I BELIEVE IN ANGELS
Art Palm Beach
24 – 28 January 2013
A series of dramatic new sculptures by Russian artist Dimitry Shorin will be displayed at some of the world’s most prominent art fairs and institutions throughout 2013, as part of an international collaborative project between Erarta Galleries and the artist. Locations will include Art Palm Beach, Art Paris Art Fair and the Venice Biennale (Palazzo Bembo) with additional prestigious venues to be announced. Dimitry Shorin’s artwork has been exhibited internationally since 1995 and is on permanent display at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and The State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.
Additionally, his work has been auctioned throughout the world at major international auction houses such as Sotheby’s. I Believe in Angels, a series of large-scale sculptures, debates the concept of progress and the limits of the human body in the digital age. Our notion of progress is intrinsically linked with how fast we can move yet the opposite must be true, as cultural theorist Paul Virilio puts it ‘physical speed freezes you’. Our bodies are synchronized with technology, rendering the physical, animal form obsolete; it cannot keep up. From Leonardo Da Vinci to Felix Baumgartner, we have coveted the ability to fly, and Shorin is similarly seduced by the possibilities of flight. In this new work Shorin has created in his signature voyeur’s gaze a series of human flying machines. Drained of colour and placed in the heavens, Shorin’s airplane girls embody our newfound capabilities. In exploring definitions of beauty and the transcendental power of the feminine, Shorin assigns guardianship to womankind, giving an angel her wings in the most modern sense. Shorin looks to mass media images and revises clichéd ideals in mythical terms, placing the woman at the centre of our evolution as a species. In the assimilation of the industrial and the corporal, Shorin presents to the world a guardian angel for the information age.
A catalogue with an accompanying essay by respected writer and critic Edward Lucie Smith and introductory text by Erarta Galleries Director and Curator Dr Diego Giolitti will be produced as part of the project.
I Believe in Angels, Dimitry Shorin: 2013 Installation programme:
24 Jan – 28 January 2013 – Art Palm Beach
28 March – 1 April 2013 – Art Paris Art Fair
29 May – 24 November – Venice Biennale, Palazzo Bembo
Notes for Editors
Dmitry Shorin was born in Novosibirsk in 1971. He studied at the Graphic Art Department at the M. Gorky Teaching Institute in Omsk and continued his studies at the Omsk Academy of Service specializing in costume design, graduating in 1990. The same year, he moved to St. Petersburg where he commenced special post-graduate studies. In 1993 he was admitted to the Association of Artists and in 1998 he joined the UNESCO International Federation of Artists. He continues to live and work in St. Petersburg.
Erarta Galleries represent established and emerging Russian artists. They are located in Saint Petersburg, London, New York, Zurich, and very soon in Hong Kong. www.erartagalleries.com
Curator and Organiser Dr. Diego Giolitti Tel: +44 (0) 20 7499 7861 E-mail: email@example.com
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St Petersburg, where Dmitry Shorin now lives and works, has always been a paradoxical city, just as Russia itself has always been a paradoxical place. His statues of beautiful young women equipped with the wings of jet airplanes, are simultaneously classical and pop. St Petersburg, which prides itself on being a classical city, mysteriously transported to the realms of the north, looking out to the Gulf of Finland, not the Adriatic, has always been at the forefront of intellectual innovation in Russia, Its founder, Peter the Great, intended it to be his country’s window on the world. Today, if you walk down its chief thoroughfare, the Nevsky Prospekt, you also immediately understand that the city is one of the headquarters of the contemporary worldwide cult of consumerism – the names of all the great luxury brands adorn the shop-fronts. It therefore does not seem at all surprising that Shorin’s exquisitely elegant technological angels have a family resemblance to Natalia Vodianova, the celebrated Russian super-model.
If one looks at the paintings that Shorin produced immediately before this sequence of sculptures, one notes that they often show beautiful girls in association with various types of aircraft, ranging from helicopters and small propellor planes to large passenger jets. As Russian critics have noted, these paintings combine a feeling of reckless joie de vivre with a counter-balancing sense of irony.
