Black-and-white magic of fictional images showcased

Denis Nedelsky and Andrey Shchukin present alternative reality in their exhibition project, attracting visitors to see their unusual exposition at Minsk’s National Art Museum

By Victor Mikhailov

First, let’s start by taking a small trip through history. In the 19th century, French painter Paul Delaroche reacted to the invention of photography by saying: ‘painting is dead’. Of course, he meant that paintings cannot rival photographs in their accuracy in reproducing objective reality. About fifty years later, the comparison became irrelevant, unforeseen by painters or photographers; 20th century avant-garde art embraced abstraction, denying that images must reflect reality at all. Moreover, any interrelations were denied regarding a picture and its object and, later, regarding form and content.

We can confidently say that photographs by Mr. Nedelsky and Mr. Shchukin are signs which are open to interpretation, with the audience invited to create their own understanding. Each work acquires a deeper reality the longer we ponder. Truly, the artists have inspired us to think beyond the literal, stirring a range of associations and interpretations.

The clearly defined central character of the series is a naked female figure — seen wearing a mask, in a chamber, in a mirror and fragmented, as if viewed through a kaleidoscope. The mask is a traditional ‘attribute’ of theatre and carnival, symbolising a facade, role playing and disguise, pretence and self-protection, deceit and anonymity. Accordingly, the wearer forfeits their identity. The photographers’ characters are hidden under the cover of masks…

The exhibition space is impersonal, with no extraneous decoration, creating an artificial environment; this can be perceived as a ‘chamber’ and ‘staged’, setting a neutral background for performances. Where mirrors and kaleidoscopes are used, the chamber can become an active element of the performance. Of course, mirrors reflect reality, while enhancing the sense of space; they can also multiply reality while producing exact copies in reverse. At a symbolic level, there is some ambiguity, since mirrors both deceive (creating a fictional reality) and show the ‘reverse’ of an image. There are also associations with the underworld, inspiring irrational and unconscious human fears. In various ways, mirrors are actually detached from reality. The exhibited works primarily display links between mirrors and the soul: a ‘wandering association’, being transnational, moving from one time to another, vividly seen in the photomontages.

The authors figuratively interpret that a broken mirror symbolises the destruction of life and order, the breakdown of relationships, with chaos giving birth to fragmentation. Visual signs are abstract, perceived as ornamentation or as a kaleidoscope. However, the latter is no random scattering of multi-coloured glass; it shows the fragmentation of a human figure, deconstructed to its base elements.

Generalising, we see nothing but an imaginary post-modernist picture of the world: a sphere of ‘intimate mythology’ alongside accumulated experience of artistic speech and bright, unexpected images.

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