Russian artist Semyon Faibisovich has returned to painting with a vengeance. He abandoned the medium from the mid 1990s for more than 10 years, in the face of an exclusive conceptualism then rampant in Moscow, working instead as a writer and filmmaker. His Comeback exhibition at Regina Gallery, Moscow in 2008 marked the end of an artistic drought.
Ikon presented Faibisovich’s first UK exhibition, with a new series of paintings derived from mobile phone photographs. Depicting scenes of everyday life in Razgulyai, the Moscow district where the artist has been living for the last twenty years, these paintings focus on marginalised, unglamorous individuals. Homeless and alcoholic residents of the city are treated sympathetically by Faibisovich as they go about their days, and likewise working class people who are in stark contrast to the Russian nouveau riche. The artist clearly identifies with them, conveying their strength of character despite their circumstances. The title of Two Merry Tramps (2008) is a play on the words of a Russian nursery rhyme. It depicts two figures, a man and a woman, who are down and out but obviously happy in each other’s company. The shadow of the artist, taking the photograph that inspires the work, is cast across them, asserting his engagement with their situation rather than being a detached spectator.
The brushstrokes in Faibisovich’s canvases betray their origins in low-resolution images. The mobile phone technology they embody, democratising the business of image-making, complicates his revived commitment to the high art medium of painting. It actually features as a subject in Elochovsky Passage (2009). Here we see an elderly woman, in heavy coat and fedora-style hat, walking past an illuminated display of phones – shelves upon shelves of these ubiquitous little devices which are now so essential to human communication. Thus Faibisovich makes a smart reference to his own practice, and a means of globalisation that has transformed Russian society, with an informal snapshot image.
A catalogue accompanies the exhibition, priced £2.95.
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