The sculptures take a large step forward from the paintings, since the girls and the machines have now become one. This leads one to reflect about Shorin’s possible relationship with Russian Futurism. Born in 1971, he is really too young to have had much experience of the old, rigid Soviet art system, which collapsed for good when he was twenty. While the Russia of the Soviet period worshipped technology, and celebrated every Russian success in the space race of the 1960s and 1970s, it had an extremely uneasy, and in general very hostile, relationship to the idea of technological art. Yet the great generation of Russian avant-garde artists, whose careers, often curtailed by official interference, spanned the years immediately before and after the Revolution, were obsessed with the idea of new technological possibilities. The most conspicuous, though never realized, emblem of this was Vladimir Tatlin’s visionary Monument to the Third International, now known simply as ‘Tatlin’s tower’. This, exhibited as a large-scale model in 1919, but never constructed, was intended as a challenge to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and as a defiant symbol of the Russian Revolution’s commitment to the new.
Shorin’s new sculptures can be seen as a smiling retort to this kind of early Revolutionary hyperbole – to Futurist projects doomed as much by their own impossible ambitions as they were by the disapproval of the Soviet political hierarchy. One of the statements they make is that flight has become commonplace. We no longer have to dream about it – we can actually do it. To travel from London to St Petersburg is a flight of two-and-a-half hours, and a motley collection of passengers, tourists and businessmen, make the trip by air every day of the week.
In many ways Shorin’s sensibility reminds me more of the Acemeist literary movement in St Petersburg, founded in 1910 under the leadership of Nicolay Gumilev and Sergei Gorodetsly, than it does that of the Futurist painters and sculptors, who were more closely associated with Moscow. The Acemeist writers, among them Osip Mandelstam and Anna Akhmatova, pursued an ideal of ‘Apollonian clarity’. What Shorin does can occasionally remind one of some of the painters who were associated with Acmeism – the most famous image celebrating this alliance is Nathan Altman’s portrait of Akhmatova, painted in 1914 and now in the collection of the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg. What one sees is an identical sense of elegance.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian art has being struggling to find a new identity for itself. The so-called ‘perestroika’ artists, now for the most part out of Russia and settled in the West, relied for much of their impact on a subversion of Soviet codes and symbols. At more than twenty years distance from the collapse of the Soviet state, these symbols have to be regarded as a dead language. They can only be read in the light of the past. They are not immediately relevant to Russian society today. Shorin is one of a generation of younger artists who are struggling to evolve visual codings that are directly related to the Russia they inhabit.
Two striking characteristics of this society, especially at its upper levels, are the rise of consumerism, and, at the same time, a kind of live-for-the-moment hedonism. The influence of both of these can be seen in Shorin’s work, initially in his paintings, which have a bravura vivacity that reminds one of successful turn-of-the-20th-century artists such as John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and now in this new group of sculptures.
The sculptures, however, show an interest in classical values that is not so obviously present in the paintings, and which is, as I have said, very much part of St Petersburg’s DNA. So how, finally, are we supposed to interpret these emblems of Russian 21st century modernity?
One reference that they inevitably call to mind is the Greek legend of Icarus who, equipped with artificial wings by his inventor-father Daedalus, flew too near to the sun, so that the wax who held the wings together melted, and he plunged fatally to the ground. Are these beautiful young women secure in their technological symbiosis?
Literary interpretations of the myth, followed closely by psychoanalytic ones, have consistently read it as a paradigm of careless over-ambition. The euphoric sense that the sculptures convey – their celebration of youth, beauty, freedom to roam – is surely also accompanied by a darker shadow: there is also the feeling that youth and beauty are essentially ephemeral, and that, while technology may offer physical freedom, it cannot hold back the progress of the years. The young beauties will age. Their mechanical appendages will not.
Edward Lucie Smith, January 2013.