Vasyl Tsagolov

Born: 1957, Digora (North Ossetia)

Vasyl Tsagolov was born in 1957 in the town of Digora in North Ossetia. Like many members of the Ukrainian “southern wave,” he was first shown in Moscow by Marat Guelman at Babylon in 1990. Tsagolov exhibited large-scale, expressive canvases, gravitating towards abstraction combined with an unclear, embryonic figurativeness.

Three years later, Vasyl Tsagolov displayed his own personal World without Ideas at the Marat Guelman Gallery on Yakimanka. This multi-media project was based on a series of photographs, the subjects of which were engineered in a special “dummy” reality created by the master’s own hands. The artistic tale and “linear meaning,” long considered outcasts, were cardinal to this project.

Since the 1990s, the key issues in Tsagolov’s videos (the Milk Sausages film), photographs, installations, performances and paintings have been violence and criminality. They predominate in the themes and content of his projects, becoming part of the general “tough TV” concept, based on the notion of the immateriality of the world and its presentation as hard, biological fiction; a global TV object.

The main instrumental elements of the Soft Horrors photographic project (1998) are an improvised production; optical trompes-l’oeil shockingly intertwining with documentary reality. The artist interprets the world of cruelty as a purely visual effect. Aestheticising violence is a sign of the times, stimulated by the fatal erosion of borders inside the positive/negative moral imperative. Tsagolov believes that “violence and horror are attractive and compelling. Although this interest is thought to be linked to our base instincts, this is not true! The secret of existence hungers for a new morality.”

Tsagolov conceived the idea for the Ukrainian X-Files series back in the mid-1990s. That period, as we know, was not a time for painting. After the Rubber of Feelings series of canvases (1993), Tsagolov also preferred other art forms to painting, secretly nurturing the idea of updating the picture. When gleams of a new understanding of this medium emerged towards the end of the decade, he was, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the first to begin reactivating painting.

In these canvases, Vasyl Tsagolov adheres to the view that, when revising the figurative picture, it is not the form, but the object and character of the narrative that demand fundamental changes. This explains why his painting is “nothing at all” – devalued and dry as an academic study. Yet academicism is neutral from the point of view of expressive formal caprices, allowing one to concentrate on the most important aspect of the artist’s understanding – the subject. Notwithstanding all their authenticity, these are visual tall tales.

Retaining the external generic features of the picture, Tsagolov’s subjects do not create a traditional-metaphysical picture space. Left untouched here and there, pieces of the surface of the white canvas perform the role of traces of the “detachment” of this space. The white canvas can also be perceived as the special “inner light” of the picture.

Tsagolov offers fresh content in the form of all possible manifestations of collective and private pathology of a common sort. His aim is not criticism of society, but an attempt to highlight the cult “anti-hero” and his specific “choreography” of criminal actions and diversions. This can be seen, for example, in the Macho series of pictures. Or he transposes into the language of painting a hypertrophied religiousness, heightened eschatological moods and claims of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations, flying saucers and aliens. The artist weaves all this together in an ironic and fascinating symbiosis, fully corresponding to what is known as Paranormal Realism.

With all their mass-cult assortment, Vasyl Tsagolov’s recent pictures are even more initiated by virtual, media impulses. The artist seems to be painting not “this,” but “another” picture. This quality is increasingly defined as “intermediality.” The illustration of informational reality, the creation of its almost cartoon version, envisages its “loan translation,” while the resulting duplication or discrepancy makes the absurdity of trust in it even sharper felt.

The primacy of content in Tsagolov’s pictures does not imply a complete disregard for form. One cannot avoid seeing a special quasi-colourism in all this “anti-painting”. The conscious and virtually imperceptible, large-scale distortions, the deformations of the drawing and the broken perspective contribute to the absurd dislocation of the meaning and space of the picture. The manual dynamics of the painting are analogous. Despite the seemingly realistic forms, the modeling does not follow academic rules; the brush does not always trace the forms of the depicted objects and figures. Finally, the programmed methodological and formal distinguishing feature of Vasyl Tsagolov’s pictures is their sense of infinite. Work can come to a virtual stop, without actually finishing.

Random articles