Simon Faibisovich - The John L. Stewart Collection of Russian Contemporary Art London Friday, October 12, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired direclty from the artist

  • Exhibited

    New York, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Simon Faibisovich, 1990; Ridgefield (Connecticut), Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Adaptation & Negation of Socialist Realism, June 9, 1990 – October 7, 1990

  • Literature

    J. Gambrell and Y. Barabanov, Adaptation & Negation of Socialist Realism, Ridgefield, 1990, p. 16 (illustrated); "Simon Faibisovich, Photo Realism with Soul", The World & I, July 1990, p. 223 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    'Soldiers' was painted in 1989 in New York; this work, in the dimensions conceived by the artist, would have been difficult to produce and impossible to drag through the doors of the small Moscow apartment where he usually worked. One of the most successful pieces by Faibisovich, this monumental, carefully executed painting with a simple plot casts a spell with its unbelievable flowing light, the source of which is unknown. Not at all inclined toward broad generalizations or harsh criticism of power, Faibisovich is occupied with something else: he bewitchingly observes and describes reality in detail, not sparing time or effort. Virtually in all of his works you can see the modest, slightly pitiful, almost colorless Soviet everyday reality. Faibisovich painted picturesquely subjects such as dumps, lines at stores, the crowd in the subway, scenes at the train station – 'Soldiers' belongs to this series. It is not difficult to discern social criticism in all of these paintings, but harsh irony aimed at sots-artists is not at all characteristic of the artist. A researcher of the layered totalitarian space, he was never too harshly disposed toward Soviet power, he did not aspire to shock, surprise, frighten the viewer with Soviet exoticism, and even less inclined to analyze the essence of the totalitarian system and enter into a strict opposition to it. Faibisovich did not belong to the circle of unofficial artists, he was an architect by education, and he took up painting independently rather late, at the end of the 1970’s. Confident that values of placticism and his own personal feelings were much more important than any theories and concepts, forced him to maintain a position on the sidelines of the conceptualists. He is even further away from traditional realism. In his genre scenes there is no story, no anecdote – a real basis, a photograph is important for him only insofar as it represents material for manipulations and helps to recall that sensation which then becomes the main hero, the genuine plot of the painting. Almost always in Faibisovich’s works, but in 'Soldiers' especially strongly, the plot, the social and psychological motifs are illuminated by the simple, almost primitive joy of life breaking through the monotonous dreary poverty of a “savok” (average Soviet person – trans.). The simple plot of 'Soldiers' is the story of how young, skinny, very endearing defenders of the awesome fatherland, having rid themselves of the stern oversight of the authorities, have managed to scrape together money for ice cream and are joyfully eating it, sitting in the sun; and this simple plot then recedes into the background in the face of the penetrating sensation of a world in which everything is wonderful – these soldiers and the garbage announcement on the wall and this entire dirty station life. Faibisovich doesn’t need explanations for this bewitching life. The radiance flows toward the viewer and is victorious – “simply because we don’t have another life, the romance has happened, and everything came together remarkably well.” Furthermore, perestroika permitted traveling and the artist who had not been in great demand at home was able, finally, to concentrate only on the activity of painting; he began to travel, to participate in exhibitions – he produced 'Soldiers' in his very first studio (before that, he worked at home) for his very first personal exhibition at Phyllis Kind Gallery in New York. Faibisovich does not consider himself to be a Photorealist. Like other works by the artist, this work is not simply a meticulous transfer of photographic material dug up at the station under complex and almost dangerous conditions (not everyone welcomes a photographer) into painting form,but this is virtually a new construction: in comparison with the original photograph, we see that the figure has disappeared from the foreground, the space has expanded, the brick wall simply occupies a significant part of it. The depiction reworked multiple times helps to arrange a distance between reality and its image, matter surmounts itself, by dissipating it is transformed into the most important thing for the artist – air, smell, light, the spring atmosphere. The artist’s perception of life imparts to the painting a unique vibration, a complexity – it is the feeling of “existence in two worlds: in the natural world, and in the artificial, invented, created, world that emerged after 1917.” At the break between the epochs, having imparted to the natural and social dimensions the sensation of disintegration which had permeated the last few years of existence of the USSR, the artist perceives and recreates the departing nature as a mirage, a myth free from physical laws, something woven together right before our eyes that threatens to disappear any moment now. 'Soldiers' turned out to bear witness to the departing reality, one of the final regards of the world in which the artist had been born and had grown up. - Faina Balakhovskaya


Soldiers (Train Station Series)

Oil on canvas.
112 3/8 x 75 in. (285.4 x 190.5 cm).
Signed, titled and dated “S. Faibisovich at the train station 1989 soldiers [in Cyrillic]” on the reverse.

£40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for £311,200

The John L. Stewart Collection of Russian Contemporary Art

13 October 2007, 6pm