MOSCOW.- Continuing its series of solo exhibitions featuring works by top Russian artists, on June 3 the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation in Moscow opens an exhibition of paintings by Oleg Tselkov on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
As one of the leading post-war Russian artists, Tselkov had a remarkable and difficult career. He began making unofficial underground exhibitions in the Soviet Union at a time when the authorities had repressive cultural policies, and dissenters were often jailed or exiled. In fact, he and his family were forced to leave his homeland in the mid 1970s. But today, Tselkov is celebrated around the world as a leading contemporary artist.
His works are in the collections of the State Hermitage Museum, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg, the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University (New Jersey, USA), and other major state and private collections.
"Oleg Tselkov is an exceptional artist; his works are remarkable for their brilliant colors, especially the light which seems to come from inside the paintings. Yet, at the same time his works can scare the audience, and make you think about existential problems," said Ekaterina and Vladimir Semenikhin, owners of the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation.
"Oleg Tselkov was among the pioneers of Soviet Nonconformist Art in the 1960s. But since then he has become an established artist on the global art scene. His art is well-known in Russia, but it is not fully represented, and thats why we hope that this exhibition will attract much interest," added Mr and Mrs Semenikhin.
The exhibition will have more than 45 art works on display, dating from 1960 to 2011, which come from the artists own collection, private collections, and state museum collections. This exhibition is the first such comprehensive display of Tselkovs works in Moscow, and it includes early paintings and more recent ones.
The central characters of Tselkovs paintings are the so-called "faces", "masks", and "guises," that first appeared in his art in the 1960s. Now, they are the distinguishing feature of his art. "Who are they? Where in the recess of my mind were they born, forcing me to peer into them?" (Oleg Tselkov Group portrait with the watermelon; 1978).
His big paintings are laconic, monumental, and seem to glow. They reproduce a large spectrum of half-tints, and simultaneously attract the audience with an incredible force but also provoke a feeling of revulsion. No viewer can be left indifferent or untouched by Tselkovs paintings.
For the past 40 years Paris has been Tselkovs home. He is an eccentric character, stands apart, and defies definition. The exhibitions title was decided by the artist himself; in Russia, convicts are called aces of diamonds. For Tselkov these people are not so much actors standing in nice boots, but rather he sees the image of a dashing hooligan, a personage from a renegade culture, or a lonely convict.
"Ace of Diamonds" sounds close to "Jack of Diamonds," which is the name of one of the most influential Russian art movements in the early 20th century. Tselkov said this movement inspired him and helped him to take his first steps in art. In the image of the "Ace of Diamonds" one can find anger and incredible self-irony, and even humor, as well as bravado with the reference to "Jack of Diamonds."
Tselkov was also fascinated with the art of Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Malevichs later works. Today, Tselkovs paintings are compared with those of Henri Rousseau, Fernand Léger, as well as Expressionism, Dramatic Decorativism, and Surrealism. Despite the parallels with many European modernist art movements, Tselkovs art, like his personality, is absolutely unique.
The Foundation will publish a new book about Tselkov, and it will contain archival materials, photographs, and interviews. Certainly, there will be reproductions of many of the artists paintings, including early ones that are stylistically similar to those from the Jack of Diamonds movement, and also recently-completed canvases.