Victoria Lomasko in ArtsLife

'Art of dissidence, art of resistance. Victoria Lomasko opens her first Italian solo exhibition in Brescia' by Alessio Vincenzi

16 November 2022 On the occasion of the Brescia Peace Festival, the Museo di Santa Giulia will host until 8 January 2023 the first Italian solo exhibition of the Russian dissident Victoria Lomasko, which proposes to the public the highlights of the artist's career and presents five previously unseen site-specific panels destined for the city's collections.


Curated by Elettra Stamboulis for the cycle Contemporary Art and Human Rights, conceived by Fondazione Brescia Musei, Victoria Lomasko. The Last Soviet Artist, represents a major anthological exhibition of the Russian artist through an itinerary designed specifically for the museum spaces. Victoria Lomasko's rich production is joined by a new section composed of five monumental works that represent the outcome of the artist's residence in Brescia, paradigmatic manifestos of her voluntary exile. Immediately following her diploma in Graphic Arts obtained in Moscow in 2003, the demands of Victoria Lomasko are already defined. She expresses her documentary need in her closeness to the invisible, contesting the oppressive policies of her country through the medium of art.


Art, as a form of resistance, is mediated by the militant body of the artist, who has always been personally involved in the field, as a direct witness of injustice and abuse in Putin's Russia. Lomasko's graphic production constitutes a vivid experience of chronicle and denunciation, capable of shedding light on the countless shadows of the recent political and social history of an exterminated nation, whose pluralities are heard through a coherent visual representation. These prerogatives are rooted in reality, and conceptually adhere to it through the artist's stylistic choices, subversive and undermining the prevailing aesthetics. Victoria Lomasko consciously adopts a realist style, adhering to the aspects of existence that concern her, extremely evocative and inextricably linked to the socialist era, in which it was the only possible art form following the legacy of the Avant-gardes. Historically associated with social denunciation, its specific narrativity and impetuous charge took on the connotations of dangerous threats, which Putinist Russia was not slow to condemn.


As an expression of the artist's responsibility, the crowds that animate Lomasko's works provide a snapshot of a contemporaneity over which hovers, as if elusive, the shadow of a humanity that takes on the connotations of a dream. A constellation of lives, those of others from themselves, too often deprived of their own voice, seem to yearn through their specificities for the Heideggerian Dasein, claimed by Lomasko herself. "Being there in the world" implies the development of being in plurality, giving a voice and a face to the other, to those who are deprived of it, but who in an autarchic and authoritarian country like contemporary Russia are with more violent and catastrophic consequences. The imposed silence is the alibi used today by those who with ideological superficiality want to punish even the secondary victims of the Putin regime, its dissident or silent citizens.


For these reasons Victoria Lomasko joins the protesters. In Other Russias, which came out in its original English edition in 2017 and was finally published in Italy on the occasion of this exhibition for Becco Giallo, the artist's icastic sign outlines the traits of Central Asian workers exploited in metropolises such as Moscow, the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community in St Petersburg, the prostitutes of Nizhny Novgorod and all the minorities whose truth remains tragically excluded, invisible.


The third section of the exhibition depicts the biographical tragedy of Victoria Lomasko's exile, sanctioned by the wound resulting from the forced abandonment of her home country in March 2022, following the outbreak of war. Having moved to Brussels, the artist broadened her view of reality and at the same time expanded the boundaries of the media she used, arriving at the monumental art of the mural, of which The Changing of Seasons is a testimony. A brightly lit wall in the darkness of the room takes on the connotations of an alienating theatrical backdrop, in which the episodic representation veers towards the fantastic expression of alternative and possible worlds entrusted, also in the visual narration, to the creation of an anonymous artist and his paintbrush, intent on defining the features of a utopian existence. The role of the artist, with whom Lomasko identifies himself, is still decisive in social dynamics and their political involvement.


Lomasko's is a programmatic artistic practice, a daily deployment that expresses the will not to turn away from horror. The brutality of man is interfaced through his direct recording, mediated by the experience of Social Realism, in its veristic component, and by the stylistic features of Magic Realism, to which the usual dissonant element with respect to the treated narrative can be traced, capable of opening the gaze wide and raising the spirit above earthly misery.


The final act of the exhibition is the restitution of Five Steps, a monumental complex of five panels, site-specific works created during the artist's residency in the city of Brescia. Images and words are closely interconnected in this ambitious project and hieratically mark the stations of a pagan Via Crucis: the cathartic itinerary towards the expiation of a guilt that from individual becomes collective. This unprecedented pictorial microcosm focuses on the different phases of acceptance of a reality irreconcilable with human nature: Isolation in a nation in which it is not possible to recognise oneself, the consequent and inevitable Escape, the condition of Exile in a foreign land, the Shame of representing a civil part of an aggressor country. But it is still Humanity that closes the circle, whose paradigm of values may remain dormant but constitutes an inalienable expression of trust, inalienable dignity, a continuous wish for the cooperation of a single subject, declined in the plural.


At the end of the exhibition, The Last Soviet Artist, a documentary film by British director and musician Geraint Rhys, dedicated to the figure of Victoria Lomasko, can be viewed in its entirety. An artist who is difficult to categorise, in her work ethical and aesthetic principles coexist, in a balance similar to that longed for by her own art: the "being-in-the-world-as-with-being and being-itself".

16 November 2022
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