Vladimir Logutov

Vladimir Logutov (born 1980): Russian painter, graphic artist, sculptor, video artist. Studied at the Faculty of Painting of Samara School of Art (1996–2001) and the Faculty of Fine Art and Decorative-Applied Art of Samara Pedagogical University (2002–06). Awarded an independent art stipend from the Stuttgarter Kunstverein e.v. to train in Germany (2005). Lives and works in Samara.
Born: 1980, Kuibyshev (now Samara)
Samara Wave

Vladimir Logutov was born in 1980 in the city of Kuibyshev (renamed Samara in 1991). He studied at the Faculty of Painting of Samara School of Art (1996–2001) and the Faculty of Fine Art and Decorative-Applied Art of Samara Pedagogical University (2002–06). In 2005, he was awarded an independent art stipend from the Stuttgarter Kunstverein e.v. to train in Germany.

Vladimir Logutov’s first independent works were linked to the attempt to address and understand provinciality as a personal identity. Along with a group of fellow students, he founded the Centre for the Medical Treatment of Cultural Catastrophes. In those years, the artist actively experimented in the field of non-traditional media, creating sculptures from damp and frozen cloths.

In 2004, Vladimir Logutov won fame in Moscow with a series called Play/School of a Young Video Artist. Since then, he has been a constant fixture in some of the leading projects of young Russian art, both in the Russian capital and abroad. These include Modus R: Russian Formalism Today (Art Basel Miami Beach, 2006), Urban Formalism (Moscow, 2007), Transfer (Moscow, 2009), The Conquered City (Moscow, 2009), Workers and Philosophers (Moscow, 2010), Extreme/Concrete (Perm, 2011), Modernikon: Contemporary Art from Russia (Turin, 2011) and Saturnalia (Tbilisi and Batumi, 2012).

In less than three years, the young master became a symbol of the Samara Wave and one of Russia’s most famous video artists. Logutov’s works combine nature footage with computer montage, creating an exciting fusion of the accidental and the intentional. Meditative narrative is accompanied by his own personal reflexion. Logutov’s videos are often called painterly, because they seem to revive the hallowed traditions of the old Russian school of landscape painting.

Although working in new media and genres, Vladimir Logutov did not abandon painting, which added a subtle visual sensuality to a series of video works – the Twilight trilogy (2005) and the Expectation installation (2006). In these works, Logutov continues the traditions of “non-spectacular art” – a concept pioneered by Anatoly Osmolovsky in the late 1990s. The word “non-spectacular” implies works of art introduced inconspicuously into everyday reality: because they are virtually indiscernible from this reality, it is up to the viewer to identify them. Logutov creates dual-component works in which non-spectacularity is given not in a pure form, but concealed beneath a false event or something deliberately everyday.

In one of the videos from the Twilight series (2005), two men beat up a third in the centre of Samara. The essence of this work lies not in the recording of the event, but in the cunning computer montage. The scene is divided into three grounds, in each of which people move at different paces. The fight occurs in the foreground in slow motion. Everything behind it is quickened up, while the background takes place in real time. The result is a subtle psychological picture of modern cynicism – the desire of indifferent witnesses to pass by as quickly as possible, in order to avoid getting involved. Those who are further away, at a safer distance, do not hurry: they find the scene interesting.

There is nothing exceptional about the Volga Studies video triptych (2007). An ordinary-looking girl in a bathing costume stands and soaks up the sun surrounded by an unassuming shoreline, water and woods. A closer inspection of the waves, however, shows that they are not waves at all, but the surface of soup filmed as it comes to the boil in a saucepan, then mounted in the landscape (Andrei Tarkovsky shot the planet Solaris in the exact same way). The artist shows that in the unremarkable saucepan of our lives, something of interest is always bubbling away – the trick is being able to see it.

Expectation (2006) is a multi-figure panorama on two screens. A crowd of people stands on the steps of a building. As the camera slowly moves from left to right, the steps appear to be endless, with thousands of people on them. In reality, what we see are combinations of the same people shot at different time intervals. This is not a large mass of people, but the story of many individuals. It is possible to trace changing moods and situations: a man chats and laughs with his friends on the top step; the next time, he is standing forlornly at the bottom, all on his own. We learn to recognise people and do what people expect us to do – to show some interest in them as personalities.

Few know of Vladimir Logutov’s works of painting, which he considers his favourite form of art. The artist once observed that he had drawn for as long as he could remember – in childhood, in art school, at college and after his graduation. Yet he has not been in any rush to exhibit his canvases. Today, the only known examples of his early works are the Sale graphic series (2005) and his painterly geometry based on a map of the world – Untitled (2006).

In September 2007, at a one-man show entitled The Additional Element at the Stella Art Foundation in Moscow, Logutov exhibited completely new works, reflecting a desire to endow painting with the categories of chance and natural element that have distinguished his video art. The Negative Drawing graphic series was created with the stub of the pencil, accompanied by conventional studies using the “correct” end. There were also large untitled canvases with specially peeled paint, as if the pictures had been kept in an aggressive environment or exhibited in the frost, before they had the chance to dry.

