Artistic Mediation as a Form of Art
Born in a family of a mother doctor and a father church-builder from the Urals, artist Sergey Rozhin recounts to have made a conscious decision to spend his life with art as early as the age of thirteen. The experience is troubling for him to this day: abused by group of his peers at a summer camp, he recounts to have began drawing unceasingly to get over the pain when recovering in bed. This biographical story is only relevant when tracing back Rozhin’s almost religious belief in the power and healing properties of naivety and mediation. That’s right: the N word, as low and dirty as the next, the M word, standing for all that the cynicism-induced art world disregards as non (bluntly)-critical, ultimately missing out on the immense potential of what a new sincerity could bring.
One of the earliest works within the artist’s role as an explorer and mediator between the realm where ideas reside and us, humans, is the cartoon-style series of drawings Grandma Hip-Hop (2012) portraying his own grandmother leaving her small village to visit the big city. Just an exemplary deity would do, she “descends” to see for herself the way her culture lives, how it expands and evolves. The story humorously begins with her and a group of elderly women playing hip-hop to a gaggle of ordinary geese. Curious, she who is convinced to be a mortal spirit just like Santa Claus (alive only until one believes in it), then proceeds to the city accompanied only by one small black goose–a fitting image for her grandson, the artist himself. There, they encounter the street cat, a superb, strong cat with one blue and one red eye, a smart creature of harshness who nevertheless lives truthfully unlike his other mates who have lost all naivety. Going through a series of adventures and delusions, in the slightly absurd conclusive scene Grandma Hip Hop finally comprehends her immortality whilst standing in a public bus, looking in the eyes at an old woman just like herself. That woman, however, is one of the incarnations of nothing less that the “father of ideas” itself, a key Rozhin’s character.
Grandfather Street Art is an ongoing “ritual”, as the artist describes it, that began in 2013 and continues to this date. “The main method of research”, he continues, “through which the disclosure of the essence of a person entering the parallel worlds of his mind and all the artistic world in general is possible––is the practice of shamanism. As a shaman, I was chosen by the spirit of Grandfather Street Art but I am not the only one as I cannot manage it. This is a dialogue on equal terms with the world of ideas and the subconscious, where there are no simple answers to the question of affiliation between the idea of consciousness and the consciousness of ideas.” Born out of a fictional artist’s obsessions with seeing in the lights of a car or street lamp posts the burning eyes of a creature from another dimension trying to desperately communicate with his world, throughout the years this “ritual” has become a way to test how much he as an artist can or cannot precisely convey the experiences from one world to the one where the viewer of art is. The experiments took the form of audiobooks, performances, music events and an entire new language with its own alphabet. Shaman and spirit, naturally, change along the way, and so does their motivation.
In the first, more somber of the two acts in which Sergey Rozhin’s first solo exhibition at One Monev Gallery is divided, the fictional artist, who could equally be the viewer, reappears. He is walking through a field of dandelions towards a figure across the field that is, indeed, the figure of the Grandfather watching him. This is why in this first act the series of three glass installations Dandelions (2013-2018), which evolved simultaneously to and is part of Grandfather Street Art, takes the lead on the stage while the creature merely observes quietly. Here, the artist treats the concept of beauty as found object to further analyze its nature. Relying on humans’ first instinct which is, most often than not, to be caught by large and spectacular images, the artist fills the gallery space with beautiful shadows of flowers. Growing straight from the floor onto the walls, their large delicate shapes detract the immediate attention from the source. Saturated and curious, the eyes would eventually shift to the glass windows erected on bare wooden pallets in front of the field of growing shadows and notice that at their core, these are small holes from gunshots. Rozhin’s only intervention in the three pieces of glass collected from the streets of his hometown Yekaterinburg is to draw images of flowers around them with a white marker and put light through them.
The second act of the exhibition, lighter in its atmosphere, tells the story of both an altar-like space and a prison for the artist. At the very central position, a flag with Malevich’s flipped iconic Black Square inscribed within a white circle on red background hangs from the ceiling. Entitled The Swastika of Malevich (2018) it is at the same time an homage, a segregation of fears from past forms that await to be outdone and a call for new forms to emerge. The laconic logo-like image is powerful in its reference to symbols that convey, on the one hand, a historic trauma and on the other, a milestone in human thought in the field of art. Lingering in between, one remains unclear on which side of the painterly surface freedom is to be found.
On one side of the flag, a series of muses are portrayed on street banner sheets have migrated from the first act. Painted in black on white background in a graffiti style, they depict figures of women in street environment wearing a dog’s or a bird’s head. Resembling apparitions, they represent the ideas that have entered the human world yet remain outlanders. They roam the streets as if in response to the naive spell left by some anonymous street artist on the walls of the city lamenting over the long period when “I have looked for you everywhere.”
In a world that seems to have no guidelines as to how to catch the images from otherworldly dimensions, Rozhin nevertheless attempts to, as a true mediator of his kind, outline a set of almost biblical covenants. Humorously played out as a animation between a policeman and an artist (also wearing his stereotypical “uniform”), the so-called illustrated manual develops over a series of posters. The viewer is given a set of instructions on how to beat an artist correctly so he can, rightfully, pay for rent, go out of depression, discover his own sexual orientation or prevent a performance from happening. There is also a practical move to beat the artist in case he is Malevich: who knows, it might be useful one day.
/ curator in Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow /