“BY NOW”, 12.09 — 01.10

“BY NOW” presents the results of a national competition for Belarussian photographers up to the age of 35 organized through the cooperation of the Goethe Institute, the Helmut Newton Foundation and the Belarusian photographer and curator Andrei Liankevich in 2012. The entries, each accompanied by a concept paper, were submitted to two jurors, the chief curator of the Helmut Newton Foundation Matthias Harder and the photography professor Hans Pieler.

“BY NOW” was already shown at the end of 2014 – early 2015 at Stuttgart and the German Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (“ifa”). In the latter – not by chance, since in 1994 “ifa” had already had contacts with the Belarussian photographic community publishing an exhibition catalogue entitled “Photography from Minsk” and presented its six positions in Berlin. The current selection focuses exclusively on young contemporary photography, i.e., the generation of those born in the 1970s and 1980s.

In making their decisions the jury members focused on an individual, idiosyncratic photographic style and an analytic feel for imagery as well as an innovative approach to a subject chosen by the photographer. In his introductory text Matthias Harder described “BY NOW” projects as having both “consistency and a new beginning” recalling that the Belarussian art and photography scene does have a few influential figures to look up, with Moisei Nappelbaum who established his portrait studio in Minsk in 1895, El Lissitzky teaching in the 1920s at the art school founded by March Chagall in Vitebsk, Chaim Soutine being born and living for a while in Minsk before moving to Paris among them. According to Harder, in the more recent photography, Igor Savchenko stands out, who became known internationally in the 1980’s.

Harder believes that all 16 selected positions of various genres stand out for their fascinating, idiosyncratic character. They range from classical black-and-white portraits to flashy Photoshop experiments varying between social documentary and conceptual approach. A prevailing trend can hardly be discerned in Minsk – instead, one finds an exciting mix of a young generation on the go.

In portraying the three members of the women’s band “Topless” Eugene Kanaplev-Leydik plays with a set of visual rules characteristic for his generation. In Julia Leydik-Kanapleva who photographed elderly people for a yoga journal we encounter a rather traditional view of portrait. The three protagonists are sitting in dark rooms and gaze into the camera with an attentive, contemplative or mischievous look with their gaze resembling a silent dialogue.

The picture series by Aleksey Naumchik, by contrast, shows the gruff, cool demeanor of the alternative youth partying in Minsk. In the title given to the picture series “We will never get older” we experience the photographer as an indirect element of that personal description. Naumchik’s portraits and genre scenes depict the search of the young generation for their own identity and state of being, but also perhaps for their position within society.

With his unusual Polaroid series, Aleksey Shinkarenko created a somewhat different life portrait of the Belarussian population. Exaggeration becomes a stylistic device and also shows a dash of humor. At the same time, this also resembles a preoccupation with identity and homeland. We date the pictures in a different, earlier time, which has to do with the selected technique and the surreal, “false” chromaticity. In actual fact, however, they are highly topical.

Mikhail Leschenko and Maxim Shumilin worked together on a project with the title “The Garden”. It differs from the other groups of works with its melancholy mood, its distance from the world, similar to a breezy blues song. In their poetic, detached black-and-white shots we discover enigmatic landscape impressions, sections of the body and portraits behind a seemingly psychedelic pattern. Larger parts of their square formats become lost in blurred contours, additionally highlighting the time-and placeless daydream aesthetic.

In her genre-like portraits, Olga Sosnovskaya focuses on modes of human behavior, giving special emphasis to arms and hands. The rest of the body is usually radically cut or remains hidden both becoming a symbol of inactivity. In the enigmatic and associatively open pictures we are all able to discover an unusual formal interest, as for instance in the color red, on surfaces and structures.

Alexandra Soldatova observes her fellowmen in their leisure time, at the bathing lakes of Minsk. The city and its inhabitants come to relax here, and in addition to the collective co-existence there is the melancholy solitude of individuals. Thus, some remain alone with their trials and tribulations, their individual life stories. Stripping people of their individuality, she transforms them into types.

Alexander Sayenko also concentrates his gaze on his fellowman. He photographs them working or while taking a break at a trolley bus depot. However, the workers hardly correspond to the heroic ideal of socialist realism. In the style of a classical report he shows us various facets of an unusual place and (work) life. The multiple mirrors moved in to the field of vision reveal an indirect gaze and make the spatial situation more complex, since through the reflection in the mirror the workers become a sort of image on the wall of the work and recreation rooms – next to annual calendars, glass building stones and green plants. In viewing the photographs, we partake of a rather banal everyday situation in a self-contained life and work realms.

Siarhei Hudzilin, too, opts for an indirect gaze of reality, similar to Sayenko. TV screens keep recurring in the history of photography like window and mirror motifs. In a work titled “Private President” the photographer shows us close-ups of the Belorussian head of state in the pixelated format of TV representation – his hands, his mouth, his eyes. This is an approach we already know from Max Scheler who photographed Charles de Gaulle in 1965 in an important TV speech or from American photographers who portrayed various American presidents in their depiction on the TV screen. And Hudzilin, too, comes very close to his president – in purely visual terms, of course.

Alexey Kladov portrays war veterans with their military medals on their lapel or those who hold the historical shot of a child into the camera – as memory that has become an image. The portraits on the edge of military parades or the homes of protagonists are both objective and tragic at the same time. They testify to the country’s glorious past, yet the pride of the person portrayed appears staged and out-of-place today. In his series “Military Habits” Alexey Kladov also shows us that in some Belarusian villages there are still wrecked tanks standing around, which seems strange. In actual fact, they are remnants of the many war film productions taking place in the country – so it’s both real and fictive. Andrei Liankevich also critically questions the same theme in his large-scale project “Good Bye, Motherland”. He processes it experimentally with polaroid, duplications, blurred images, or public Google view shots. In a detailed artist statement he describes the direct and indirect consequences of the war for his homeland and also notes the fact that many streets in Minsk are named after war heroes.

Tanya Haurylchyk photographed patients of a neurological clinic in everyday clothing, presumably in a park right next to the clinic. She retained the dignity of the individuals who appeared in front of the camera in different states, thus having shown exceptional empathy. The protagonists seem to be acting on a stage here and to have found truly new roles. Alexander Veledzimovich by contrast selects a radically subversive approach – introspection. In his “Space Project” he depicts allegedly banal details in apartments that move between reality and abstraction and in which memories and stories seem to be condensed – they can only be surmised but no longer read. Though the close-up perspective, spots on walls, old rugs and weathered stickers are lifted out of their context they indicate more than their formal qualities and become projection surfaces for separate inner images. The decision to focus on the interior genre and its implementation could also be interpreted as inner emigration. In this inner (space) world people do not seem to exist, only their traces are visible. It could be scenes of crime, yet the handmade animal mask on the wall ultimately lends the group of works something reconciling and humorous.

Pavel Kirpikau questions what is generally assumed to be reality. The seemingly solid architecture is dissolved through its depiction in digital pixels. In her neo-Surrealist series “The Balance”, Palina Palynskaya also creates artistic-media hybrids. She disassembles human bodies and then reassembles them in various sizes, with the tiny figures, dressed in quite garish colors, create the elbows or knee joints of the entire figure. The final digital image emerges in several steps and is only initially copied from reality.

In “BY NOW” photography we find a mixture of past and present tenses, the future also seems to be also appearing now as a zeitgeist characterization of individual and country. In this context art can become a seismograph. Taken together it is a piece of recent history and a differentiated portrait of society.

12.09 — 12.10
Kryly Chalopa Space, Brest

Haltyrina Street, 2/1
Thursday – Friday 17:00 – 19:00,
Saturday – Sunday 15:00 – 19:00
Entry Fee: 2 BYN

12.09
Opening

Kryly Chalopa Space, 19:00