Art series by artist Gosha Ostretsov
A renowned artist known for his precise execution and elaboration of personal mythology, Gosha Ostretsov, conveys a powerful message in his provocative series, "Precious Stones of Dissent". His decades-long career began when he first appeared on the Russian art scene in the middle of the 1980s, flawlessly fusing the two disciplines with his avant-garde, New Wave-inspired outfits. Along with Georgy Litichevsky, Erman Vinogradov, and Nikolay Filatov, he investigated avant-garde aesthetic manifestations as a member of the prominent Kindergarten group.
Ostretsov attained significant credibility at the age of 20, and at that time, he had already established himself as a renowned artist, with his paintings displayed in Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery. Early fame caused an existential crisis, so he decided to move to Paris, where his father used to live.
Gosha studied iconography with an Orthodox priest throughout his formative years in France as he wanted to comprehend the meaning of sacred art. Once this was discovered, he began to turn his creative expression to fashion and spent four years working in the fashion and advertising industries, mainly for financial gain, slowly dispelling the glamorous notions that he had previously been a part of as a Soviet person. At the end of this period, he became dissatisfied with fashion and tried to achieve his potential as an artist then. Together with Emmanuel Perottin, he worked on a project to start a new gallery movement. To that end, they clothed some Parisian gallery owners in Gosha-designed superhero costumes, staged promotions, distributed postcards, and wrote press releases. Further collaboration did not work out, and Gosha recognized he couldn't contribute to French culture and, as a Russian artist, returned to Russia. These were the early stages of Vladimir Putin's ascent to power, Gosha’s paintings began to take on a socio-philosophical perspective about this period.
The "New Government" project, which presented a nightmarish image of a technocratic society run by nameless officials hiding behind masks, represented a turning point in Ostretsov's career. Ostretsov engaged himself in this idea, experimenting with a variety of artistic disciplines like painting, installation, and performance. He even wore a New Government mask to his wedding. Charles Saatchi, a British art collector, was drawn to the project's effect and bought two installations. After a break, Ostretsov brought up the concept again just before the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation in 2022.
"Precious Stones of Dissent" weaves together images of a child's model of a Nazi concentration camp with characters influenced by the Renaissance and intertwined in abstract geometric shapes to create a visually perplexing tale. These mysterious canvases represent Ostretsov's "precious stones of dissent," which stand for the autonomous creative force that challenges the confinements of a prison state. The paintings, which have their roots in classical art, upend a world where death denotes emancipation and bureaucrats in masks take the place of famous personalities. Figurative paintings combine governmental propaganda with "masks of the new government," portraying power hierarchies. The precious stones of dissent are characterized by unrelenting battles between abstract materials and propaganda, which challenge narratives, resist abstraction, and compel viewers to look critically at existing power structures.
Viewers are taken into a desolate urban maze reminiscent of German Expressionist movie settings with wooden bas-reliefs. In Ostretsov's depiction of this future society, the cityscape is shaped by gray architects using straightforward geometric designs that were Malevich-inspired. These forms become ominous gray-concrete pyramids when illuminated by searchlight beams, with each relief telling a different story. As they operate as passageways between a gray, logical metropolitan environment and the world of irrational color abstractions, the stories of harassment, jail, escape, explosions, portals, and mudflows intersect to trace the transformational journey of dissent's diamonds.
The "Masks of the New Government" are an intricately planned system of government known as the "pentarchy," which is modeled after Aristotle's "Politics." This organization, which consists of five equally powerful officials, guarantees group decision-making while hiding individual identities behind masks. These masks stand for the destruction of individual control and assessment based purely on outward appearances, allowing for smooth staff transfers while maintaining an unchanging undercurrent of authority.
In retrospect, Gosha Ostretsov crafts a profound artistic statement via "Precious Stones of Dissent" that examines power relationships, propaganda, and the unstoppable force of rebellion. His complex use of symbolism and classical aesthetics draws viewers into a nightmarish world where the ongoing conflict between the soul and the body plays out. The mysterious precious stones of dissent, which stand in for autonomous sources of creative energy amid dismal themes, upend the dominant narrative in the work. The vibrant hues of Ostretsov's artwork serve as a monument to the underlying tensions between pessimism and resiliency, inspiring introspective thought about strength, uniqueness, and the seemingly limitless ability for resistance.
Georgy (Gosha) Ostretsov is a famous Russian artist and one of the brightest representatives of the Moscow avant-garde artistic life of the eighties. He practically founded the genre of man-style in Russia and announced fashion and style as the new language of contemporary art. Ostretsov's work heavily references comic books; hero and villain are crystal clear, and the struggle between humanity and a ruling government is evident.
Ostretsov was born in Mosow in 1967. He graduated from the School of Theatre Design at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1984 and began to work as an artist, showing his work at numerous exhibitions. In 1988 he moved to Paris, where he lived and worked for ten years, including three years as artist and designer at Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.
The artist manages to preserve the provocative ambiguity of his whole project, and to remain in an invulnerable position of independent social criticism, invariably quick-witted and precise. The large canvases and installations are executed in the aesthetics of comics, mixed, as it were, with the accidental intrusion of the street, which spoils the totalitarian message with its colorful blotches and dirt. Ostertsov splatters bright colored graffiti across the picture plane creating his style suggestive of techno folk art. His images of the destruction of capitalists and greedy authoritarian systems of control suggest a redistribution of energy and power. The artist doesn't treat Fascism, Stalinism or Capitalism, as implicit 'enemies' but regards any system of government that seeks to progressively tailor society as such. The power of his images lies in his universal message and mission.
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