DETAILS OF THE UNKNOWN
OF TAISIA KOROTKOVA
Collage, Expressionism, Modernist stylizations and rampant quotation from the visual milieu, suggesting wide circulation — all of these are common practice in contemporary painting.To create a canvas today means first and foremost to develop a set of rules to be strictly adhered to by the artist, and then to determine the circle of references to be brought into the space of the painting. Taisia Korotkova observes the conventions introduced by the Dutch Golden Age. In her paintings, the laws of physics are never broken. The scenes, with rare exception, are static. Her subjects exude a_ sense of calm. For sources, the artist uses photographs either found on the Internet or taken herself. Her models draw from her closest circles — her family, neighbors and friends. At first glance, Taisia's paintings seem like new variations of hyperrealism, but the image here is not the end document, but rather, the auxiliary means; the painting isjust as much a participant in the preparation process as the boards and sketches that Taisia makes using details from the finished work. Her canvases do not try to imitate the effects and properties of photography; the depth of space and volume are achieved purely through pictorial technique. Taisia removes all superfluous detail, eschewing the minutia that would have slipped past the eye of the interior painters and genre painters of the 16th century.
This kind of technique requires a meticulousness and concentration uncharacteristic for most of the sphere of fine arts today [with the exception, perhaps, of certain types of commercial illustration.] Taisia differs from her contemporaries the way a watchmaker stands out amid blacksmiths. In full accordance with the particularities of her method, the artist almost always seeks her subject matter in the sphere of intellectual pursuits or highly skilled labor. Hence the tranquility reigning over her images: this kind of activity demands precision, and the gestures of trained professionals are rarely that expressive. The word «labor» itself has come to be discredited in the art of Post Soviet Russia, insomuch as it had been one of the most dominant themes of Socialist Realism. Except for the fact that in Taisia's busy working [during the Stalinist epoch, heroes were never allowed to idle], there are no other ties to the heroes of Soviet painting in her work.
For her series «Philosophers», the artist paints portraits of thinkers that are critical to fellow artist Dmitry Gutov's art-education project, «The MikhailLifshitz Institute». During the 2000's, the Institute was the site of a half-joking search for an alternativeto contemporary art and a market founded onMarxist philosophy. Taisia used the discussion of the Institute, which featured theoreticians as well as other practitioners of contemporary art, in order to assign a certain direction of activity with a professional status. The disintegration of the system of employment for artists [which offered pupils of academic institutions prepared careers in the USSR,] had reached the point where all connection between craft and public demand had been lost. The institute helped Taisia find a balance between skill and concept. The result was «Philosophers» in the format of handheld icons. They are executed with the clarity of portraits by Hans Holbein, Jr. This is how Socrates, Lifshitz, Hegel and «the Father of Art History», Johann Joachim Winckelmann have all ended up together in one time period, carrying on a conversation on an Olympus of Taisia's devising. In this day and age, any painterly representation automatically recalls the entire history of art and is considered — particularly in the case of the British — on the foundation of a million precedents.Taisia chooses a direct route to the past, dodging stylistic fragmentation and carefully clearing her sources of any hints of their original circulation.
The next series, «Attraction», is conceptually opposite «Philosophers." It consists of genre scenes of athletes demonstrating those possibilities of the body that are not connected to intellectual activity. Here labor is «slave-like» in the colloquial sense of the word; it is deprived of purpose or result. If one were to seek an analogy for these characters in the classical universe, then they would be the captive barbarians or the unfinished figures of Michelangelo. The slaves for the tomb of Julius ll could never escape from their stone prison [while this is not the specific purpose of sculpture, per say, even since the time of Rodin the interaction of body and material has become one of the most important themes in art.] The athletes must compete with the technique; most of them try to become internal combustion engines, transforming from peopleinto horsepower.
After philosophers and athletes, Taisia turned to «Technology», a series that would bring her widespread recognition. Instead of the doomed-to-fail opponents of progress, the series features inventors and their assistants. We can only give an approximate description of the functional elements of daily life as seen in the interiors of Frans van Mieris the Elder or Vermeer; we know just as little about the processes going on in the laboratories of the space industry. To the contemporary eye, water pitchers and 500-year-old musical instruments are anachronisms that may have sentimental value to the heart of the antiquarian. Advanced technology has been developed alongside us. They depend on society's demands and political interests, but they are no longer directly connected to them, as they were during the time of the Cold War or the Arms Race. This technology is recognizable and unfamiliar at the same time. A scientific instrument is hard to depict, as there can be no anthropomorphic center. Moreover, as with the Dutch, the most emotionally intense events [such as the flights into space themselves] remain outside the frame.
The artist into enters a dialogue of science and art, based on the search for common threads of research of the world in terms of visibility and the world as a set of logically connected laws that can be understood and applied. During the Renaissance, the philosopher Ernst Cassirer claimed that «the scientific theory of experience, in the version to be given by Galileo and Kepler, will base itself on the basic concept and on the basic requirement of exactness’ as formulated and established by the theory of art.» The representation of «exactness» and objectiveness changed throughout the following centuries, as the atlas of visible phenomenon expanded infinitely. But even up through present-day «image culture», research has focused on fixing complex processes that have no analogies in art. Now it is popular opinion that art and science represent different types of knowledge — logic and instinct. Taisia shares this view; she considers her paintings, «an examination of the world through what is visible, as opposed to my own subjects, who try to understand it logically and began, in the end, to try to manage everything and everyone». Thus for Taisia, as for the heroes of «Technology», work towards a final result demands both an interior and an exterior discipline. She is like a mirror of the subjects of her paintings. The compositions, on the other hand, have been derived from photographs, but in their translation onto the picture plane, they are opened to varied interpretations. In one of the works from «Technology», for example, one can see an overlap with the Northern, Boschian images of hell. The works of Taisia are often compared with icons, though this meets with a strong protest from the artist, as an attempt to connect her painting with Socialist Realism and Hyperrealism. The associations arise when the viewer tries the find meaning in scenes whose content is unfamiliar and to find allegory where it was never originally intended. Symbolism, references to religious painting, any similarity to thematic painting of Soviet times — all of these appear as watermarks that have sprung up on their own. They are already ingrained in the format of the painting, in the technique and the palette; they have just not been emphasized by theatrical staging. Taisia's paintings operate outside ideological directions, with all the traditional technique of her paintings an «open production». To stop at one point is impossible.
Interestingly, in her newest series, «Reproduction», Taisia works quite a bit on the composition of this staging. But even here the artist avoids excessive gesture, even though the choice of theme could have been easily influenced by the widespread iconography of motherhood. Taisia, however, is interested in the factory of life, but not instincts. As with «Technology», the order and ritual of the daily grind in laboratories and hospitals interests Taisia more than the individual victories and tragedies, those vivid stimuli that spur quick reactions. The equipment in this factory is no less intricate than the technology of NASA. The birth of a baby is the result of the professional training of hundreds of people. In Vitro Fertilization is familiar enough to most people, unlike details of work in the space industry. For most, however, |.V.F. will remain only a theory, an expensive operation, and rare too. The distance between the viewer and the subject remains. Thanks to this, in Taisia's paintings there is always uncertainty, which opens them up to more and new relationships between the subject, colors and composition.
Translated by Kate Sutton