Alexander Kabin. Belonging
Erarta Museum presented an exhibition by Alexander Kabin whose paintings convey the poignant sense of belonging to the North, one’s kin, and the history of one’s homeland
Several years ago Alexander Kabin and his family moved from Severodvinsk, a city on the White Sea coast, to a village near Yaroslavl. Although the distance between these two points on the map is only 771 kilometres in a straight line – nigh on negligible by Russian standards – the climates are drastically different. Even though Northern asceticism has always been the backbone of Kabin’s works, the painter admits that it was only after the move that he could actually perceive himself as a Northerner and felt an acute sense of belonging to the Northern nature and the place where he was born and raised (hence the title of the show). This relocation gave him in a new creative impetus. According to the artist, his paintings are now based not so much on reality as on the workings of memory.
A degree in engineering allowed Alexander Kabin to design and build his own home in the Yaroslavl Oblast, standing out from its traditional red brick neighbours on account of its introspective grey colour. Whereas the artist’s former studio overlooked a standard high rise block (as seen in The 1st of December), now his studio window opens onto endless skies and a field overgrown with giant hogweed. On the wide windowsill, there are albums full of old photographs – the black and white stories of ordinary Soviet people. These snapshots inspire the artist to create compositions vaguely reminiscent of the group pictures ubiquitous throughout the former USSR. It is these visions of the netherworld that Kabin captures on his canvases (‘Save my shadow . . .’*)
The giant hogweed growing around his new home astonished the artist: it has not yet spread to the North where it is too cold for it. Further down South, however, if unhindered, this poisonous plant invades everything. For the artist, this came to symbolise desolation and transience: everything is easily forgotten, and the once cherished family photographs lie forlorn in the abandoned village houses.
Alexaner Kabin says, ‘An artist is part of the historical cross-section, of the universal process. Artworks are always indicative of the period when they were created. One of the artist’s missions is to chronicle the time. I try to perpetuate the epoch that I live in.’ Kabin strives to visualise the archetype of the Russian way of life which, despite the progress of civilization, remains largely unchanged. He superimposes spatial and temporal coordinates in a way that results in an instantly recognisable and yet eternal image with a clear geographical reference. ‘Everything in these parts is geared for winter . . .’*
It is Anselm Kiefer that Alexander Kabin continues to regard as his guru and the true voice of contemporary art. Using modern-day painting methods, Kabin takes it upon himself to create something timeless, as accurate in its representation of life in Russia as Alexey Savrasov’s iconic The Rooks Have Come Back painted a century and a half ago.
This is Alexander Kabin’s third solo exhibition at Erarta Museum. His works are also on display as part of the museum’s permanent collection.
*Quotes from the poems by Joseph Brodsky
09 February 2023 — 11 June 20232023 Erarta Prize
26 January 2023 — 28 May 2023Yuri Catania. Moonlit Garden
11 January 2023 — 23 March 2023Evgeniy Gorokhovsky. Between Light and Shadow
15 February 2023 — 09 May 2023Ksenia Zagoskina. Natural Poetry