked as an independent photographer. Co-founder and President of the Photography Art Society of Lithuania which championed photography as an art form, Sutkus helped gain international recognition for Lithuanian photographers. He now devotes more time to archiving images but has an enduring passion for photography saying, ‘I have not got tired of taking photographs but I find it ever more difficult to find my subjects. One has to love people in order to take pictures of them.’
Lithuanian photographer Rimaldas Viksraitis (b. 1954) has won the prestigious Discovery Award at Arles Photofestival in 2009 having been nominated by Martin Parr, who described the work as “slightly insane and wonderfully surreal”. As his photographs suggest, Viksraitis is quite a character. He has been quietly pursuing his photography for years, cycling around the desolate farms in the Lithuanian countryside with his camera tied to his bike. Being compared with the British photographer Richard Billingham, he grew up “between marshes and clay” in one of the most secluded corners of the Lithuanian Sakiai district. “You couldn’t get out to the world without a large pair of wellingtons.” He contracted polio as a child. As a result, he is disabled and one senses that his otherness has helped him create these startling images. He has been photographing his friends and neighbours since 1971, when he first bought an old Soviet Smena 8 camera for 15 roubles. In this way of life that is fast disappearing, any apparent dysfunctionality, propelled by liberal drinking of home brew appears to be an asset. Viksraitis describes his subjects as “ Bearing their cross and yet not grumbling over their lot.” Behind the backdrop of hilarity is the disintegration of a way of living, and persistence for survival.
Martin Parr’s series The Last Resort remains hugely controversial. The photographs taken at the Merseyside resort of New Brighton between 1983 and 1986, and described by some as cruel and voyeuristic, and by others as a stunning satire on the state of Britain, have established him as one of the world’s most influential and admired photographers and revolutionised documentary photography in Britain. Martin Parr was born in Epsom, Surrey in 1952. As a boy, his interest in photography was encouraged by his grandfather George Parr, himself a keen amateur photographer. Parr studied photography at Manchester Polytechnic from 1970 to 1973. To support his career as a freelance photographer, he took on various teaching assignments between 1975 and the early 1990s. At the beginning of the 1980s his work aimed to mirror the lifestyle of ordinary British people, reflecting the social decline and distress of the working class during the era of Margaret Thatcher. He earned an international reputation for his oblique approach to social documentary, and for innovative imagery. In 1994 he became a member of Magnum after much heated debate over his provocative photographic style.
The legendary Russian filmmaker Andrey Arsenievich Tarkovsky was born on 4 April 1932 in Zavrazhie village on the Volga. He was the son of the poet Arseniy Tarkovsky and Maria Ivanovna Vishniakova. Tarkovsky studied Arabic at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Languages between 1951 and 1954 and Geology in Siberia, before enrolling in the famous VGIK Moscow film school in 1959. In 1960 he made his prize-winning graduation short, The Steamroller and the Violin. In the early 1980s, Tarkovsky left Russia permanently. The few remaining years of his life were plagued by a constant struggle with the Soviet authorities to allow his family, particularly his young son, Andrey, to join him. His filmmaking career started again in Italy where he followed the television documentary Tempo di viaggio (1983) with his most accomplished film since Mirror, Nostalgia, written in collaboration with the distinguished screenwriter Tonino Guerra. By the time Tarkovsky started work on his final film, The Sacrifice, he was seriously ill with cancer. He died on 29 December 1986 and was buried at the Russian cemetery Sainte-Genevièvedes- Bois near Paris.
In 2007 White Space Gallery in association with the Tarkovsky Foundation produced a limited edition portfolio of polaroids taken by Tarkovsky in Russia and Italy between 1979 and 1984, ranging from romantic landscapes and studied portraits to private shots of the auteur’s family and all the photographs demonstrate the singular compositional and visual-poetic ability of this master image-maker. His son, Andrey A. Tarkovsky, writes: “However personal these photographs are, I am sure that everyone who sees them will appreciate them and be able to relate to them. Whether he was working with Polaroid or cinema film my Father created artistic images, the power of which lies in their direct impact, in the way creator and viewer become spiritually as one. As he himself said, ‘An image is not some idea as expressed by the director, but an entire world reflected in a drop of water. In a single drop of water!’
Presented here are the photos from the Colorism series by Russian photographer Sergey Chilikov. He says: “I don’t like Color. I cant’ stand color photography. But tempting myself with all things I invented the Colorism, or shall I say It came out of me.” Sergey Chilikov (B. 1953) graduated from Mari Pedagogical Institute with MA in Philosophy (1983) and started photographing in 1970s. Very soon he became a leader of Nonconformist photography in Western Siberia. Together with a group of like-minded artists he organised exhibitions and festivals avoiding confrontations with official Photosoyuses. From 1989 he produces travel series in the former Soviet Union cities and takes photographs in and around Yoshkar Ola. His series show a hidden eroticism of countryside people that seems even more vital as it contrasts with the depressive surrounding. Chilikov participated in Rencontres d’Arles (2002), in Fashion and Style in Photography festival and Photobiennale (Moscow), and Venice Biennale (2007). His series were published in the Le Monde, La Stampa, La Republica, and the European Photography.