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Pyotr Kiryusha

Since April 4, 2009
Guelman Projects, M.Polyanka 7/7-5

1. Competitions Still Work

It is commonly believed that competitions are incapable of throwing up anything new or interesting. Yet when Victor Alimpiev was invited to select works for Halt! Who Goes There? in 2008, [1] he picked up on Pyotr Kiryusha, whose watercolours, he believed, deserved an exhibition. Small in size and painted on paper, the works depicted such various heraldic motifs as coats of arms, flags and suits of armour. The artist later confessed that he had chosen the subjects quite by chance Ц not that their subject-matter was so important for Victor Alimpiev, who saw something completely different in Kiryusha's watercolours, something important to him and close to his heart. He saw painterliness, artisticity and the potential for work in a large format.

2. Once More About Painting

There is a widespread opinion that there was and is no school of painting in Russia, at least from the 1980s onwards. That, in view of the complete absence of a modern artistic academy, the conceptual tradition is the only possible one. That Russian painting today is the illustrated narratives in the spirit of feuilletons as practiced by the Vinogradov & Dubosarsky duo or the younger generation in the form of Dmitry Shorin, Alexei Kallima and Diana Machulina.

In such a situation, special attention is drawn to the slightest hint at another approach to representation or an interest in the formal side of painting (or graphic art or works on paper in general Ц when addressing this question, such differences are unimportant). The entire programme of Guelman Projects for the coming year, in principle, addresses the painterly image. But this exhibition of Pyotr Kiryusha's works is a particularly special situation. This is an example of the independent birth of a school, when the artists themselves begin to form a new painterly tradition and succession; when, not satisfied with the poverty of art life and the state of modern critical thought, they themselves assume the functions of curator and even pedagogue.

3. Works on Paper

Pyotr Kiryusha's pictures should really be called "works on paper," for it is the paper that creates such a luminescent and impressionistic effect. This relationship with the paper Ц the guarantee of brightness and luminescence Ц reflects a new "post-digital" relationship with colour. Pyotr employs the white colour of the paper like a computer screen, never completely covering it. Applying a special technology that allows him to dilute the gouache without losing the thickness of the paint, he always leaves the lower coats of paint brighter than the following ones.

This computer-screen understanding of colour ushers in a new relationship with the size of the works. The imperative of the white sheet, as described by Favorsky, [2] loses its power. In analogy with a computer screen, enlargement becomes a sign of an improvement in quality Ц or a way to reveal hidden details and meanings, as in Michelangelo Antonioni's film Blow Up.

Unlike the representation of digital nature, super-magnification in the works of Pyotr Kiryusha does not cause damage to the image or the loss of its wholeness, as occurs with the pixel phenomenon. The light does not break out as a result of the image collapsing into local constituents (explaining why it is not deathly white, as on a screen). Kiryusha's light is warm, multi-coloured and alive. It is the joining substance: the plasma uniting all elements of material life on the micro-level.

4. The Return of the Aura

Discussing the difference between a photographic and a painterly image, Walter Benjamin introduced the concept of "aura" Ц the inner luminescence of a painterly image, as opposed to a mass-produced one. Russian art critic Nikolai Tarabukin, a member of the formal school of literary and artistic criticism, developed this concept, explaining its nature using the very technique of oil painting. In 1928, he defined aura as the "incessant flow of establishment" produced by classical painting, employing chiaroscuro and shading. [3]

During the writing of his work and beyond, throughout the entire twentieth century, painting Ц or, at least, figurative painting Ц has grown increasing flat and similar to a mass-produced image. Space and a specific substantiality remain only in abstract painting Ц and not always.

This stand-off in painting, with the independent formal approach remaining the sole property of non-figurative works, has recently been resolved Ц in the most sudden and unexpected way. The works of such artists as Luc Tuymans, Michaël Borremans and Gary Hume display an exciting symbiosis of original painterly voluntarism or the "auric" painterly matter and recognisable figurative elements (generally dominated by the former).

Pyotr Kiryusha's subjects are born in a similar fashion. He himself claims that what paved the way for his non-objective quests was landscape sketches made from the top floor of a high-rise block of flats in Chertanovo Ц a profusion of sky and the melting details of the landscape at the bottom, seen through a window. Curiously, thirty years ago, the geometric painting of Alyona Kirtsova Ц the leading abstractionist of our days Ц also appeared in Chertanovo and also thanks to a view from a window.

Evgenia Kikodze


1. At the Fruits Falling into Different Orchards project at the Winzavod Contemporary Art Center in Moscow (4-31 July 2008), curator Anna Zaitseva invited several famous Russian artists, including Victor Alimpiev, to create their own exhibitions of young artists.
2. Vladimir Favorsky's words on the "mass" of the white sheet of paper. See V. A. Favorsky, O risunke. O kompozitsii, Frunze, 1966, p. 17.
3. N. M. Tarabukin, "Poretret kak problema stilya", Iskusstvo portreta, Moscow, 1928.



I was born in 1978, in the city of Dushanbe in Tajikistan, later moving with my parents to Riga, where I went to school. In 1995, seeking company, I enrolled at technical college, training to be a metalworker, welder and machine operator. Metalwork and I did not get along, however, and I relocated to Moscow in 1997.

There, I worked as a courier, loader and storeman, dreaming of enrolling at law school. Fortunately, at this point, my father acquainted me with his artist friends, Oleg Burian and Mikhail Rytyaev, meaning that there was now one less potential lawyer in Moscow.

My artistic career began in 2000, when I joined the Higher Academic School of Graphic Design. My tutor was Boris Trofimov, a leading classic of book design. Studying there for five years, I acquired not only a professional education, but many close friends and associates.

Since 2005, I have specialised in drawing, photography and independent video. In 2007, I contributed to the annual Exhibition of Young Art at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. In summer 2008, I participated in the Fruits Falling into Different Orchards project curated by Anna Zaitseva at Winzavod. Part of the first Halt! Who Goes There? international youth biennale, the exhibition of my pictures was curated by artist Victor Alimpiev. In August 2008, my Spots video was shown at the seventh Pusto (Empty) street festival of video art in Moscow. In August/September 2008, my paintings were showcased at the Fresh Blood exhibition at Diehl + Gallery One.

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