HIDDEN SEAMS

We can assess the strength of an artist's personality by asking a question: Does the artist invent a unique language based on "public" forms of speech, or does his or her form of personal expression present itself to the artist on purpose? Asya Marakulina is a virtuoso of conceptual drawing. Her rendition of this kind of art has so many individual features, and expresses so many different phenomena of life, from human nature to the state of the seasons, that it seems as if she was the one who invented this medium for telling her family stories, which through her works transmit both the experiences of her contemporaries and the forgotten language of universal syncretism.

The artist turns the NAMEGALLERY space into a realm where the seasons each have their turn, and each of them is related to an aspect of her personal history. In autumn it is about letters from her mother, who couldn't spend time drawing because of her circumstances, but encouraged her daughter's childhood creativity. Winter sets a path that we can recall from Pushkin's writing, and it is time for cross-country journeys from Perm to St. Petersburg, where Asya fulfills her mother's and her own desire to learn the professional language of art. Spring is associated with the love of her parents, and her grandmother's death. And summer is about Asya's own birth. The pagan cycle of time, when the year starts with the harvest, nature's launch of creativity with autumn already waiting, is consistent with the artist's view and compels her to explore the journey of the creative impulse in living matter. The space of the gallery becomes pregnant and heavier with this conception, allowing us a multitude of ways to see and experience a familiar yet always new and thrilling change – the birth of a new time and the life inhabiting it.

Artists turn to conceptual drawings because it is extremely difficult to discuss the uncertain changes of life using the grown-up human language of realism, or the elevated divine language of modernist abstraction, or the alienated language of technological geometry. All three of these ways to talk about modernity as a whole were depleted back in the 60's. That was when eccentric abstraction emerged in Eva Hesse's art: speech that uses objects and fragments of reality to form the physiological chaos of the world order. Ten years later, Mona Hatoum imitated abstract geometry by sewing through pages with strands of hair, and burned the horizon onto paper. Nowadays, eccentric abstraction has become "conceptual." It has lost its warm-bloodedness, but it has gained a resemblance to the universal plan that we suspect is present, watching the movements of elementary particles or insects. (It is no accident that Asya Marakulina chose to illustrate the novel "We" for her diploma project – it is one of the first utopias about a society in which people, although living in a glamorous Art Deco world, have almost become insects.) The texture of conceptual abstraction is extremely flattened and almost transparent. At first glance, the lines are tangled, but they move persistently to their ends, even if they falter. This type of drawing is different from technogenic "drawing" and "design" in its "psychogeometry": it reveals a lot of tactile sensations rather than visual, reminding us that we are connected to the world not only by our vision (and - most importantly - intelligent vision), but also by our sense of touch.

Asya Marakulina referred to one of her ways of creating an image as "perfography": in her light boxes, we saw ghostly maps of cities and areas formed by light filtered through punctures and perforations in the paper like in books printed in Braille, light breaking through solid matter. Now a letter written with a woodburning tool, it is about the past where the light has already gone out, leaving burnt wounds for us to only trace the contours to guess about its meaning. Other techniques, embroidery and intermittent stitches in graphite drawings, are reminiscent of the artist's favorite childhood past-time – tracing contour maps. Stretching her threads through light weightless fabrics, barely tinted, white as snow or black as the earth, Asya Marakulina creates numerous plans for house installations that look as if they were outlined on the curtains of the night train in a fit of insomnia, along with embroidery miniatures –  complex diagrams that could only be understood by an experienced spider or an employee working on the collider at CERN. We can recall the expression "live thread," meaning an outline of sewing, an image that has been nearly swept away. Asya Marakulina gives it a new conceptual dimension, outlining her entire world, a quarter of a century, in live thread: Perestroika, the nineties and the naughts captured in her childhood, and now more than half of the teens spent in the Urals and in our far West, moving back and forth with a blind stitch between the two sides.

"What is it that determines the point of view?" asked Gilles Deleuze in her lecture on Leibniz. "It's the proportion of the region of the world expressed clearly and distinctly by an individual in relation to the totality of the world expressed obscurely and confusedly." Asya Marakulina's point of view covers the intense inner life of an artist related to a huge region: the entire country from the Kama River to the Neva, tacked together with the live thread of housing developments, overpasses and railway tracks, entangled in nets of streams and rivers, summer foliage, extraterrestrial autumnal cobwebs and snowdrifts, long immersed in the night, but inevitably thawing in the sun.

 

 

 Ekaterina Andreeva