Semyon Faibisovich - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Sunday, February 9, 2014 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist
    Important Private Collection, Europe

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I just get excited, sometimes I can’t understand why. I am waiting for that tremor, for something to move inside me. Sometimes there are moments when you are ready to give your eye away for a camera. I don’t know what it is. Some facial expression. A motive. Some scene. It is an enigma – something that touches your heart, and you don’t know what it is.” SEMYON FAIBISOVICH

    Winter Day, painted in 1989, is a beautiful example from the oeuvre of Russian Photorealist painter Semyon Faibisovich. It is one of the artist’s last works from his famous Shuttle Bus series that was painted while he was still living in Yasenevo, a borough in Moscow district. Here, Faibisovich, acting as a careful observer, skilfully uses the urban landscape of his everyday environment to create social criticism that is mixed with a touch of refined poetry. It is the daily ordinary scenes from the lives of the working class that appear again and again in the oeuvre of Faibisovich, through which the artist successfully opens up the window into the typical Russian soul. It is this unique vision on the ordinary surrounding us that is praised by his contemporaries and friends: “If you start to speak about the individuality of the painter Faibisovich, we would have to start, in my opinion, not by mentioning his style, manner or technique but precisely the uniqueness of his vision. His direct and uniquely focused gaze is remarkable: he can look in the same place as everyone else and see something that the others don’t” (Mikhail Aizenberg quoted in Semion Faibisovich, Regina Gallery, Moscow, 2002, p. 42).

    Although painting in Photorealist style, the depth to Faibisovich’s paintings sets them apart from his foreign contemporaries such as Richard Estes, who used photography as the medium to achieve a Hyperrealistic images on canvas which lack the emotional connection that is so evident in Faibisovich’s work. Being one of the few Photorealist painters working in Russia, the artist started exhibiting his work in 1979 in a Moscow basement on the Malaya Gruzinskaya street as well as internationally. The artist attempted moving to New York as many Jewish émigrés at that time; however he was not able to settle down there and returned to his beloved Moscow. This love filled with pain for his country is translucent in his work which bares the unpleasant truth of life in communist society, completely opposite to the ideals advocated by the State. According to the artist, the idea of painting bus scenes came to him accidentally while travelling to work by bus from the new Yasenevo district: “It was dreadful: it was a newly-built district, there was no metro and there was a savage crush every morning. But I suddenly realised that this picture excited me from the aesthetic point of view: there was beauty in those outrageous conditions, with the mass of people and the aloofness of their looks”. Faibisovich’s images open up the ‘true’ Russia, where hardship is unquestionably endured and grey is the most common colour, something that has remained unchanged throughout its eventful history.

    In Winter Day, the viewer is invited into the bus through the reflective windshield that does not allow having a clear view of the travellers. The windshield, as usually does the mirror, could be considered to play a role of philosophical reflection. Painted in earthy colours, the work is a truthful example of an everyday life scene that the artist and his fellow countrymen were so accustomed to. It was in his desire to freeze these memories, when Faibisovich used the primitive camera Zenit B that he has since his student years and started taking shots that he subsequently transferred onto the canvases. At first, he was capturing the gazes of people that were directed into the emptiness with no exact focal point – this is when the artist could feel the real loneliness and alienation in the crowd comprised of different people with exactly the same gaze. It is this feeling of social alienation and suppression that he conveys so skilfully in his work.


Winter Day, from the “Shuttle Bus” series

oil on canvas
130 x 150 cm. (51 1/8 x 59 in.)
Signed, titled and dated 'Semyon Faibisovich, "Winter Day", “Shuttle Bus” series, 1988' on the reverse.

£60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for £62,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Evening Sale 10 February 2014 7pm