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Oleg Vassiliev: Past Imperfect

Published: December 18, 2013 (Issue # 1791)



  • Oleg Vassiliev, The Wild Flowers, (Detail) 2005 2006, colored pencil on canvas.
    Photo: Faggionato / For SPT

  • Oleg Vassiliev, 'The Aisle,' 2004, oil on canvas.
    Photo: Faggionato/ For SPT

  • Oleg Vassiliev, Intertwined Space, 2012, oil on canvas.
    Photo: Faggionato / For SPT

  • Oleg Vassiliev, Praire Grasses, Reflections, 2012, oil on canvas.
    Photo: Faggionato / For SPT

  • Oleg Vassiliev, 'Lusja with Tulips,' 1967, oil on canvas.
    Photo: Faggionato / For SPT

Memory is a fickle process. Before photography, painting, among the other monumental arts, held the role of repository for institutional and collective memory. While still subjective, it was perceived as presenting the totality of an historical event. Since the advent of photography, painting has been relegated to the periphery of history as a vehicle for personal memory and fantasy.

Oleg Vassiliev, the subject of a solo exhibition at the Faggionato gallery in London, grew up in a culture whose relationship to memory, indeed memory itself, was always subject to revision depending on who was in power. Perhaps as a response to this, his paintings often feature a haziness overlaying a hint at reality.

Precise to the point of photorealism in some aspects, Vassilievs paintings nonetheless bear the marks of compromised reminiscence. Alternating between total, geometric abstraction and meticulously drawn landscapes they present the periphery of an incomplete image that is often obliterated by a spreading darkness at the center.

A landscape, The Aisle, from 2004, shows this rather bewildering black hole at its center to great effect. The artist saw this abstract, spatial element as being connected to the selectiveness of memory and that when trying to recall the initial intensity of an experience one was always drawn into the void. The hole at the center of this and other of Vassilievs paintings can also be read as a depiction of Orwells memory hole, a place in the authors novel 1984 where old versions of reality are dropped as newspapers and other documents are altered in accordance with the pronouncements of Big Brother and the Party.

To me, the visible and tangible world is more a thing of remembrance than of perceptions of reality, Vassiliev wrote. The present is saturated with the past as a live sponge is saturated with water: Through the workings of memory, light comes from the past and illuminates, snatches out of the dark that which is not of this moment. That light is the very essence of remembrance. The deeper one delves into the past, the more powerful the stream of light. And somewhere over there, beyond the boundaries of the discernible, it turns into a river of golden light. In that river my life drowns, and everything that was before lives.

Vassiliev talked in metaphysical terms about the ways in which a painting is experienced. That while a viewer may be standing in front of a painting appreciating technique and formal values, a good work of art should take you to the other side on an emotional level as the nexus where the objective meets the emotional, subjective response.

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Thursday, Apr. 24


Learn more about Denmark during the Danish Business Delegations visit to SPIBA this evening starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Danish Culture Institute. Danish Consul general Klaus Sorensen will be in attendance and the buffet following a presentation on Danish companies in Russia will be the perfect opportunity to network with the assembled businessmen.


AmChams Human Resources Committee Meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. this morning in their St. Petersburg office. Check their website for more details.



Friday, Apr. 25


Light Music presents the main events for their Cultural Kitchen project at Loft-Project Etagi today. A B2B event that focuses on Finnish food, arts, travel, music and design, the evening will conclude with a dinner by chef Jyrki Tsutsunen and dancing to music by Aino Venna. The event, which began yesterday with presentations by tourism and cultural institutions, concludes today with a preview of Finlands Flow festival and other musical events. Invitations are available from www.culturalkitchen.fi.



Saturday, Apr. 26


At 6 p.m. this evening, stylist Liliana Modigliani offers 50 simple ways to up your style quotient with beauty tips at the Galeria shopping center on Ligovsky Prospekt. The event is part of the final day of the shopping malls Fashion Saturday sales event, this week focusing on top brands located on the ground floor as well as presentation from fashion experts on sprucing up your spring look.



Sunday, Apr. 27


Families shouldnt miss Childhood Planet 2014, the trade fair that started yesterday and concludes today at LenExpo. Not only will goods and services be provided for children and families but the event hopes to promote Russian brands and eco-friendly products using the latest technology available in the childcare industry.



Monday, Apr. 28


The Hotel Indigo will be the site of SPIBAs Acting Skills for HR and Other Managers master class this morning starting at 9 a.m. The event will begin with coffee before moving on to the class itself and conclude with a tour of the recently opened hotel. Confirm attendance by Apr. 24.



Tuesday, Apr. 29


Improve your English at the British Book Centers Interactive English Lesson tonight at 6 p.m. Students at pre-intermediate and intermediate levels are welcome discuss topics that are selected to help learners master the more difficult aspects of English grammar and vocabulary.