Self-centeredness is the new sincerity. The works of the “subway artist” Tartakovsky are shown in “White World”

Self-centeredness is the new sincerity.  The works of the “subway artist” Tartakovsky are shown in “White World”


How many experiences and reflections of the artist find themselves directly in the works he creates? Is art created alone – only by the artist himself, or is he in constant dialogue with the viewer, who perceives this art and to some extent becomes its co-creator?

On January 25, the exhibition of the Honored Artist of Ukraine Anatoly Tartakovsky opened in the Center of Contemporary Art “White World” Vector egocentrism. Egocentrism is what the artist calls the fundamental philosophy of his works, which consists in complete indifference to the outside world in the process of creation. You can focus only on your own feelings, what is happening inside you at this moment, embodying it in pictures.

Journalist Department of Culture Olha Dudenko tells how Tartakovsky’s egocentrism is embodied in his works and to what considerations it prompts.

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Anatoly Tartakovsky’s collaboration with the curators of the White World Contemporary Art Center, Tamara and Oleksandr Yanovych, began with mutual interest: Anatoly – the space, the curators – the artist’s works. Usually, Tartakovsky was exhibited in huge institutions: the Ukrainian House, the Museum of the Cathedral of Sophia of Kyiv, the Kyiv Art Gallery, the House of Scientists – now his works are in a laconic, chamber-like white space of two rooms.

It is also an opportunity to rethink the works of Anatoly Tartakovsky, whose active activity dates back to the nineties and the beginning of the 2000s, in a new context. The smallness of the space invites a dialogue with the paintings, gives an opportunity to be alone with them and forms the vector of egocentrism that Anatoliy persistently articulates in his own practice.

Exposition of the exhibition “Vector Egocentrism”. All photos: “White World” Contemporary Art Center.

Is there a place for egocentrism in art? We often label this phenomenon as negative, as excessive concentration on oneself and indifference to what is happening around. However, Anatoly Tartakovskyi considers it one of the “best suggestions for the viewer’s contact with art”: “This is the artist’s immersion in the world of his interests, narcissism with complete indifference to the viewer, criticism, advertising, art spaces and art commerce.”

According to the artist, it is this method of work that encourages you to express what you really feel and what interests you as a creator. An artist must deeply immerse himself in his own inner world, in order to then manifest it in his work. In this way, the work seems to be more intimate: “In any wonderful painting, you cannot find anything except the name of its creator.”

picture “Supermodel on the beach”.

The paintings in the exhibition “Vector Egocentrism” cover works from 1990 to 2021. The space opens with three paintings that Anatoly calls decisive in his understanding of egocentric philosophy – they are “Triple Self-Portrait in Red Underpants” (1990), “I am reading my favorite book” ( 1993) and “I decided to rest a little” (1995). It is noticeable how Tartakovsky is still searching for his style in these works – his thick strokes and eclectic colors appear and become more confident later.

In the names of the paintings, which are the first to incline Tartakovsky to egocentrism, self-centeredness can already be traced – “self-portrait”, “me”, “me”. However, subsequent works show that focusing on one’s inner world does not mean detachment from the environment in which the artist is. Egocentrism only guarantees that the author will always remain with his vision of the phenomena that surround him, and it will consistently echo in his works.

What is in the artist’s field of vision? To whom or to what does his egocentrism most often appeal?

Painting “Beach in Odessa”.

There are a lot of sea and urban landscapes in Tartakovsky’s paintings – in the second hall of the exhibition we can see as many as 7 paintings with the same name “Beach in Odessa”. These canvases usually depict crowds of people: they communicate with each other, sunbathe and feed seagulls.

In Tartakovsky’s works, corporeality is also interesting: it seems that by layering brushstrokes, the author is trying to capture the human body, to fit it into a certain form, while leaving its multifaceted nature. They are mostly mobile bodies, and they interact both with each other and with the space in which they are. For example, in the work “By the sea” people seem to independently form a place where they gather, and resemble the Babylonian column formation. However, each of them manages to fit in.

Sculpture “Girl on a unicycle”.

In Feeding the Seagulls, people stand on the shore and reach out to the birds, and their community makes this work possible. This is a painting in which Anatolii Tartakovsky slightly softens the brightness of his palette, creating a contemplative, evening landscape. He does the same in the work “On the Dnieper”: the expressiveness of people contrasts with the calm river background.

In addition to paintings, three bronze sculptures by Anatoly Tartakovsky were presented at the exhibition – a new medium for the artist, which he became interested in in 2019. This is also a reproduction of people in motion – “Equilibrist on a layer”, “Girl on a unicycle” and “Acrobats”. Each of the three sculptures is not monolithic and smoothly cut, which makes them similar to the chaotic and dense strokes of Tartakovsky’s paintings.

Another direction that Anatoliy Tartakovsky started and which he refers to his works is art energy. According to its characteristics, energy is what moves what is depicted in the picture – lines, colors, textures. That is why Tartakovsky uses a lot of bright colors, which he applies to the canvas with thick, chaotic, rough strokes. In this way, the artist tries to capture the energy in the picture, to capture it, but due to its incomprehensibility, nothing succeeds: “In general, my creative path is always complicated – the desire to create a coherent philosophical concept is mixed with a love for capturing the momentary perception of the environment.”

Painting “Triple Self-Portrait in Red Underpants”.

Energy is present in all of Tartakovsky’s paintings, which is why even calm landscapes seem wild and dynamic. “Kanatna Street. Odesa” piles up houses with colored facades and windows, “Forest. Spring. (Koncha-Zaspa)” shoots the air with untidy branches of purple, yellow, red trunks, “Evening Sun in Osokorki” throws chaotic rays on roofs and trees.

Next to each painting, only its title is indicated – no descriptions or comments of the author, only his initial statement about egocentrism. Tartakovsky’s attention is focused on this: the viewer, moving from one work to the next, must trace the philosophy formed by the artist in the works. Anatoly’s study of egocentrism becomes the study of an observer.

Picture “I decided to rest a little”.

Tartakovsky reveals the advantage of egocentrism for the viewer – the latter, making sense of what he saw, also focuses only on his own feelings, so art is able to respond, find points of contact between the author’s experiences and the viewer’s, and not remain on the periphery of consciousness.

Tamara Yanovych, curator of the exhibition and director of “White World”, said during the opening that the relevance of such an exhibition in the conditions of a full-scale war increases: we are all in a turbulent and suspended state, and therefore, we often seek to ground ourselves and realize our own “self”. This immersion is facilitated by the philosophy applied by the artist and the intimacy of the space, where one can find one’s own experiences in the totality of all the paintings.

Egocentrism is ultimately transformed into a search for “own” – those who will have to be allowed into their own inner world. Any creative process ends, and the artist, striving to be detached from space, the art market, critics and viewers, turns his face to them, demonstrating what he has created.

Perhaps self-centeredness is also a variant of sincerity. First of all, with yourself, then with the environment. This will require a certain courage – to sincerely show yourself in everything you create, because it is much easier to absorb other people’s existing faces.

Read also: “Are you from Mariupol?”. Four and a half walls of the TY Platform are shown in Kyiv



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