|New belarusian photography
by Nadzeja Karotkina (1994)
"Nowa potografia bialoruska / new belarusian photography". photographic exhibition in state gallery of art in sopot, poland, 1994
Artistic photography of Belarus is still very young. It has not derived from the vast experience of visual arts in general, and not photography in particular. Thus, lacking experience, it is not burdened with anything; its "virginity" guarantees the purity which allows the photographers living there, in Belarus, to perceive reality in their own, distinct and specific way. Belarus is a silent and patient land. It is the very nature that gives birth to this silence -- modest, however, exceptionally lyrical. The lesson on patience. on the other hand, was taught to us by a complicated and unfavorable course of history. Perhaps, this brief sketch will enable you, dear readers, to discover the sources of this strongly reflective mood so typical of our photography. You will not find any fireworks of emotions in it, nor will you find a blatant tawdriness or theatrical blasts of passion. The Belarusian photography rather "contemplates" than "impresses"; it analyzes life and makes a deep self-analysis simultaneously. It is wise and intellectual in its reflexiveness. It is also vulnerable and almost childishly naive.
I hope to convince you of this by presenting the photographers belonging to a group of contemporary art-photographers from Belarus.
The desire to achieve purity of a visual language in photography
is a common feature of two artists Victor Kalenik and Alexander Uglianitsa.
They are allured by the uniqueness and incomparableness of a photographed
moment. Since the full development of every image happens within a frame
of each shot, most often their pictures cannot be linked in series; each
of them bears an individual artistic value.
Sergei Kozhemyakin found an allegory of a suffocating wrapping
imposed onto an individual by social conventions in the narrative of anonymous
negatives that had already fulfilled their role. In his series "Children
Album", he fills an absurd, artificial entourage of children shot in photographic
parlors with sharp social and psychological undertones. It is a strange
game imposed onto adults by no less strange world -- what are its rules?
The more grown-up a man is, the more clearly he sees these rules. The wrapping
becomes a part of one's self. It conditions man's behavior and, consequently,
Galina Moskaleva's series "Memories of Childhood" is woven from
invisible threads of a child's impressions. Photography is one of the few
methods that allow us to fulfill our obstinate yearning for travels in
time. The point is just to find a suitable "key" to oneself that we have
lost in the depths of our adult, "real" consciousness. And the artist manages
to find it. Delicately and with a great sensitivity, so typical of her,
she divides the surface of a picture by means of multiplied image. By doing
so she creates something like the very substance of memories. She explicitly
presents the process of beating time and removing anything that is secondary
and accidental with this careful attention that we sometimes pay to detail.
The spontaneous, non-programmed use of colour adds irrationality to the
series, which makes it lofty and deeply expressive. In the harmony of a
fragment and a whole, as well as colour and monochromatic surfaces, Moskaleva
finds this mystic borderline that both separates and links us with the
irrevocably Bygone. And the Bygone will definitely meet us tomorrow in
its new appearance.
A sophisticated play of intellect reveals itself in the output
of Uladzimir Parfianok. His works are always a contemplation, a scrutiny
of the nature of human perception and, first of all, a reflection over
his own ways of perceiving the world. "La musique savante manque a notre
desire" -- these words by Arthur Rimbaud are not merely a title of
one of his compositions. I think they perfectly reflect the character of
the artist's pursuit for emotional content. The sense of this line carefully
directs our imagination onto a suitable way which will lead us to the ultimate
goal -- the discovery of the essence of this artist's oeuvre. He searches
for a "strange melody" in the everyday reality and finds it in mundane
objects by stretching their contours over the limits of our superficial,
terse ability to cognize. We find this lack of explicitness very seductive
since it evokes associations with our emotional experience. The artist
deliberately avoids the clarity of image, and thus he achieves a certain
isolation; he protects a photograph from a brutal invasion from the outside.
The blurredness in his pictures makes the process of perception complicated,
or -- to be more precise -- our ability to recognize objects. It is almost
exclusively our feelings that are able to filter through such a "protective
Sergei Sukovitsyn's inclinations go towards the enjoyment of life
and eroticism. The artist observes the surrounding world through the prism
of sensuality and leads us into the realm of surfaces and erotic play of
forms that move our imagination. The author takes pictures of a female
body in such a way that he creates an illusion of palpability and make
us shiver. On the other hand, he presents architectural details with spicy
bits of humour and reveals the infinity of erotic associations. However,
we should receive Sukovitsyn's work neither superficially nor without reflection.
I believe they contain a certain secret and elements of autoanalysis that
forces us not only to look but also to muse. In one of his recent series,
the artist begins a very frank dialogue with us in which he himself appears
as a photographed object. The intimacy of an image repeated several times
attacks us with the lack of distance between the author and the viewer.
It transforms the process of the reception of this series into an act of
mutual domination of a photographic image and the viewer over each other;
however, the viewer is not always conscious of it.
Igor Savchenko's photography is Magic. Thanks to his penetration
of a delicate tissue of Time, the artist changes every gesture and every
look into a sign, i.e. into a complex philosophical code whose solution
is lost somewhere in the Past and leaves us with only a little opportunity
to join in the Experience, the illusion of Co-participation. In all but
refined, slightly naive photographs from the past years, Savchenko finds
this Essence that fills them with new life and interweaves them into the
warp of today's world perception.
I consider Vladimir Shahlevitch's series "A Nude with a Portrait"
one of the best in his whole output. The artist skillfully applies form
to balance between an ordinary story and almost subconscious erotic associations.
Facial expression -- body expression, a gesture of a hand -- a "gesture"
of intermingling surfaces and mutually influencing textures, these are
only a few rules of this fascinating game. The colour is primitive and
"physiological" in this case which only augments the paradoxical character
of the game-like beginning of this series that seduces a viewer with the
juxtaposition of directness and intellect, of refined eroticism and mere
physiology, of truth and confabulation.