Rostock, Germany
18.05 - 05.06.2018
Vladimir Potapov. PAINTING SEARCH

Today, there are not so many artists in the system of contemporary Russian art who consistently, from year to year, from one author's series to another, work with painting, study and try to rethink this complex technique, which is in a period of protracted crisis. One of these few is Vladimir Potapov, who made the revision of the medial foundations of painting his programmatic task.
In the past century, a whole galaxy of outstanding minds and talents have done almost everything possible with painting, both at the level of meanings and in a purely technical or, to be more precise, in a performative way. It was conceptually nullified (Malevich), reduced to the result of abstract ecstatic actions (Pollock), brought to life with the help of naked bodies (Yves Klein), created in collaboration with representatives of the fauna world (Komar and Melamid). And this is only a modest start of an endlessly long list... An artist who chooses painting today, by default, takes on his shoulders the heavy, almost unbearable weight of tradition, tradition, unlike many modern techniques, is academically meaningful in detail. Whereas a number of other techniques that dominate today in the territory of contemporary art do not attract so strict and ready to smash the eyes of critics for any mistake, whether they are professional art critics, colleagues, or museum visitors who are completely ignorant of the details of the current artistic process .
Today, painting is more vulnerable than ever, and for a number of reasons. An artist who works with a brush on a canvas can easily and sometimes even not unreasonably be accused of focusing on the art market. And in view already, as it seems, from time immemorial, the tradition of caustic internal corporate criticism that has developed in the artistic environment, which is subjected even to those who, it would seem, deserve the most sincere support. Let us recall, for example, Soviet artists, who, for the sake of very rare and unsystematic sales, chose in those difficult years the format of a stretcher commensurate with the suitcases of Western diplomats. While an author working with video or sound can easily win praise for at least the fact that the majority of international collectors, in principle, have no idea not only how this kind of product can be purchased, but also how to store it and what happens to it. do next.
In addition, many people have questions about the extent to which modern painting is modern, how relevant the challenges it creates to the system of art and the socio-political situation in the world are relevant to the moment and to what extent they are effective and efficient. There is no conventional opinion both in a purely academic environment and in a museum, not to mention the minds of the inhabitants, about what painting should be today and in which direction it should be directed. There is no clear clarity as to what it should serve, where is its compromise between the status of an interior item and being an object in itself, that is, an entity that is a part that is not reduced to trivial visual consumption. Opinions about painting as such, about its thematic horizons and symbolic value, are rapidly changing and subject to constant revision. Sir Herbert Read partly agrees with this in his now classic A Brief History of Modern Painting: it seems that it is not moving forward, but backward. […] Once a school has arisen, as it develops, it will certainly degenerate. Perfection is achieved with such speed and is accompanied by such an amazing release of energy that the eye of the historian simply does not have time to fix this phenomenon. Recall that we have before us the text of 1976, and it is not necessary to remind that since that moment the speed has increased many times over. There are not many ways out of this situation, but one of them is a constant, uninterrupted experiment. This is Vladimir Potapov's strategy.
The genre volumes of the essay do not allow a detailed understanding of all Potapov's pictorial series, of which there are many. Therefore, we will focus on only a few of them. One of the most notable in the media in the previous decade can be called Unite (2011). At the level of the plot, the artist resorted to one of the "eternal" themes, which, however, at the beginning of the third post-Soviet decade was recognized with renewed vigor and from new conceptual angles - portraits of Soviet heroes. Among them: doctors, labor shock workers, pilots, testers. Technically, the series is executed in a complex spatial technique. The image is applied to several layers of plexiglass in such a way that the image is assembled into a single whole from a certain point. The author avoids one specific interpretation, which in principle is good for a modern work of art that offers several levels of meaning. However, peering into the worn-out elderly faces of Soviet people, there is no doubt that the very problem of the optics of peering and observing them
causes semantic effects that are very polar in their content in the thoughts of the beholder - from complete, in a figurative sense, recognition to total disorientation.
In the group of paintings entitled "Feedback" (2012-2014), Potapov sets himself completely different tasks. This time, the subjects of the works seem to be chosen almost arbitrarily. On them you can see a sexy half-naked person, the famous vial of the beginning of the previous century with a heroin solution from the pharmaceutical company Bayer, a fragment of the interior of a room with a depressingly boring sofa, on which a plush toy that does not evoke any emotions and a number of other situations. On top of the mentioned images, each of which is made in an impeccable academic painting technique, the author applied "additions". In modern urban parlance, "the works are vandalized." On their surface, with an aerosol can, images, symbols or inscriptions of a subversive, undermining the conformist idea of modernity are drawn. This kind of clash of different levels of painting (Western realism/graffiti-bombing) and social dimensions (for example, home interior/surveillance camera) manifests the author's protest against the media manipulation of modern man's not only about the world around him, but also about the artist's role in this process.
The "Inside" series (2015-2017) has already gained attention in its time, having become part of the "From Memory" project (curated by Valentin Dyakonov), which took place at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art in 2017, which, along with the solution of other artistic and exhibition tasks, marked the end of two-year Potapov's author's searches. This time, Potapov's creative pursuits focused on a range of problems that are inextricably linked with the theme of memory, the collisions of world and, in particular, Soviet history, "progressive nostalgia" and the sophisticated world order of modern Russia, which every day attracts more and more attention on the international agenda. At the heart of the technical solution chosen by the artist as generalizing for the entire series is a message board familiar to all citizens who remember the Soviet Union. Its outer appearance has the effect of instant recognition - thick wooden plywood, utterly overloaded with layers of different colors and a specific consistency of oil paint, through which almost unrecognizable bits of paper that have fallen under the merciless brush of the district painter are visible, once containing important information and proposals for the population. Today, these priceless artifacts, following many other brilliant particulars of the era, have sunk into oblivion. The outstanding Italian philosopher Giorgio Agambem, with his characteristic impeccable cultural intuition, stigmatizes "talentless restorers" that they "erase [priceless] prints, grind them so that they cannot be read", thus "glazing" history and cities, destroying the invaluable experience of the previous ones. Potapov, in the mentioned series, does the reverse procedure, as if restoring and at the same time partially destroying the image applied in numerous layers on boards of various sizes. But, as a modern work of art should, behind the witty and high-level technique still hides a potential series of meanings, in this case created by the montage of symbols and contexts. On one plot, you can see pioneers doing exercises, and on the other, children taking ultraviolet baths under a portrait of the current leader of the Russian Federation, somewhere in front of us are fragments from the artist's family archive, and somewhere in front of us is an idyllic cityscape, with slowly but surely rising morning sun .
In a generalization about Potapov's work, one thing is for sure, in each of his works he does not seek to present to the world any separate reality, to fix or discover any of its possible configurations, rather, the sequence of realities is important to him, each of which, without the previous one, is deprived of the possibility exist.

Andrey Misiano, Moscow, 4 April 2018
152x152 cm, acrylic enamel, wood, 2017
152x305 cm, acrylic enamel, wood, 2017
152x152 cm, acrylic enamel, wood, 2017
152x152 cm, acrylic enamel, wood, 2017
152x152 cm, acrylic enamel, wood, 2017