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Folk art is never naive: Oksana Mas uses the wooden Easter egg as a technique
Painted eggs were for the first time used by Oksana Mas as a mosaic module in her “Looking Into Eternity” at the Mykhailivska chamber of Sophia Cathedral in Kiev.

ODESSA.- Oksana Mas stepped over the stereotype by using in her works an archaic image of folk art – Easter eggs (Pysankas). During the period of gloom triggered by the global financial crisis, her art became a new pop art, while the artist herself defied the system of art institutions, relying on the enthusiasm of the masses: everyone can create a global work together with her.

Moscow critic Maria Kravtsova once noted Oksana Mas’ “indifference to the current state of affairs”, lack of desire to sense and grasp a trend, stubborn loyalty to own ideas and persistent technical perfection as today’s rare components of an artistic temperament. These components are often the path to marginality. However, direct perception of modernity as inherent in Mas – in defiance to philosophical diploma – is rather experienced as an inspiration and supported by the belief in own rightness. Such artists become trend guides not only in arts but also in the society.

During contemporary art exhibition Venice Biennale 2011, the mass pilgrimage of spectators to Oksana’s installation art Altarpiece of Nations, a mosaic panel of wooden Easter eggs, which is a replication of the Ghent Altarpiece fragment created by the Van Eyck brothers in a cyclopean magnification is revealing. Years of crises and recessions are turning people’s thoughts towards the Man Upstairs. The dialogue with the theme about God, that was conducted sacral at the Biennale and at the pavilion in Germany, which received the “Golden Lion”, was no coincidence. In Christoph Schlingensief’s Church of Fear, his videos, objects and quotes from the book in which a “disgusting German” scrupulously described his own experiences of slow death from cancer, recreated the interior and atmosphere of the Catholic church. Schlingensief saturated his temple with images of Fluxus works, in which there is more blasphemy for the contemporary art than in aberration of sacred symbols. After all, Fluxus ideologist Joseph Beuys brought art out from the museum as a temple into everyday life and insisted that anybody can be an artist. Paradoxically but categorically not inheriting Fluxus’ optionality of visual distinctness and disregard for documentation, Oksana Mas is giving new life to Beuys’ idea through her Altarpiece.

Mas has been using the wooden Easter egg as a technique for more than a decade now. The same sizes of eggs are covered with the right paint and then with moisture-resistant lacquers, preservatives and color protecting from ultraviolet radiation. Oksana created spheres made of Easter eggs. These are candidly decorative and very beautiful objects. The Easter eggs subsequently became part of an ironic fun with images of consumer desire – titanium car rims of Mercedes-Benz and BMW were wrapped in these eggs. Transforming the details of expensive mechanisms into objects of art is a separate topic of Mas’ kitsch game on comparison of old and new values. As Jeff Koons turns porcelain statues into pornography and inflatable rabbits into monumental sculpture, Oksana Mas covers Jaguar or Mazda engines (the Heart Transplant series, 2007) with genuine leather. This is the “Ukrainian Rich” that appeared synchronously with Marat Gelman’s “Russian Poor”.

Painted eggs were for the first time used by Oksana Mas as a mosaic module in her “Looking Into Eternity” at the Mykhailivska chamber of Sophia Cathedral in Kiev. This work reproduces a fragment of the Galician baroque icon of Virgin Eleusa (XVII century) increased to surreal effect.

Following was the Altarpiece of Nations, whose story will soon be unfolded archiambitiously.

Oksana’s resort to the symbolism of the egg was important to Italian art historian and theorist Achille Bonito Oliva, who was the curator of her exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Here, she hit a sign that is symbolic for the professor – the Egg of Columbus and the egg solidified over the figure of Our Lady in Brera Altarpiece by Piero della Francesca. Oliva repeatedly mentioned comprehending the origins of art of modern times. However, the reformer of the Venice Biennale is not one of those who easily legitimizes. He shocked the Kiev artistic environment when he visited the capital of Ukraine with lectures in the late ‘90s and did not note any of the local artists whose creativity was inspired by his same ideas (let’s recall Alexander Gnilitsky’s manifesto “Seed of Oliva” published in the then art edition Arts Dialogue) and ten years later became Oksana Mas’s curator. In her, he saw not a dialogue with Italian transavantgarde, not a reflection of the processes taking place in the West, but something truly unexpected. “The master uses mosaic only as an idea to search for the most life-asserting way of postmodern perception of reality that can visually convey the dismemberment of the apparent unity of things”, said Oliva. He was impressed by the idea of broad interactivity of creating the Altarpiece, whose eggs were painted by thousands of people, from the Minister of Culture of Ukraine to female prisoners. “This is the path to true spiritual democracy. Art as an emancipation of “I” and “us””, the curator summed up.

Transforming individual art to a collective one captured Oksana Mas to a transnational plan. “Today, artists impede the development of art with their vanity, character and limited experience. If properly organized, all of mankind can create works, and move from words to deeds”, she asserted.

An online platform was developed for the Altarpiece of Nations through which any person on any side of the world can become a co-author of this work – by painting the egg module virtually, leaving your sketch and receiving a certificate. The certificate code registered during exhibition of the Altarpiece in any city in the world will highlight a laser spot for the code owner, where his or her Easter egg is located. If the platform is presented at the Venice Biennale or at another biennale, any person on earth can become a participant. This is a witty, rowdy blow to the snobbery of world art institutions, which would make Joseph Beuys to stagger.

“The art of the future is the art of thought and not a material object. Someday, art will be an image occurring in the minds of thousands of people in an instant”, says Oksana Mas. She is paving the way to such a process, breaking the naive essence of folk art by taking it beyond the sweet stereotypes and indulgent fashion to the territory of the current. The Altarpiece of Nations is transformed into an artifact of the noosphere, absorbing human thoughts, dreams, sadness and hope from all continents. An embodied global network – but without malice, as the internet, its virtual neighbor, is full of.

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