The manner in which these works were made incorporates elements of a performance or a happening, when a picture is merely the link in a chain of other creative actions by the artist. This concept of the creative process, however, differs greatly from the striking gestures of the age of Action Painting or the anthropometries of Yves Klein. Logutov presents not the showy side, but the sloppy and slovenly aspects of the creative process, which often end in failure, mistakes or even “spoilage” (the title of an exhibition curated by Logutov at the M’ARS Centre for Contemporary Arts in Moscow in 2007).

It would be incorrect to seek here parallels in the art of the past, such as the concept of the unlucky artist or the unhappy clown, so popular at the turn of the century. Logutov’s painting is laid bare and there is neither failure nor drama about this. It is pure experimentation, providing the artist with an unexpected and interesting result, which he does not intend to reject.

The most remarkable and pleasing aspect of Vladimir Logutov’s oeuvre is the sensation of the “still open doors” of art. One feels that he has not experienced the bitter loss of artistic ideals, humiliation at the defeat of the left-wing movement or the fear of globalisation, which poisoned the generation of the 1990s. Nor does he seem aware of another failure – the educational role of contemporary art. Logutov is elsewhere engaged: in a quest for new expressiveness and the possibility of influencing the image by surmising and modifying the formal devices of its creation.

Digital technologies have provided new and euphoric ways of influencing the image. But the joy of everyday users of computer programmes has quickly evaporated, owing to the evident limitations of the majority of experiments with images on the screen – the main example of which remains retouching. Logutov, however, discovers new possibilities by repudiating the discontinuity of the image, which makes an ideal glossy image impossible. This does not interest the artist, who prefers the phenomenon of the stream, whether it is pure time, movement or some other process. This is clearly demonstrated by the Expectation video installation (2006), in which the montage occurs inside the moving frame, offering unlimited possibilities for variations and giving the work “added time.”

Similarly, the paintings from the Verticals series (2009) are also pure variance or even, drawing a parallel between colour and sound, a form of modulation as such. Logutov visualises the very phenomenon of the natural element – a creative act or stream of consciousness – and the runs of paint are its unwitting illustration.

Trusting in the elemental manifestation of the painterly matter, Logutov rejects complete control of the image – a temptation offered by digital technologies. The principle of “chance,” which he has consciously adhered to throughout his oeuvre, actively opposes his own will, which is also strongly manifested in this particular project. The artist himself establishes the border – the horizontal line from which all runs of paint begin. Sometimes, this line is whimsical and graduated; at other times, it is duplicated by an equal stripe of another colour.

Revolving the canvas while the paint is still wet, Logutov influences the trajectory of the drops. The lines running downwards, sideways and upwards are called “verticals,” hinting at their dependence on the power of gravity in each concrete turn of the canvas. The diversity of these “verticals” – their curvature, non-parallelism, lop-sidedness or even horizontalness – is an elegant nod in the direction of the relativity of any system of measurement.

One of the main artistic issues addressed by Vladimir Logutov in the second half of the 2000s was the question of transgression in art. This is the domestication of various artistic practices – or, alternatively, the aestheticisation of the purely technical aspects of everyday life. The artist also examined the potential borders of different genres, such as analogue video, experimenting on their “translation” into digital techniques.

The results of these investigations have been a series of remarkable and diverse works created by Vladimir Logutov in recent years, ranging from the video installations Pause (2010) and Pause II (2012) to the works of perforated metal and metallic rails shown at the artist’s one-man show at the Regina Gallery in June 2013.

The main features of Vladimir Logutov’s video works are meditativeness, statics and an external, eventless subject, combined with subtle visual derivations developing the sensitivity of the eye. In a series of videos created in 2012, Logutov employs such polar visual techniques as documentary photography and geometric animation.

In Structured Space (2012), a network of changing, multicoloured circles is shown against the background of a landscape with a white horse. The changing shades alter our perception of the colour of the landscape, creating the sensation of different times of day and night. But, upon taking a closer look, it turns out that the subject is developing in real time.

One of the most outstanding features of Vladimir Logutov’s creative method is his remarkable openness and readiness to engage in dialogue. Following the Centre for the Medical Treatment of Cultural Catastrophes in the early 2000s, he founded a collective creative studio in Samara. In 2009, the artist opened the School of the Avant-Garde on the basis of the Art Propaganda Centre in Samara.

Vladimir Logutov also contributes to the educational projects of other institutions. In 2012, he read a series of lectures organised by the Foundation of Vladimir Smirnov and Konstantine Sorokin in Tbilisi and Batumi in Georgia. The following year, he held a masterclass with the foundation’s students in Moscow and a week-long course for students of Pro Arte in St Petersburg.

Vladimir Logutov continues to live and work in Samara, making an active contribution to the art life of his native city. Over the past few years, he has played a major role in the development of contemporary art in Samara. Besides opening the School of the Avant-Garde, Logutov has also curated a large-scale exhibition project called Movements: The Samara Avant-Garde 19602012 at the Pyotr Alabin Regional and History Museum.

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