Valeriy Pchelin & Igor Mikhailenko. Sacred Forest
15 May 2019 — 22 July 2019
  • Valeriy Pchelin & Igor Mikhailenko. Sacred Forest

Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art presented a joint exhibition by Valeriy Pchelin and Igor Mikhailenko showcasing abstract paintings and sculptural objects


The project’s title, Sacred Forest, alludes to Norse mythology and its version of the emergence of the world from chaos. A sanctuary reserved for ceremonies, the sacred forest manifests itself to those who step outside the limits of everyday existence. This mysterious and enchanting realm takes on the form of a deity inducing the ambivalent feelings of awe and rapture. Art is also a kind of a sacred forest, accessible only to the chosen few.

For both artists, shape and colour are the principal forms of expression. That said, while Pchelin’s objects see him ponder over the presence of metaphysical beings, Mikhailenko’s large-scale paintings reflect what happens to us when we finally encounter the metaphysical.

Nearly all sculptures by Pchelin have identical titles — Drifters. The Drifters undergo a constant evolution, progressing from chaos to synthesis. They are presented to the viewer in a state of assembly, shown at various stages of transition from composite elements to a sum, a complete whole.

Mikhailenko’s painting manner is free-flowing, light as a watercolour. The artist’s signature technique involves acrylic being washed off the canvas, which is then covered by new paint layers. This creates an ever-changing, vibrant domain of colour, at the same time well-structured and gravitating towards a controllable rhythm of chromatic gradations. Mikhailenko is fond of pure, nearly spectral colours, combining them in a contrasting, counterposing way: orange and violet black, blue and yellow, or — like in classical drama — red and black.

Mikhailenko’s colours are closely linked to modifications of form: spots, textures, spillovers. Pchelin’s palette is limited to black: only one sculpture displays a streak of red, looking like a vague warning. According to the French writer Michel Leiris, “Black is far removed from being a colour of emptiness and non-existence. It is rather an active colour, bursting with the deep-rooted, and therefore dark, substance of all things”.

Valeriy Pchelin’s sculptures reveal a continuation of a fleeting presence — a survival from bygone ages moves through space, alternately emerging on the surface and disappearing, leaving only a trace. The charred purity of forms is ringing with a force not yet hostile.

In Igor Mikhailenko’s paintings, the form dissipates, shatters the composition, breaks down into lines, crumbles into spots, finally achieving thingness. This is followed by a state of calm. Brief as the Northern summer, it quickly disappears from the surface of the canvas, sinks through, and the entire cycle starts over again.

The sacred forest is a place of oblivion. The understanding, or rather, realization of its meaning comes only upon leaving it. After a while, inner emptiness should fill with new contents informed by this experience. Be that as it may, you will change forever.

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