Drawing on his experience in the Red Army, Rinat Voligamsi paints from photographs of early Russian military life to reinterpret the bleak conditions in his current show "The Conditions of Winter." The exhibition opens today at London's Erarta Gallery, an outpost of the largest non-governmental contemporary art museum in Russia, exploring themes of humanity in the face of power and authority.
Though he paints with nearly mathematical precision, Voligamsi is no photorealist. Deft surrealist alterations range from tiny, exquisite details—burning cigarette embers create the Great Bear constellation—to major transformations, like figures that are cut in half, duplicated or inverted.
By manipulating the photographs while staying true to the look and feel of the originals, the resulting distorted scenes seamlessly merge the documentary reality with the artist's vision, blending fact and fiction to make powerful statements.
Voligamsi's altered figures seemingly come to life, suggesting the absurdities of living under tyranny as well as the potential for resistance to spin powerful metaphors about what happens to people under state supression.
The Conditions of Winter runs through 19 November 2011.
Erarta Galleries London
8 Berkeley Street
London W1J 8DN