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Tremors of the Earth


Anton Kushaev analyzes visual codes from the art history and explores the modern culture where image has been overtaken by text. The torrents of “pics” today, circulating in the digital space, have not only become a mundane phenomenon but also contributed to emergence of a different type of thinking and perception. People have reverted to a pre-discursive state: we describe and perceive the world through its visual image-based instruments. The endless number of photographs taken and shared every day, filters and built-in image enhancements, ubiquitous use of infographics to represent data — all this has become the means for us to describe the environment, which has led also to distortions in its digital representations. This ongoing process was already laid out in theory in the mid-1990s by Gottfried Boehm and W. J. T. Mitchell who introduced the terms “iconic turn”, or “pictorial turn”. The end of the universal linear history of art in its traditional form has shifted its identity towards a science of images.


Kushaev investigates his own picture-building logic and showcases the special
language-free impact that images have. He seeks to emulate ambiguous or
controversial situations that become affirmations of the real. The viewer is confused, at a loss trying to discern up from down, fumbling for a familiar frame of reference. This encounter with something ambivalent, distorted and inaccessible through language subverts the established perspective on things. On the one hand, Kushaev’s works aim to de-mystify the mundane, and on the other, they produce a new mythology.

His artistic approach relies on manufacturing symbols or a constellations of signs
that can be formed by layering, transposition, or synthesis of diverse elements.
Philosophically, his works may be construed as systems that point to positions of
objects or co-existence of objects in a vacuum-like space. The figures and individual elements combine into extravagant constructions, reminiscent of architectural adornments and Soviet monumental art. Yet, unlike architecture with its subordination to structural laws and utility, the constructions in Kushaev’s works seem to come apart, appear unreliable. Half-recognizable images are puzzling and murky, defying the first impression.


The Tremors of the Earth series takes found or purchased fabrics as a foundation for the constituent paintings. They serve as evidence of a certain material culture. “This sort of a construction set of fabrics is like building blocks of the day-to-day,” explains the author. “Where ready-made objects act as containers or marks of time.” Some pieces of fabric are used as a whole, others bear a seam, which creates a kind of layering or collision. Instead of masking them, Kushaev makes these seams deliberately prominent with “rugged lines”. The paintings gravitate towards sculpture due to the layered technique: pattern and reliefs on the surface, the tangibility of paint, the scattered figures — all serve to drive tension that continuously adjusts the viewer's optics. The artist sees the stretcher frame and canvas as a household item:


“For me, there is a direct link with canvas as it is used in interior decoration or furniture, which can be regarded as sculpture that comes into direct contact with the body.”


Kushaev is interested in ways to simplify painting while preserving the density of
meaning. Through several stages of reduction and removal of visual structure, he
has developed a well-defined set of techniques. In the Tremors of the Earth, a
prominent element is the color red, which, according to the artist, corresponds to the color of the “burning-hot state of reality”. Crimson figures seem to float, conveying a sense of anxiety and unease, coming through the fabric of reality like a stain on the wall. “Tremors” is not so much a reference to the movie as to the impact of shelling or to the dread in anticipation of the apocalypse. When the Earth is tremoring, buildings are collapsing, columns are breaking down, walls are coming apart, porticoes are falling down. There is more to this, however, than a mere destruction of buildings. Architecture is a manifestation of power, it literally embodies the dreams of the powers that be. But the legacy that is left behind is ruins, monsters of memory. Submerged in dirt or thick greenery, these ruins, that are “not always repulsive, but always strange,” continue to exert influence over the present.

More about the exhibition on the website directory

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