Toy Soldiers / Igor Kultyshkin / Russia, Moscow
Opening April 16, 2015
Kaliningrad Art Gallery, Moscow Ave., 60-62
The exhibition organized with the support of International Festival of Photography PhotoVisa in Krasnodar
Toy soldiers belong to his son. He grows. Once, five years ago, while the boy was interested in beautiful toy animals, at night, while he sleeps, tired dad masters the photographic tales with them at the kitchen table. Due day time the dad was permanently busy and was not able to tell stories about the savannah and jungle, just could not. And he arranged the night photo sessions for the lions and tigers from the box from the children's room. Time passed. The boy grew up, and along with Tetris and racing in iPad, the soldiers came to the children's table.
Do not tell me about militarism and relevance of the moment, it is not necessary. See: the artist Joseph Beuys told that, from ancient times up to now, the women have two roles: a harlot (priestess) and mother, and men have also two: a priest and warrior. Please, do not tell me the examples of the growing violence of nowadays - a long history of mankind had known bloody waves and periods of relative peace under the moon and within its cycles.
Who is more interested in soldiers, the father or the son? One plays with them in broad daylight, and the other – at the dead of night. In these new games the new toys are posing in the tiny kitchen desk studio, but they do not need pots of flowers and bouquets any more: the soldiers do not need any circumstances, the soldiers are out of them, they are over them. The soldiers, they are space warriors, who array themselves in different clothes in different ages. The photographer lit their supra-historical reality with unbearable bright light (remember: Am the Light? – That Man told, who is accommodating the whole history, and in whom all persons and times are presented). The light is so hard, that it lengthens the shadows and reveals the hidden essences into their bizarre game. In the light the little toy soldier turns into a brave wanderer, whose sharp silhouette cuts the darkness of his own way. A handful of soldiers becomes to be visualization of the meaning of the word "t’ma [darkness]" – in ancient languages the same word means thousands; and the battle of dozen horsemen becomes to be an image of wildness regiments at the battlefield, where where the mix of horses and men. These battles by Kultyshkin are not the reconstruction of the past, but they are the exposition of the embodiment of heroic spirit. In Igor’s pictures everything happens in the way, which is often for art of photography: anything (creation) is going under cover, like under the black blanket of old photographers - out of artist’s personal will, inside the chamber. In the "game with soldiers" by Kultyshkin this process "inside the chamber" happens physically - inside the scan machine: there the figures are fighting among themselves and casting shadows ...
In crowd scenes of toy soldiers battles the educated spectator reads the "homage" to artist Favorsky, especially the “homage” to illustrations by Vladimir Andreevich to "The Lay of Igor’s Warfare." The ordinary viewer admires the Regiments of Igor, which he revives, and, more precisely, the shelves live in his hands.
Among different experiments with new toys of Kultyshkin’s son only representatives of Russian troops were selected for this show. These are soldiers from different epochs: a thousand years old heroes, heroes of the War of 1812 (which was called the Great Patriotic war during the next one hundred years in Russia), and the soldiers, marines and guerrillas, of the Great Patriotic War, the seventieth anniversary we celebrate this year. Three times of Russian arms, its bitter and important victories. They are reflected in children's games and in the light of new photos – and they are reliving by our contemporary.
And the wing of a butterfly, having touched a face with its shadow, vanished. And yet another moment began. Just as tranquil as the one before. It, like a forerunner, wanted to vanish quickly and inconspicuously, having passed over the border of reminiscences into dreams, to disappear from the realm of the conscious, but… The shadow of the wing was noticed. And even caused a sweet flutter in the bosom, more prolonged than the moment of the shadow.
Igor Kultyshkin is a photographer. Without reference to the significance of exhibitions, publications in leading international magazines and so on, it is difficult to talk about the standing of the most talented representatives of this pursuit in Russia. It is simply impossible to determine, whether this is a profession, a pastime or life [when a man cannot but take photographs, because it is like breathing and even more important]. It is likely that in Russia, photography, so vitally important for the artist, is not a profession, since it does not provide a living, worthy of existence. On the other hand if we remember how sparely the Montmartre artists lived, whose paintings now cost millions and hang in the most prestigious museums of the world, then the existence of the needy photographer today does not violate the tradition of “poor art” and the conscious choice of poverty for the sake of the Idea. Then the photography of Russian artists is..? – Let’s just say that it is Art.
Igor Kultyshkin’s works are visual poems, naïve like children’s humming, the doodles of the Dadaists, the seeming simplicity of form and the alluring into the depths blackness of the backgrounds and blurred shadows of the characters, the dancing teasing multiplicity of style. Amongst the emptiness of the cud of mass advertising, amongst the ruins of museum culture, crumbling into dust without the viewers’ attention, the creation of photographs, which is what Kultyshkin does, is the pursuit of a crazy fanatic, who believes that the wall of reality can give way, that it is possible to cut out a door in it into the fairytale garden of harmony, and beyond the grey humdrum of subjects, the movements of cosmic worlds, musical, as it should be with dancing stars, will be revealed.
The photographer Igor Kultyshkin is a golden boy, he is eternal Peter Pan, with a touch that transforms dust into gold, weaving themes from the most ordinary objects; he is a magician with the instincts of a film director, in whose hands glass and children’s toys are ennobled by light, in them the nature of images shows through, which are followed by everyday things in a lowered secularized form. Playing with fairytales and holding séances of light magic on the kitchen table is not what Royals do, the viewer might argue, but – the knight's move: what would you say, viewer, looking at clouds, which are obediently lining themselves up in the crowns and cities on the heads of garden statues, on monuments, posing proudly, in full consciousness of the importance of the moment of being captured.
…The artist knows more about himself than his public does: he possesses cultural and historical memory; the painful experience of many years of being misunderstood – the stimulus towards inner sacred development and empathy for others’ pain, towards the subtle vibrations of space, light, duration of time. Kultyshkin keeps hold of the continuity of time; in working he unites the simplicity and virtuosity of the mastery of the old photographing and printing techniques and his sense of self as an inhabitant of a megalopolis, a man of the new millennium.
Irina Chmyreva, PhD.
Born in 1970 in Moscow, Kultyshkin attended photo classes for children since 1979. In 1989, he graduated from the Mossovet Polytechnic College, Moscow. Later he worked as freelance photographer and joined the famous Moscow’s photo club Novator, participating in the club’s exhibitions. In 2001, he became a member of the Russian Union of Art Photographers. His works were exhibited at the festivals, such as the Siberian Biennale in Surgut, Russia; at the Pingyao International Festival of Photography, China; at the PhotoVisa International Festival for Photography in Krasnodar, Russia.
He had several solo-shows, including the show at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art in 2006, and at the Museum of History of Photography in St. Petersburg in 2007. His artwork was published in the magazines Russian Reporter, Russia and IMAGO, Slovakia.