Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Russian Constructivism

Last night I was watching a documentary on russian art towards the end of the tzarist regime. It reminded me how art isn't a separate entity, it is connected with it's surroundings politically, environmentally or psychoanalytically. I think we sometimes forget this, just seeing whats on the surface. Ok, there are genres of art that visually I'm not a fan but the more I look into it I can build a context to how it came about.
Beat the whites with the red wedge by El Lissitzky
I first was introduced to this type of art at uni, the above painting was my introduction. If I'm honest, I thought it looked a bit simple; the 'I could have done that' kind of reaction. But, as I learned -that was the exact reaction it was designed to give.

During the reign of the Tzars the russian people were living hand-to-mouth while the elite upper class spent to excess. The uprising wanted wealth to be shared equally amongst the masses; the communist revolution, represented in Lissitzky's painting by the red wedge. The style was simple, in opposition to the complicated styles and subjects representing the old ways. Colours and shapes were kept to a minimum, only what was necessary with no 'ornamentation'. This style was designed to remove the artists ego, the notion was, 'we are all in this together', no one person was more worthy than another. The message was that anyone could do it and everyone was necessary. Russian constructivist art strips everything down to the bare essentials, to the flesh and bones with no extras.
Shout out by Alexander Rodchenko
Much of the art came in the form of posters, rallying the cause. This poster combines photography and painting. The woman wearing the head scarf is a deliberate image; it shows her as a worker, one of the people. Another feature worth mentioning are the diagonal lines. A diagonal line shows movement, dynamism. This is a visual representation of the dynamic changes happening in Russia.

I'd forgotten how much I love Russian constructivism. I think it intrigues me because it's at this moment I was hit by how art can play a vital part in moulding a society, how it isn't just about pretty pictures completely unconnected with the outside world. Art is everywhere and has vibrant connections with all of us, in one way or another, we are all art.

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