This Charming Man

Collage is a technique emplyed by many artists, but whilst cutting and pasting things is relatively easy, it is hard to actually do well and in a style which resembles something with more thought than an adolescent “mood board.” I was therefore highly excited to see the work of the self-dubbed “father of collage” Sergei Sviatchenko at his latest exhibition, “For Light And Memory” at Gestalten.

Asking him the secret to a good collage he simply laughs in a friendly way and replies, “I don’t know, I’ve been doing it for so long now, forty years constantly!” A long time indeed. Sourcing his imagery from old magazines and photographs (as well as his own photography), Sergei was majorly influenced by the Russian avant-garde, a scene flourishing in his home country of Ukraine. His current show is no different, some of the works on display based on a book about his favorite film maker, Russian legend Andrei Tarkovsky. There are large, monochrome wallpaper prints of natural imagery alongside smaller original pieces, carefully spliced and assembled, layering depth and meaning. Despite the merit of these works, I prefer the other works on display from Sergei’s current project, “Less.”

Less Is More

The works within “Less” consist of collages mixing popular culture and the surreal, often on pastel-colored backgrounds. The poster image for the exhibition says it all: a truncated image of a body with a blue swirl of paint representing a head, it merges together beautifully Sergio’s love of collage and abstract painting, creating an incredibly simple yet striking piece. Upon reflection, I had seen this particular work years ago on the internet and liked it greatly. When I mention this to Sergei he smiles broadly and acknowledges its popularity, unperturbed by other people using it. When I ask what he thinks of the accusation that collage is a technique which simply “steals” others’ imagery, he dismisses this claim immediately, explaining that he is more preoccupied with the final image. A fair argument, after all the whole is supposedly greater than the sum of its parts.

Sergei Svitchenko Dedciated follower of fashion: Sergio Sviatchenko up close and personal. Photo: Chris Phillips

Concentrating at times more on collage and at others painting, Sergei explains that from around the turn of the century he worked on both in a parallel fashion. The exhibition brings together a marriage of the two with some of his warmly colored abstract paintings also on show at the exhibition.

Throughout our discussion Sergei also describes his love for photography and his “other child,” a photography project called “Close Up And Private” focusing on documentary fashion photography. Based on the artist’s work and impeccable appearance (he wears a stylish navy blazer with gold buttons and slim fitted trousers, every bit the modern classicist gentleman) this comes as no surprise, his attention to detail, shape and all visual elements the perfect mix. If you appreciate such things, this show will not leave you disappointed.

  • Gestalten– Sergei Sviatchenko “For Light And Memory: Paintings and Collage” – Until March 3rd 2013 – Mon-Sun: 12-9pm (closed Tuesday) [Works Price Range €530 – €5,500]

Article by Marie J Burrows