PAINTINGS OF THE LAST TIME

PAINTINGS OF THE LAST TIME

 

The most taboo word nowadays is "last". To avoid saying "the last one", we say "the latest one". Now both a satellite launch and the company party are "the latest". This word takes us back to the USSR, back to the setting of Vladimir Sorokin's The Queue, when you could hear the phrase "Who is latest in line?" all around you. Is it our representation of the word that pulls reality behind itself, or does our "social existence define our consciousness"? "Is it goblins that they bury? Make they marriage for a witch?"[1] Now is the perfect time to sort this out, at yet another crossroads in our history.

This exhibition is different from Shinkarev's previous exhibitions in that it includes paintings from various series alongside non-series works, mostly painted in 2015. Many standard projects are based on this simple principle. But sometimes, according to the times, we begin to see a distinct significance in the works of a particular year, as did Florian Illies, the author of the intriguing book 1913: The Year Before the Storm. When history hangs in the sky like an oncoming thunderstorm, any events, even the most insignificant hills and valleys of the terrain, arrange themselves into an exceptional landscape.

Shinkarev has several paintings that look like these distinct and fast-approaching objects. The main one is the monumental composition dedicated to Albert Speer, the surviving Hiram of the Third Reich. Shinkarev had previously produced a work with an Anselm Kiefer mood, Tomb of the Unknown Artist, but his paintings are now more powerful than the original impulse, however strong it may have been. Shinkarev limits himself to a large but personal "cabinet" format: the hall of the Reich Chancellery is diminished, immersed in a smoky gray glow reminiscent of greatness scattered to ashes. The ceiling is cut open above the empty walls, like a mattress that was searched for money. And there is only one thing that concerns us: where will the restless spirit settle that has slipped out of here? What is the light at the end of this tunnel, in the low doorway of Speer's ruined enfilade?

Another painting is related to our own affairs: a view of the monument to Lenin and the building of the Finland railway station. Shinkarev previously painted Lenin from the back, balancing on the cubes of the stone base, peering questioningly into the fog over the river. Now the monument is securely corkscrewed in place in front of the building, which shines with a dazzling haze in contrast to the dark bronze, on a background of sky that is so smooth it looks like it came off a printer.

The landscape with the monument and the railway station is, naturally, surrounded by Gloomy Paintings: Shkapin Street, Smolenka, Factory in Sestroretsk, and Kolpino. Here, life is breathing and undisclosed events are happening. Two people are walking down the street in Kolpino late in the evening, united by the same life plan, and at this moment the future of the sleepy town is refracted by their shared destiny. In a room, a man sitting on the edge of a bed looks over his shoulder at his sleeping girlfriend: the familiar melody of Vladimir Nikolaevich Shagin sounds completely new, because Shinkarev almost does without color here, enshrining the heavenly shimmer of pearly skin. In another painting on love, this time dedicated to Mikhail Roginskiy, a woman with a wallet is standing in the door of a lurid barrack room, where her husband is sitting at the table near the teapot, turned away from her. The more miserly life is here and the fewer objects there are to be had, the more unified people are in their likeness, regardless of gender, like branches on the same poorly growing tree.

In 1998, Shinkarev painted Captin Nemo's Submarine Waiting Out Anxious Times on the Mysterious Island. The mysterious island looked like the dunes on the Gulf of Finland somewhere in the resort area. And like the submarine captain accustomed to listening to the sea under the waves, Shinkarev paints his glowing pictures, now floating up from the paints, now receding into a haze of radiance. This body of works is an ark taking in everything that needs to be preserved: the faces of people, cities, nature, and – like a vaccine – the representations of thoughts that put our world on the brink.

 

                                                                                                                        Ekaterina Andreeva



[1] Translator's note. A quote from Alexander Pushkin's poem Demons, translated by Edwin Morgan.