50 Shades of Red

Sudden nostalgia about my university years drag me to enjoy 50 Shades of Red at the Russian revolutionary poster room at The Tate Modern . I was wandering and wondering – who all these people on the posters were. They had to have a prototype.

In Russian art the models are equally as capturing.
I remember “Bathing of a Red Horse” in Tretyakov Gallery . The description in art-books threatened me with a “rounded coast line pushing the horse out of the frame”. But neither description nor photos prepare you for this painting: suddenly from 160sm*186sm canvas the arterial-deep-red colour surge towards you ; and Sergey Kalmykov, pained by Petrov-Vodkin – the boy with the biblical face, enclosed within his thoughts , riding the blood horse on the cold steel of the blue water.
blood horse on the cold steel of the blue water
Kalmykov came out of The Silver Age and avant-garde and went further – creating new style, which doesn’t have an analogy in the history of art, and still doesn’t have a name – they vary from “magical impressionism” to “Monster-style”.

“The midpoint of the Art at the moment is inside my head. I’m a painter, graphic artist, sculptor, decorator, art critic, Egyptologist, eclectic and aesthete, dreamer, orator and fantasist, an architect, , bibliophile, author of a great many volumes, diaries, biographies and unsent letters…”

This self-panegyric wasn’t far away from reality: his legacy contain more than 2000 diverse works of art. He didn’t exhibit or sell them during his life – everything was done for future generation: “The World is ill, and there is not surprising that only Artists can bring it to salvation”.

In his last years he came to extreme poverty: he painted on everything he could find – posters, pieces of cardboard. Sometimes on both side – to save space. Surviving on bread and milk in a studio-flat without furniture, he slept on a sheaf of newspapers, but he saw dreams in colours. By morning he transcribed them in alphabetically in diaries.
Pretending to be mad or being mad, he was forgotten as an artist, but avoided arrest and imprisonment. In his hand-made eccentric clothes, eventually he was accepted in town as a harmless and curious part of its scenery. But he saw it a different way:

“Just imagine – from the deepness of The Galaxy a million eyes are watching us. And what do they see? Boring, monochrome mass crawling on the ground, and suddenly – like a shot, something bright and colorful – I went out on a street”

“It is so easy to live like a line. It is hard to became a point” . He managed to became one, and hopefully his self-sacrifice and sage, enchanting works will bring us a little bit closer to salvation.

And so, today at the TATE Modern I keep searching for the sign of uniqueness of this people on the posters.
Did they had Destinies, which made them be picked out of the crowd and participate in the creation of art.
Or is my imagination whispering fictitious narratives of invented characters to me in vain, grand stories of models remain in The Silver Age, and future faces had been chosen already because they hadn’t stood from the crawling masses. And I wander, and I wonder.


The “Savage Beauty” of McQueen in V&A

We see so many beautiful things every day that our eyes refuse to be amused any longer. Only one type of beauty never fails to unsettle this lethargy – The Savage one.

It was all ours for half of the year – it started with an exhibition catalogue, where real models, painted in necrophilic white, turned into mannequins with photoshopped-off heads, assigned the altitude of forthcoming fetishism.

The V&A opened the exhibition; every other self-respecting museum followed with curator’s presentations and tours. Invited and accidental guests of London have been taken to at least one of them, bags and scarves have been purchased and lost in black holes of wardrobes; St. James Theatre  put a play on stage and we suddenly realised that the McQueen Era in London was coming to its end.

The “Round the clock weekend” in the V&A was the last chance to spend the night with Lee Alexander.

So, we were going again to see the face of McQueen turning into the skull with furrows on the brow, as torturing as a crown of martyrdom.

We started a journey with a room projecting his early shows on a concrete wall, with a glimpse of black and white Isabella Blow  walking down the catwalk; we walked through the rebellion of “Highland Rape”, passed tailored jackets, straight to “Black Swan” , lace and leather of masochistic McQueen, to  the wildness of McQueen, to the ballroom of  McQueen,  through the jewellery and hats, to the floating Sylph Kate Moss, to Voss, and finely – Plato’s Atlantis in the last room – The “Grand Finale”.

Standing there, surrounded by walls covered in white tiles, opposite the line of mannequins – too polished, to look-alike – we wanted to be proud of this tribute. But no one was. Walls conjured up an association of toilet, perfect soundtrack aroused a feeling of expensive launch bars. The phrase written next to exit  “I’m going to take you on journeys you’ve never dreamed were possible” also failed to inspire – we all knew after it will be the door leading to souvenir shop.

McQueen deserves something better .

So, we turned around and , reversing time, carved our way through the crowd,  watching  the tired expressions on faces transforming into stunned distress by VOSS, melancholic and  concerned about the destiny of “Widows of Culloden”, overwhelmed by mosaic of shows , curiously shy of leather bandages and transparent bodices …

We were back to the beginning – concrete walls, people standing in silence, anticipating, watching alive and smiling Isabella Blow on the catwalk. There everything was darker, cheaper, but the ceiling was still high, leaving room for hope.