Horizons by Timur Novikov and Joseph Brodsky

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Horizons by Timur Novikov and Joseph Brodsky

10.00

White Space Gallery will present a solo exhibition of works by Timur Novikov, a leading figure in the anarchistic underground art scene in St Petersburg in the last decades of the 20th century, in dialogue through image and text with Joseph Brodsky, the eminent Russian poet and laureate of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Both artists were born in St Petersburg (then Leningrad) and for both the city remained an important source of reference and inspiration. Novikov spent the majority of his life in the city on the Neva River as the founder and iconic vanguard of the radical nonconformist movements New Artists and the New Academy. Brodsky was forced to leave the Soviet Union in 1972 settling in the US, never to return to Russia. He travelled widely with his lectures and he soon became known as a ‘genius in exile’.  He would famously adopt Venice as a new home and would spend many winters in the place that reminded him of St Petersburg.

This exhibition takes as its starting point a significant encounter between Novikov and Brodsky that occurred in 1993 in Amsterdam (on the occasion of Novikov’s retrospective exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum). Their meeting resulted in a fascinating and erudite exchange, reflecting a reciprocal network of cultural and autobiographical references to St Petersburg as the city “on the edge” – an intersection where Western and Eastern cultural traditions met.

Conceived as an extension of the now historic conversation between the two prominent figures of Russian culture, the works presented in the show create a further – if imagined – cross-temporal dialogue of sorts that weaves together the visual and the literary. The exhibition presents a selection of panels from Novikov’s iconic series Horizons made between 1987 and 1991. The series includes a number of silk-screens as well as Novikov’s signature textile pieces such as White Night (1989) which depicts the St Petersburg skyline during the midnight sun. Here the artist divides the surface into two flat planes creating an aesthetic interpretation or manifestation of the duality he perceived in nature and human thought. He achieved this by sewing two different (and texturally contrasting) pieces of cloth or fabrics (including leather). The seam in the work explicitly signifies a (horizon) line and creates a distinction which also operates as a minimalist gesture, enhancing the work’s focus on the floating horizon and underlining the spatial-temporal aspects of the image. In White Night, as a further focal point two ships or tankers trace opposing diagonal lines towards the two open drawbridges on the River Neva, giving temporary passage to vessels sailing to and from the Baltic Sea – a seemingly limitless space.

In other works (silk-screens) Novikov revisits the Russian folk motifs in the style of his textile pieces by placing small iconic symbols (purposefully generalised, reduced and simplistic images) in large fields of flat, often bright, colour. His method of re-arranging, altering and proposing new semantic representation, use of symmetry and a horizontal (more rarely diagonal), division of space, became the new art language, adapting a three-dimensional world onto a flat surface, in a manner resonant of modern computer graphics or ancient hieroglyphics. Made during the perestroika years, the Horizons series reflects the youthful and optimistic spirit of the times whilst demonstrating the artist’s penchant for open perspectives – new possibilities of imagination and vision, the enlarged horizon, the greater hope.

The works are accompanied by carefully chosen fragments of Brodsky’s poems in which the landscape, memory and language reveal a heightened sense of self through the poetics of space and time. A selection of photographs depicting St Petersburg and Venice by artists such as Olga Tobreluts, Stas Makarov, and Mikhail Rozanov (all disciples of Timur Novikov) draws on the parallels between the two cities of land and water, and the horizontal line.

A fully illustrated publication ‘HORIZONS’ with select poems by Joseph Brodsky will accompany the exhibition. It will also include – for the first time in English translation – a full transcript of the 1993 conversation between Novikov and Brodsky.

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