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Focus Rostov

11 February 2019

The Vladimir Smirnov and Konstantin Sorokin Foundation is about to debut the FOCUS exhibition series. This series will feature twice yearly exhibitions of artists from a certain region. The first exhibition opens on February 13 and showcases the works of three Rostov-based artists – Irina Grabkova, Alexander Selivanov and Sergey Sapozhnikov.

Curator: Sergey Sapozhnikov
Artists: Irina Grabkova, Alexander Selivanov and Sergey Sapozhnikov

Sergey Sapozhnikov:
‘I have often been thinking about becoming a curator and I’ve already had a similar experience. Most often I did not realize how it was, how and what I wanted to tell. I would say that the number-one rule I used was always the idea to show some good art. Naturally, this is a very general, rather direct statement. However, how else would you talk about art? I see this dialogue in the form of works and practices artists use. Probably it’s worth mentioning that I’m from Rostov-on-Don, where the term ‘artist’ is not as complicated as it tends to be in Moscow. Let me tell you a little more about it. The thing is, when you do art on your own, you always rely on what you feel inside. What makes Rostov wonderful and exciting is that on the one hand it has no context, choose whatever you want, do whatever you want and just… live and enjoy things you love doing. On the other hand, this freedom of thoughts and feelings, not following the rules… it most frequently leads to you dropping out of the context of what is happening in Russia. Yet the most exciting thing is that with each passing year I become increasingly certain that the further away you are from the capital the more you want to align with the global art. I guess this desire is caused by its inaccessibility and magical appeal.
And now let me talk about desires, dreams and art in due order. Firstly, I would like to talk briefly about the artists. These are Irina Grabkova and Alexander Selivanov. I know them both for ages and have been watching them work for a long time. Therefore, I rather express my feelings from memories about our first meeting and impressions that I didn’t just get overnight. The thing is, in early 2000s the contemporary art in Rostov was definitely not doing good, actually it did not exist. Maybe, of course, somebody did hear about it, but that somebody wasn’t me. It so happened that Ira and her brother Vadim, who worked together at the time, had already had some experience of going to Moscow, participating in various exhibitions and understanding the art scene in Russia. I remember how when I first got to their place I realized that they knew much more than I did about that mysterious contemporary art. Let me explain that when I first met Ira I was so wet behind the ears, yet according to those who saw me at the time – with sparkling eyes and aspiration to learn more. As I delved into books, magazines and stories about ArtKlyazma, I only just started thinking about exhibitions, Moscow and achieving something there.
It sounds funny, I know. On the other hand, all these things are the ones that are exciting in an artist’s career. At some point Ira decided to do art alone, it so happened that she parted ways with her brother. We parted ways as well – moves, cities, events – so all communications stopped. However, when I consciously returned to Rostov, we started talking about art again and then some. We shared observations, feelings, showed each other new works. This sounds extremely simple, but is it really necessary to complicate things?
As for Alexander Selivanov, I’ll say it again – we’ve been in contact with each other for years. We live close by. Our talks about – is a whole new story, a very funny one from the outside. I remember how Valentin Dyakov pointed out surprised: ‘you are totally different, how can you be friends? You have absolutely different understanding of art.’ And we ourselves often joke that we are eternal debaters, albeit kind and certainly friendly ones. The art created by Shasha is a mystery to me. I cannot understand it, but what makes it so convincing is that he has been deliberately doing it for years and nobody can talk about it better than him. Therefore, I apologize for my text being all about friendship, but I think that this type of exhibition suggests this manner. Because, if we go back to Ira, it is difficult for me to characterize it as well. I can only say my catchphrase – ‘this is beautiful.’ As I articulate the core idea of this exhibition, I would like to focus on the aesthetical preferences that guide the artists, on how it is communicated through art, how one can work with this. As a curator, I see that it is necessary to show all this not separately, but try to mix, combine, create a new visual experience and dialogue between works. At the request from Vladimir Logutov, who suggested we do this exhibition, I will show several of my watercolours. As a binding agent, let’s call it ‘bubble-gum,’ for the collage to hold together better. Jokes aside, it is very important for me as an original resident to talk about the art from Rostov-on-Don, and I’m delighted to oversee this exhibition and share my experiences.’

Irina Grabkova:
‘While back in the 2000s the topics of falsified reality and ephemerality of what was happening were the focus of my art, today the foundation of my work is not the surrounding world, but substitution of the author himself. Falsifying the artist. Earlier an important component was an exhibition space, yet today it is more about people’s response. My interest to figurative art is completely replaced by abstract geometric art of clear contours. Where there isn’t even a hint of human touch. The topic of restriction and censorship in art remains no less inspiring, and abstract ornaments are a form of compensation for it, like ornamental art in Islam, where images of living beings are banned. Development of modern technology and digital world entering daily life are an excellent reason for artists to master new media. The latest abstract works, the technique used, all these suggest that paintings are not of man’s making. Images are so perfect as if artificially created. This gives me total freedom as an artist to work with obsolete media. As I imitate the artificial nature of a painting, I give myself an opportunity to do painting as an archaic activity. Human eye’s reaction to an optical illusion is involuntary and excludes conscious interpretation, and this gives a chance to create art that is universal, perceived outside of circumstances and terms.’

Alexander Selivanov:
‘The foundation of my art in an intuitive approach, and often unpredictable behaviour of the paint. And when I work with colour I certainly do not consider any symbolic meanings, I do not interpret it in any way, and I have no specific connotations attached to any given hue. As for personal colour preferences – they manifest themselves one way or the other anyway, but I try to control this influence at least when I’m working. This should not interfere with art, sometimes I have to fight with myself, my preferences. Paintings should ultimately become independent works of art, not connected to my personality. The way I see it, a painting often pushes the boundaries of how it is normally viewed, it borders on an object or even sculpture. My methods are not always related to search for beauty, harmony and balance. The most important thing for me is to search for and shape a free area, so that there is always a place for hope. Even when it is virtually impossible, the feeling of hopelessness and suffocating routine dominate the painting, my goal is to find a way out no matter what.’