Cultural Treasures
Project info

Vadim Gushchin
“Cultural Treasures”

Photography is the royal road into perspective-unconscious. That is, more or less, what Benjamin wrote about in “A Short History of Photography”. His idea became the principle of development of modernity in this art form. Vadim Gushchin subjects it to scrupulous analysis. In the new project “Cultural Treasures” he complicates the conditions of the experiment, introducing colour into his formerly classical black and white series of still-lifes.

Before, Gushchin also photographed objects capable of provoking frankness in the viewer. The project “Cultural Treasures” comprises a few series, the heroes of which are, for the most part, cultural objects. The books in his photographs do not simply refer to a specific time on the strength of the author/title, but because of their thumbed and faded state they cause tactile-olfactory experiences to arise from the past. Absolutely brand new envelopes demonstrate cardboard elasticity and unwittingly one has to suppress an involuntary reflex of the fingers folding a note to put in there. Musical laser discs, shimmering in the rays of a halted beam of light, as if they visually radiate music, cause something within us to resonate. The objects of this series address namely the cultural subconscious and compel one to think about the origins of that very culture which, as it turns out, is rooted so deeply inside us.

With regard to the working surface of Gushchin’s still-lifes, it should be perceived as being abstract-material. Except for in one or two series (for example, with books, which I would describe as the most realistic because of the special spirit of historicism which is manifest in it), it does not remind us of anything. Because the setting is photographed from above, the working surface hovers in space, creating a support for the objects, but not for our efforts to perceive which are constantly thrown into bewilderment that corresponds in Gushchin’s compositions to gaping darkness that opposes the objects’ characteristics. Perhaps this is the most expressive image of his still-lifes, found long ago and being cultivated by him. I undertake to surmise that it is the basic concept of his photographic philosophy. Gushchin’s photography does not come out of light, but out of its absence which structures all of his visual imagery.

Consciousness, thrown by the artist into the bewilderment of darkness, studies objects by touch, and amongst their other purely physical qualities encounters colour as well. In his project the material nature of colour, colour as paint, is affirmed. This is not the colour of light dispersion, but the objects’ local colour which is tightly bound with them through cultural memory. When constructing a composition out of objects, Gushchin experiments with abstract colour relationships – in the gaping emptiness of the space of soaring, the heroes in his still-lifes are estranged from all earthly things, like the colour planes of Suprematist compositions. Gushchin’s photography reveals the fundamental duality of culture: the abstract nature of objects in it and the specificity of colour.

Wassily Kandinsky wrote: “at a higher level of man’s development a range of qualities containing a variety of things and essences always widens. At this higher level of development, beings and things gain intrinsic value and, ultimately, begin to resonate inwardly. So it is with colour”. Trying to understand local colour in photography, which is “light-painting” by definition, and in relation to this the entry onto a new artistic level of using this medium in art is namely that cultural value by which Vadim Gushchin’s new project should be measured.

Konstantin Bokhorov, PhD