NK Gallery is pleased to present Artefacts, the first solo exhibition by Alexander Pogorzhelsky in Belgium. The main topic of Pogorzhelsky's work is his own perception of an existing image where a cognitive experience and the memory of an impression are of the highest importance. For the artist, who uses the traditional technique of painting and drawing, a work of art results from the focus on the process of observation and interpretation, the documentation of his subjective vision. Pogorzhelsky always tries to create a new work very quickly, often in one day, in order not to lose the impression of an observed image. The creative process is not only the work on show, but also the search for the object itself and the interaction with it. This object can be an everyday item, as seen by the artist, or a unique place he visited. The very choice of subject matter is close to the ready-made principle, where the new interpretation of an object becomes an artistic act. Finding a subject for an image is comparable to finding a treasure or an ancient artefact. The two parts of the exhibition represent two types of ‘artefacts’ found by the artist. One is The Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors drawings series, dedicated to traditional costumes of the peoples of the world. The other is The Menhirs of Mountain Caprione paintings series, depicting landscapes of a prehistoric megalithic stone complex.
Even at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, artists in their formal and thematic research turned to the folk culture and art of early civilisations. Picasso and the Dadaist artists also found their inspiration in primitive and ancient art. The dialogue between folk art and contemporary art has continued in curatorial practice in the second half of the 20th century. An example is the legendary exhibition The Magicians of the Earth (1989), curated by Jean-Hubert Martin, who proposed a comparison of contemporary art with ritual objects of non-European countries. Through his work, Alexander Pogorzhelsky also re-conceptualises the cultural heritage of the past. An ancient artefact, like a piece of clothing from an ethnographic museum or a monument of archaeological heritage, becomes a starting point for creating a new image.
The authentic intended purpose of the artefact is replaced by its new aesthetic and semantic value.
In the famous essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Walter Benjamin wrote that the traditional purpose of an artwork, such as its ritual function, is replaced by its ‘exhibition value’ as soon as the work, removed from its historical context, becomes an exhibit in a museum. The artefacts, which inspire Pogorzhelsky, also acquire new values. There are artefacts which get not one but two types of ‘exhibition values’. One is important to the artist’s subjective perception during his museum visit. The other is linked to the perception of an image of an artefact represented by artists and seen in this exhibition. By this project the meaning of the word ‘artefact’, as an artificially made object, is replaced by a new concept — an image or object of contemplation created by art. The visual image perceived by the artist is transformed by his work. In his art, Alexander Pogorzhelsky produces palimpsests by reusing one visual form to create a new image. A new context of perception of the image becomes a new semantic layer, which the artist uses to cover the previous existing image. Walter Benjamin writes about this ‘loss of authenticity’, the ‘aura’ at the time of reproduction of a work of art. In the works of Pogorzhelsky, the artefact also loses this primary ‘aura’ and acquires a new one, introduced by the artist.
The series of paintings with views of the ancient menhirs complex of Caprione Mountain in Lirugi (IT) consists not only of landscapes but also depicts the inside of this unique place. The prehistoric complex The Golden Butterfly of Monti San Lorenzo for example refers to the origins of civilisations and is also known as the ‘place of power’, where rituals regarding the change of seasons were performed. Each work of the new series is a continuation of the previous one, like a circular panorama broken into fragments, representing the subjective vision, the view from the author himself.
In the series of drawings on historical costumes from ethnographic museums of different countries, there is also the subjective transformation of the artist regarding the object of contemplation. There are drawings which represent national Russian costumes, costumes of peoples of Europe, Altai and Mongolian shamans dresses, North American Indians, as well as African and Australian clothing. All these colourful costumes cease to be soulless forms. Inspired by the theatrical and colourful expressiveness of the costumes, Pogorzhelsky created new images that resemble animated personages. In the drawings we do not see costumes, but interestingly dressed characters, performing certain historical rituals. Placed at the center of the exhibition, surrounded by landscapes of the prehistoric menhirs complex, the drawings become an organic continuation of the painting series. The installations with drawings together with the landscapes compose a unique environment. The landscapes of the menhirs complex become a symbolic backdrop for the drawn characters in which they seem to be acting out some performance.
The exhibition represents a visual narration on the origins of cultures and the material memory of the past. Showpieces and monuments seen by the artist become part of his own cultural baggage, a personal visual collection of images that is constantly growing. From this collection, Pogorzhelsky creates his own ‘imaginary museum’. This concept described in the essay by the same name by André Malraux, is about the cultural heritage of the past which is united into one single mental space, a visual arsenal of an erudite who is interested in art. This mental phenomenon, which Malraux described, is connected to the possibility of exploring a vast cultural heritage through means of modern technical possibilities of reproducing works of art from world museums. The creation by Alexander Pogorzhelsky of a series of works dedicated to artefacts is similar to the compilation of his subjective visual atlas. This is a cataloging process which regroups, through works of art, all things that visually inspire the author. Through the creation of such series, Pogorzhelsky materialises his mental collection of visual images.
Curator of the exhibition