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The Soviet Mandala Exhibition
February 28, 2014 12:00


(Source: http://www.winzavod.ru/events/?id=1243)

The Soviet Mandala exhibition by Odessa artist Anatoly Gankevich, where carpet patterns and crystal faces are endowed with almost metaphysical attributes, is taking place in Winzavod's Red Plant.

The artistic tradition of presenting the life of the late Soviet society in an ironic vein established quite a long time ago. Sots Art representatives, for whom the social and propaganda attributes of "zastoy era" were the main sources of inspiration, developed this direction most diligently. But over some time, little by little, almost imperceptibly, the ironic tone has been replaced by nostalgia. It is not so difficult to explain why mockery gave way to the retrospective goodness. For some authors, the memories of those years got covered with a sweetish veil, as it often happens with mature people thinking about their childhood, but other authors – younger ones – saw in those days some unattainable historical myth, a kind of blessed Arcadia.

For the artist Anatoly Gankevich, whose childhood coincided with the 1970s, seems to be quite logical to use the first from two abovementioned concepts. For him, the eyewitness of that era, creating absolutely idyllic images, perhaps, is not comfortable, but stirring carefully the experiences of carefree childhood is exactly what is needed. However, in his Soviet Mandala project, implemented on the Winzavod of capital’s Frolov Gallery, the sarcasm still prevails over tender emotions. Of course, a bit of different quality than by Sots artists: here Gankevich does not operate any official Soviet symbols, referring mainly to the canons of traditional aesthetics. He absolutely did not intend to make fun of them, moreover, he is willing to identify himself as the inhabitant of that "consumer paradise", which in this case is personified with pseudo-oriental carpet ornaments and hypnotic flicker of crystal vases.

However, author's plunging into this atmosphere evokes ambivalent feelings that could not be ignored by exhibition format. Eight full-size carpets hanging on the walls – almost the same ones that once decorated the homes of millions of Soviet citizens – are an imitation, snag and fake. Anatoly Gankevich simulates nostalgic ornaments with oil painting on canvas, but he reproduces it not with illusory precision, but with stylistic shift, clearly visible upon close-up viewing. The fluff texture turns into a mosaic, these carpet patterns look like lined up with cobalt glass, whereupon the meaning of the image changes as well. Oriental simulation confronts the simulation of the West, carpet weaving traditions overlap the Ancient Roman mosaics, which transferred into the Early Christian. The artist treats the crystal similarly: out of vessels purchased at a flea market, he glues a figure of unmistakably recognizable Byzantine cross. Talking eclecticism appears here again, intentional and weird symbiosis of East and West.

If to recollect the project title, the viewer's imagination will be needed to find the characteristics of the Tibetan "mandala formation". They are not visible on the surface, most likely, the role of the mandala as a symbol of the universe is performed by the show in general: with the pictures of May Day demonstrators floating over the walls, accompanied by the sounds of mass jubilation. All this mixture of ingredients cannot be called an ode glorifying serene life in the USSR. The author constructs his total installation so that any attempt of the visitors to feel nostalgic is immediately blocked by the dissonances, obvious or slightly disguised.     




Author: Anna Dorozhkina

Tags: Soviet Mandala Winzavod Contemporary art USSR  

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