Alexander Ponomarev: Subzero
1 Melton St, London, 17 October, 2010
Curated with Victoria Ionina-Golembiovskaya and Lisa K Samoto
In 2000 at Barents Sea the artist summoned the help of the Northern Fleet to organize a four ship expedition, in the course of which the artist wiped the island Sedlovaty off the face of the earth by erasing it from the map beforehand.
"As an exceptional measure the painter has committed a change of military authority', by convincing the command to lay a smoke screen on an entire island gradually wiping it out of sight. The horrendous might of military power capable of wiping out entire cities or territories from the map, which is what this performance is reminding us about, is put contrast with the artist's power of reduction, his ability to embed the imaginary into the citadel of Order, as if driving a wooden wedge into a granite monolith. In Maya. A Lost Island, Ponomarev has for a few minutes brought to life the exact opposite of an Epiphany, disappearance". (Jean-Michel Bouhours) city as part of Hive's aim to bring alive idle sites and humanise public spaces as a platform for artists and the public to engage.
Alexander Ponomarev, whose grandfather was a Hero of the Battle of Stalingrad, graduated from the USSR Nautical Engineering Collage in 1979. His subsequent career as a seaman left an indelible mark on his artistic output, dominated by epic aquatic installations, none more spectacular than Maya: A Lost Island (2002) where, with the help of the Russian Fleet and an army of smoke cannisters, Ponomarev provoked the disappearance of an island in the Barents Sea. His psychedelic, light-flashing, sing-song submarine surfaced in the Tuileries Gardens during Paris FIAC in 2006, then in Moscos during the 2007 Biennale. Ponomarev also starred at the 60th Lisbon's Expo-98 and the hugely popular Russian Pavilion at last year's Venice Bienalle, before enjoying his first New York solo show in May 2008. When not crossing oceans, Ponomarev is most at home in France. Shortly after erecting a 100ft periscope beneath the dome of a Baroque Church in Paris during the 2007 Festival d'Automne, he was named Chevalier de la Legion d'Hommeur by France's Minister of Culture.
Intellectual exploration also shapes Ponomarev's work. As a graduate student at the All-Union Institute of Marine Transportation in Moscow in the 1980s, he studied computerized information systems and logistics and attended the classes of the philosopher Georgil Shchedrinkovsky, discussing Marx, Descartes, Galileo, Fun-Shui and Shu-Tao. He learned and developed system and reflex theories, discovered the abstract art of Wassily Kandinsky, Malevich, and Tatlin and moved closely with Erik Bulatov, Fransisco Infante, Vladmir Nasedkin, Viktor Nekrasov, and Valerii Orlov.
Foreign influences on Ponomarev include Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt. Caravaggio, Giotto, Michelangelo, Poussin, Raphael, Velaquez as well as Ingres and Watteau. Ponomarev enjoys the grandiose gestures of Michelangelo and Aivazovsky but is also captivated by the intimate and the lyrical as in Watteau's fetes galantes and Aleksei Bogoliubov's delicate seascapes. Closer to our time, Ponomarev also admires the spacial explorations of Calder and Cristo and the heavy metal sculptures of Chamberlain and Judd.