Lot 26
  • 26

Oleg Nikolaevich Tselkov, b.1934

Estimate
40,000 - 60,000 GBP
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Description

  • Oleg Nikolaevich Tselkov
  • acrobat with portrait of acrobats
  • signed and titled in Cyrillic and dated 1975 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 208 by 130cm., 82 by 51┬╝in.

Catalogue Note

Compared to Francis Bacon in his ability to evoke protest, Oleg Tselkov's work visibly stands out against that of his non conformist counterparts.

Tselkov was briefly a student of stage design under Nikolai Akimov in Minsk, and the theatre has remained a strong influence in his paintings, not only in terms of their dramatic composition, but also in their examination of the human condition. The offered work is typical of the Tsirk (Circus) series from the 1970s, which explores the theme of the grotesque spectacle of modern life. Here Carnival meets the Surreal as hairless, twisted, bodies float in an eerie, post-apocalyptic gloom, their distorted, iridescent forms picked out in the darkness by a harsh light.

His subjects are stubbornly uniform in their appearance: mankind is represented with just one face. The artist cites as one of his greatest influences  Malevich's late canvases of country life and their depiction of faceless peasants. Tselkov explains, ''Without losing or rejecting anything, [Malevich] manages, figuratively speaking, to express the most profound emotional idea in a couple of words. Malevich taught me simplicity.''

Despite his rejection of any label, political or aesthetic, dehumanised faces had an undeniable resonance in the Soviet context and his work can be understood as a literal metaphor for the destruction of the human personality as it ceases to live a conscious life.

Tselkov's work is an art of opposites: his compositions appear both realistic and abstract; repelling, yet fascinating; his subjects seem both sinister and fragile, reflecting the artist's own dualistic interpretation of the human condition:

''To me mankind is [...] a volcano which, although it wreaks destruction on surrounding nature, possesses, in its own way, by virtue of its immensity, something that is not exactly beautiful but [...] something whose power cannot be denied, and consequently something which cannot be denied possesses a certain beauty''.

The power of his canvases lies in their revelation of the mystery and absurdity of existence.