Damir Muratov exhibition “White Soldiers” based on Oleg Usachyov’s collection opens on the 17th of October at Erarta Museum and Galleries of Contemporary Art. Damir Muratov is a Siberian native born in Tobolsk and based in Omsk. As he puts it, he is a “patriot of Planet Earth”. In 1995 he opened up a studio-gallery “Kuchum Art” in an old wooden building and adjoined sheds.
“Kuchum-art” is much more than just a gallery, it is an artistic project. “We barely ever get to see good exhibitions, and my project aims at filling up that emptiness in Omsk which, like other remote Russian towns, suffers from post-colonial syndrome”. The bareness of Siberian lands dominates over human beings. The task of filling up that emptiness, physical, artistic and spiritual, is a key condition to survival.
Exhibition’s name refers to one of the most symbolic and enigmatic songs of Egor Letov and “Civil Defence” band. Many argue who those “white soldiers” are – White Guards, angels or the souls of people perished in Siberia. “All Siberian people are the white soldiers” - says Damir – “We constantly fight cold and we are constantly twisted and bent by it…”
Muratov creates a specific poetical mythology of Siberia by means of brutality of Soviet art and “rough poster language” (as in “Everything Will Be Covered by Needles of Our Cedars”) but does not limit himself by this thematic. Moscow critic Andrei Kovalyov writes about Damir: “He is often called a Siberian pop-artist and a heir to social art. He is most close to demotic and clumsy artist Leonid Sokov. As to pop-artists, Muratov chose Jasper Johns and dedicated to him a homage-painting of the United States of Siberia. However, artistically he is most related to Jimmy Durham – Indian by origin and a defender of rights of indigenous people of USA”.
Muratov has been working as a Siberian “new wild” for the last 20 years. He makes graphic works, paintings, installations and art-objecs. According to the artist himself, he does not belong to any particular school because what is important in art now is its actuality. Muratov became famous because of his work “Che Burashka” which was followed by a series of Russian revolutionaries such as comrade Che Rnyshevsky, Che Paev etc Plush creature from a childhood cartoon looks aggressive and militaristic wearing Che Guevara hat and with Kalashnikov in hands. It eventually appeared on T-shirts, mugs and profile pictures of social network users. Later on Muratov lost his interest in this theme. For him art is a zone of high voltage. One of his works looks like a stylised tablet saying “Art! Extreme danger!”
Muratov’s poetics is built upon paradox and oxymoron, cognitive dissonance and the feeling of absolute mental freedom. Works of Damir depict thoughts rather than objects. They are not designed for simple aesthetic pleasure but instead help to feel more of the present-ness of time.
Artists’ works are in collections of Siberian museums, Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art, and private collections. “White Soldiers” will be his first solo show in Saint Petersburg. Before that he had personal exhibitions in Omsk, Novosibirsk, Barnaul, Tomsk, Ufa, Perm and Moscow.
Special thanks to Omsk collector Oleg Usachev. The exhibition would not be possible without his contribution.