Sunday, 23 March 2008

Dubossarsky & Vinogradov - Vilma Gold, London

26.1.08 - 2.3.08
Daniella Saul

Having recourse to the past for a style of painting now decades removed from the ideological aims of its politics, Russian artists Vladimir Dubossarsky and Alexander Vinogradov’s paintings of the decadent life of the Russian elite are a jarring juxtaposition of Russian contemporaneity seen through Socialist Realist formal conventions. Very large in scale and brash and vibrant with use of colour, the clash of form and subject- matter is an apt method the artists take up by which to produce and comment on a set of dichotomies. A fantastically ostentatious object of wealth is painted with the same rigour and on the same monumental scale as a typical Soviet School painting of a political scene might have been. A Russian supermodel typifies the rags to riches story of a generation of young women returning to Russia as members of a new affluent, cosmopolitan and sexy social class. The hedonistic, party lifestyles of the elites with their taste for the gimmicky and the vulgar emphasises the idea of individual wealth and glamour and the independence and freedom it brings. This section of society is presented in stark contrast to how one might imagine the majority of the population who are not afforded the privilege and benefits of post – Soviet Russia’s relationships with the western world. This idea is addressed by the artists precisely through their use of a formal style associated with (a failed) Communist ideology. What is more, Dubossarsky and Vinogradov’s paintings do not narrate neutrally. Not only do they juxtapose aspects of contemporaneity with a formal framework that denotes a historically incompatible vision for it, the artists often punctuate their scenes with a self- consciousness that seems in some instances to point to the unfamiliarity and strangeness of western fads and gimmicks. This manifests itself through the outward gaze of a character in a party scene or with a less subtle, but amusing approach depicting an alien following the faddish trend of owning a Chihuahua dog. The artists’ measured brushstrokes paint busy scenes and aspects of pop culture with a vibrant colour palette of acidic tones combined with more muted ones, to create works that do not appear to just represent revelry and wealth. They also seem to suggest that this manifestation of Russian contemporaneity is one that is not quite sure what it thinks of itself yet.

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