BORN FREE BUT LOVE IS A VERB
A 'brief introduction' from Alistair Hicks
Tatiana Brodatch was not born free. Her baby sculptures are: she induces them to cavort wildly and happily naked without inhibitions. Brodatch was born in Moscow. In 2012 she got tired of constantly protesting and came to live in Milan. Her small sculptures are born out of an impasse. Having worked as an architect, she retrained in sculpture at the Brera. She made her first plasticine figure in response to the departure of a friend, a friend who had stood by her through her depression. She made two figures which depicted her resting her head on her friend's shoulder.
We can be provoked into thinking that Brodatch's work is more about sex than freedom. She does nothing to resist this, indeed almost encourages us to wallow in our prejudices. As she finishes modelling them, she photographs and films them. They enter into the world with a natural ease. She moulds them in her hands. They fit into her hand. She feels they are easy to make as it was a material with which she was brought up. Her relationship with plasticine goes beyond the average European child's with a toy building material. In Russia there is a school of plasticine animation, but when she talks of this she immediately denies its influence. The act of using plasticine is as much rebellion as tradition, but more than either she claims it as an act of convenience. Plasticine is easy to use. Yet her animated films are a vital part of the whole work. She makes the individuals, then positions them into groups. She photographs these installations and the movements between the figures that creates her everyday storylines. As one of her film says 'It is not the End'. In this case she is referring to the fact that she has put the story on a loop. Yet the film itself is not the end either. She is probably best known for her instagram: she has 38,500 followers. As with many other of our most contemporary artists, the work is not static. Her baby figures may be the starting points. They are her essential unit, units of freedom, but birth is but the beginning of journeys. Their creator wishes to ensure they are journeys of freedom.
Installation view from TATIANA BRODATCH's solo exhibition "LOVE IS A VERB" at TRANSATLANTIQUE GALLERY, 2019. The installation presents a composition of 55 nude plasticine figures on the bed. They are captured in three poses: before, after and during sex. However, it is not a pornographic scene or an orgy, but "a delegated performance" dedicated to the presence of love in a living organism. 55 participants of the «intimate battle scene» are either keeping themselves company or are split into groups and pairs. They are all interacting and relating to each other.
I came to meet the artist for the first time in her Milan studio. On the same day, Valentine's Day, I saw two other sculptures in Milan, both of which gave me tangential leads into her work. The first is one of the first great sculptures to make one realise that 'finished' is an impossibility. It is the Rondanini Pietà, one of Michelangelo's last sculptures, He worked on it for the last twelve years of his life. Conceptually it was impossible to complete. The ideas of an ageing homosexual sculptor on motherhood did not match with the expectations of mid-sixteenth century theologians. The Madonna does not accept the death of Christ as neatly and harmoniously as the artist's earlier pietàs. Indeed it as much a deposition as a pieta. The mother clings to the body from the back. She does not look as if she has come to terms with his death. To our eyes all these years later, this painful sculpture seems to be a mother's plea for her son to live, to break out of the stone and the equally rigid thinking of the time. The second sculpture I saw was placed opposite the unforgiving facade of the Borsa in Milan. It is carved from the same Cararra marble as Michelangelo used. It shows a great fist with a single finger giving the 'up yours' to the stock exchange. If this piece was made by any artist other than Maurizio Cattelan the statement would be totally unequivocal, but when it comes to interpretation he is an escapologist. He once boarded up the door of the gallery in which his show was meant to be. On another occasion visitors entered an apparently empty gallery to find a rope hanging from the window. The artist constantly evades his audience. Yet this elusive Pimpernel has been supportive of his fellow Milanese artist. He sent her a message by instagram. He has given advice including the title for this exhibition, 'Love is a Verb' .Coming from the Hamlet of the art world, this title has added meaning. If love is a verb, it implies action.
Installation view from TATIANA BRODATCH's solo exhibition "LOVE IS A VERB" at TRANSATLANTIQUE GALLERY, 2019
Brodatch's figures never seem passive. They all seem to be in command of their own actions, asserting their freedom. The artist initially made the first two figures to recreate a sense of human warmth. This is still one of her motivations for making her sculptural children. She gives them solitary birth and launches them into relationships. This is most provocative in her films. She is aware how this can be interpreted. She chose U-Core for one of her films. She had number of hits, but only one message from a confused porn visitor: 'What the Fuck?'
Like Cattelan she relishes and challenges the usual interpretations. In one film that shows two people echoing the position of Rodin's Kiss, nothing actually happens. The man's hand looks as if it will never fondle the woman's breasts. The lips never actually touch. He repeatedly sniffs her shoulder. Love may be a verb. It may be a nostril's distance away. But it is up to the individuals to make it happen.
TATIANA BRODATCH in her Milan studio, 2018