| || Andrei Syaylev was born in Samara (1982) and studied at the Samara School of Art (1997-2001). An artist, curator and art manager, he lives and works in Samara. |
Andrei Syaylev is a member of a new generation of artists who live and work in Samara. His name is synonymous with the "Samara wave" already represented in our programme by the works of Vladimir Logutov and Svetlana Shuvayeva. The prominence of this city in the programme comes as no surprise: Samara is an active centre of Russian art life, comparable to Moscow and St Petersburg in the intensity of its quests and the ages of its participants. Besides exhibitions and festivals, Samara regularly hosts masterclasses and lectures, attracting young artists from all over.
The artistic process in Samara is particularly important for the Black Works programme of abstract painting, launched by Guelman Projects in 2009. On the one hand, as in any other provincial city, the traditions of easel painting are still strong and taught in the local art school. In the regions, the influence of the art market is not so strong, so there is less interest in the latest version of salon painting (glossy-media imitations). On the other hand, Samara is unlike other Russian towns in that it has its own avant-garde centre Ц an outstanding institute of architecture headed by progressive pedagogues.
Taken together, all of these factors have contributed to the appearance of a new painterly tendency in Samara, which might be likened to an avant-garde "graft" on the "stem" of an academic plant. This has already given us the New Rostov School of Painting Ц one of the most exciting phenomena in Russian art in the 1990s Ц whose influence can still be felt, even today (it is difficult, of course, to compare the achievements of the young artists from Samara with their counterparts from Rostov, following the loss of relevance of the Transavanguardia tradition, an original version of which was offered by the masters of Rostov).
The position of the new wave of artists from Samara is, in a certain sense, more complicated. Right now, there is no distinct universal tendency of contemporary art for them to adapt. Their quests Ц like the experiments of their colleagues from Moscow and St Petersburg Ц might be termed innovations in the formal language of artistic representation. They attempt to break away from figurative painting in the direction of abstraction, while regarding the latter as a phenomenon self-manifesting or emanating from modern urban reality. Therefore, the vector of their aesthetic passions can be described as "abstract realism" (paradoxical as this word combination might sound). This is a tendency that may well be a viable opponent of the aforementioned "glossy-media" style in contemporary painting.
By "realism" we refer, of course, not to the traditional genre painting of the nineteenth century, but to the exact opposite: the attempts of the artists to escape from the metaphorical and the illustrative, while not forgetting that the main element in a picture is the special painterly space created on the (usually, though not necessarily) rectangular plane. A typical feature of the Samara school is that this space is speculative, implying the presence of different layers or runs of the paint (Vladimir Logutov's Verticals) or barrier tape (Svetlana Shuvayeva's Assembly Tapes).
All of this applies to the art of Andrei Syaylev, for whom the traditional representational scheme is the template that he repeats and reinterprets. One of his most convincing and memorable groups of works was the series of Volga Studies (2007), shown at the ERA Foundation for Visual Art Support during the Qui vive? Moscow Biennale for Young Art. Syaylev formatted his textual descriptions of the various constituents of a landscape in the exact same forms as the objects themselves (for example, the description of a cloud was given in the shape of a cloud) and in the exact same vivacity required by the aerial perspective. In this way, rejecting the material of painting (the paints), the artist formalised the main element of the picture as such Ц space as an exfoliation of the text.
Andrei Syaylev's current exhibition at Guelman Projects addresses the question of space not inside, but outside the painterly surface. The text accompanying the Structure series states that, in the creation of the work, he follows the formal course of the appearance of inscriptions, spots and runs on the walls of the oil tanks straddling the enormous expanses of our country. Such signs Ц which are, at first sight, perceived as a form of expressive abstraction Ц appeal to these same expanses and time. Every canvas in this interpretation should be regarded as a fortuitousness, deriving from the word "fortune" Ц a lucky record of a point in the space of life, made by the efforts of the artist.
The desire to capture something striking, natural (self-manifesting) and "picturesque," before offering it up to universal admiration, is a widespread device in photography and video art. Restoring such chance images to the realms of fine art, however, Andrei Syaylev offers more than just the aesthetics of the objet trouvé. This is, of course, the paintwork itself Ц which should be as objective, material and non-metaphorical as the paintbrush in the hand of the Station Master.