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Unnamed Hill


Alexei Kallima

April 29 - June 2, 2008



Empty Platforms. 120420 cm, coal, sanguine on canvas, 2008

Empty Platforms. 120420 cm, coal, sanguine on canvas, 2008
Unnamed Hill. 190450 cm, coal, sanguine on canvas, 2008

Unnamed Hill. 190450 cm, coal, sanguine on canvas, 2008
Forest Fire. 200x420 cm, coal, sanguine on canvas, 2008

Forest Fire. 200x420 cm, coal, sanguine on canvas, 2008
From the series Sebastopol-Moscow. Coal chalk on paper, 2008

From the series Sebastopol-Moscow. Coal chalk on paper, 2008
From the series Sebastopol-Moscow. Coal chalk on paper, 2008

From the series Sebastopol-Moscow. Coal chalk on paper, 2008
The Troubles of Candide

Alexei Kallima's new project Unnamed Hill was inspired by his observations of Russia from the window of a train. This fact diverts the viewer's intuition into the rut of false interpretation the convoluted road-trip of Voltaire's hero. Candide must be forgotten before the viewer can come back to the impressions of a traveler moving from Russia's expanses toward Moscow a travel experience familiar to any resident of this country.

The experience of compulsory observation, as said above, lies at the foundation of Kallima's new series of paintings. It takes the form of a random image in which the structure of meaning has been shifted or warped. More than anything this deformation of meaning recalls the distortion created in photography with a short-focus lens: hours of contemplating the Central Russian Upland a plain without color or striking topographical markers turn any object of the traveler's gaze into an unnamed hill. The traveler and the landscape are unnamed and unheroic, but for a moment they elevate each other in their reciprocal fantasy.

Here photography is only partially useful as a tool of interpretation; to a greater extent, it is a pole of repulsion. The artist finds the photographic image unacceptable, and he deliberately introduces blemishes, neglect, the garbage of drawing and painting, all in order to deprive the image of illusoriness and let in reality.

If photography for Kallima destroys reality by transposing it into a derealized media existence, then painting and charcoal drawing construct the living figure of involvement. Involvement in what? The locus of involvement remains open to question. It might be called "expectation of the real," and indicates some kind of disparity. Kallima's project is constructed as a system of disparities that begin with the title, Unnamed Hill. There is a disparity between heroism implicit in the title (it alludes to a well-know World War II song) and the depiction of a drab, dilapidated city and a sparse forest. There can be no doubt of the disparity between the artist's intent to attain the real through the authenticity of filth, on the one hand, and the indisputable elegance of an artistic technique refined over years of work, on the other; nor can we ignore the disparity between current painterly practice and the lost currency of the landscape genre. The network of disparities gradually unfolds from an artistic vision that is not sated by the gray Russian reality, a vision that expects grander impressions from travel. It unfolds from the artist's self-limitation in art's most exhausted medium, from a promise of heights that ends by showing plains and streets to the viewer.

Why is this sublimation of frustration so necessary? So that a character, perhpas a hero, might arise amid the plain. Kallima's hero is fire. In a fundamental rejection of narration (a quality inherent in the Russian landscape), this hero-fire takes on the role of a gardener in a Western European park. The expectation of the journey's end grows into a model of historical transformation, replacing the figure of the gardener with fire an element capable of transfiguring the wild Russian landscape.

"Of course, one must cultivate one's garden," sighs the itinerant gardener, "by fertilizing it with the ash of one's garden." In other words, the garden is doomed.

At the end of the journey, a final unnamed hill rises in his path: the wall of a skyscraper, a giant office building, filled with tiny figures of people sitting at computers. This is the only work of the series in monochrome, devoid of orange and red. There is nothing but ashen gray.

Alexander Evangeli




22.04.2008
print version 
















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