Philipp Dontsov and Vitaly Pushnitsky, the two artists in this exhibition are both in their thirties and have already had their work selected for major exhibitions of contemporary art in museums internationally. Having emerged from a conventional academic training of an order which has not changed for two hundred years, both artists have shunned a political or social approach to their work, either for or against the status quo. In their recent works both artists have shown their interest in light, its interaction with canvas and its direct impact on a picture plane. The works appeal to the viewer due to their refined technique and complex and tense light effects. The series of works in this exhibition intend to form a single installation that uses artists’ visions of metamorphosis through light.
Vitaly Pushnitsky was born in 1967 and trained at St. Petersburg Arts Academy. In 2002 he had a solo exhibition of his work entitled “Introspections” in the State Russian Museum, St.Petersburg. Pushnitsky likes, wherever possible, to base his work on conventional painting and sculptural techniques, which he masters with a high level of proficiency and confidence, which comes as no surprise from an artist with a strong academic education. After graduating from St. Petersburg Art Academy Pushnitsky devoted himself into experimenting with numerous techniques of abstract and pop art. He became interested in collage, installation and photography. The combination of painting and sculptural techniques merged with the artist’s experiments in new media resulted in the series of works that benefit from creative use of both and intend to stimulate the audience’s interest in painting, make it appealing and interactive. These works show the artist’s ever-lasting search for new provoking solutions to the problems raised by the present discussion over meaning of art and its place in contemporary society.
Works in this exhibition aim to stimulate audience interest in the painterly depiction of light by introducing the source of light directly into the framework of the painting. Fluorescent tubes enter the canvas by either directly piercing it or being arranged parallel to or behind the sides of the canvas. The two-dimensional picture plane becomes open to operate in a three-dimensional space, being on the verge of transition from a two-dimensional painting into three-dimensional light-painting installation. Since paintings do not have a conventional frame the role of frame is partially plaid by these fluorescent tubes, which instead of secluding a picture plane (as it is with traditional picture frame) open it for a direct discourse with immediate surroundings, inviting the viewer to actively participate and interact with the work of art, thus reducing the conventional opposition ‘work of art – viewer.’ In some works, however, this interaction is abruptly terminated by an iron cage that puts a stop to any immediate dialogue. The contrast is striking, revealing and stimulating.
Apart from framing the picture fluorescent tubes are also active in each work as a direct source of light. This “naked light” enters the picture plane not from outside but from inside. The immediacy (or presence) of a direct source of light within the work of art pushes the symbolic and metaphysical use of light (in painting) to its limits. Light can reveal, expose and enlighten and at the same time it can conceal, suppress and throw into the darkness.
Central to this exhibition at St. Peter’s Church is a huge site-specific painting installation (5m x 3m) entitled “Plafon (Sky-1)” (“ceiling painting”), derived from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. The work, which hangs at a 45-degree angle to the ceiling, is shot through with a neon tube, half a meter long. Once again the artist makes a best use of a creative potential of combination of space, picture surface, sculptural elements and light put together to form an installation. Despite the very strong physical presence of this work in a gallery space it does not make one suspicious of the physical for the whole work alludes to some non-physical substance. The figures within the painted composition are based on photographs of mass killings in concentration camps, an epiphany of a human tragedy. Double stress on the physical (the very physical nature and presence of the work of art and the reference to a very physical tragedy) brings the viewer to a very metaphysical contemplation. “The metaphysical is profoundly mysterious and it is the nature of art to want to resolve.”
Vitaly Pushnitsky was born in 1967 in Leningrad. During 1988-94 he studied at the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg. In 1994 he became a member of the Union of Artists of St. Petersburg. Pushnitsky lives and works in St. Petersburg, working with paining, video art, installations and graphics. His works are in many state museums and private collections. The artists has exhibited widely in solo and group shows, including recent shows Black Boxes of Dreams, Freud Museum of Dreams, St. Petersburg, 2000; Circenses et panem, Holstebro Musik Theatre, Holstebro, Denmark, 2001; Introspecion, The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, 2002.
Philipp Dontsov was born in 1972 in St. Petersburg. In 1994 he graduated from the Mukhina Art College in St. Petersburg. He lives and works in St. Petersburg. His works are exhibited in many museums including Kirsten Kear museum in Denmark, the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, Pushkin State Museum of Russian art in Moscow and in various private collections. The artist’s recent solo and group exhibitions include, Abstraction in Russian Art, 2001, The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg; Light Experiments, 2001, Freud Musum, St. Petersburg and show at Kirsten Kear Museum, Denmark, 2000