How to Learn the Upside Down World?
The main topic of this exhibition by Russian artist Gosha Ostretsov is the idea that we are constantly deceived. Every day we recognize a great deception. We are trying to turn the lie “inside out” and to determine the truth. This endless exercise is due to our eye, which provides to the brain a picture of the world in an upside down mode. The cornea and the lens of the eye project onto the retina and then into the brain an image of the “overturned” world. The human visual perception is like peering into a magic crystal ball, when a man tries to know the truth of being through an inverted picture. Even the scientific knowledge of Space is based on the same operating principle.
The inverted images of the Universe are provided through the lenses of several telescopes. Thereby all visual knowledge of the world is an endless encounter with an illusion, with an inverted projection, with a curious reflection in a concave mirror. How to understand this upside down World? The only answer that Gosha Ostretsov offers in this exhibition is to be ready to accept the entire irrationality of the World.
Trying to find answers to existential questions, Gosha Ostretsov creates the dramaturgy of the exhibition in the likeness of a magic theater. There are some symbolic parallels to the mysterious action described in the novel “The Steppenwolf” by Hermann Hesse. The human eye plays in the exhibition the role of a mirror, an emblematic accessory that allows the person looking through it to become a participant in a magical act. The artist proposes to look at some works through the prism of a crystal sphere. In this way images сan be seen as if misrepresented in inverted mode, making the viewer a participant in some optical and psychological experiments. Plunging into the inverted reflections of visual objeсts on the retina of the eye, the viewer’s eye travels around the exhibition as through different parts of a mosaic of a magical theater.
The subject of the irrationality of the visual perception of reality as the main thematic axis of the exhibition is expressed through intersecting links to the theme of optics. The characters of some of the works are fantastic scientists experimenting with the physics of vision with the help of strange optical devices. These characters, similar to the heroes of mainstream comics, are actually abstract and may have many interpretations. As in a kaleidoscopic refraction, the characters of Ostretsov’s paintings fall into several different-scale persons. In fact, they are abstract and can have many interpretations. As in a kaleidoscopic refraction, the heroes of Ostretsov’s paintings fall apart into several different-scale characters.
As part of the exhibition, the artist creates the performance “The Black Queen or Chess Scheherazade of Marcel Duchamp”, where he uses other attributes of the magical act. In the center of the action is a character of a naked woman, the black chess queen. Like Scheherazade, she reads tales about chess games. Chess for Gosha Ostretsov is an allegory of the multilateral perception of reality. The chess game with three-dimensional figures takes place on the flatness of the board and lasts over time. The artist says: “We are living in a complex world where we plan and create images in a two-dimensional space, and then we perceive them as three-dimensional, while we exist in a four-dimensional dimension, experiencing events in time. All this is woven into a unified fabric of existence.” The performance becomes the artist’s replica of the famous chess game with a nude, played by Dada artist and chessplayer Marcel Duchamp and naked Eva Babitz in 1963.
Like a chess game where one person simultaneously manipulates many figures, the structure of Gosha Ostretsov’s art is a combination of several themes and cultural traditions. There is a heritage of the philosophical tradition of Russian Cosmism, which presupposes the interdependence of the human microcosm and the macrocosm of the Universe. This philosophical line is explored by the artist through an appeal to the traditions of the Russian avant-garde and Pavel Filonov’s analytical art. But unlike abstract art, Ostretsov’s analytical approach is expressed by the very subject of the knowledge of the whole, of the Cosmos, through its perception by a part, by the man.
Some themes in Gosha's work are rooted in the literary legacy of Soviet futuristic fiction related to Soviet science and the history of space exploration in the second half of the 20th century. In his paintings, the artist often uses the aesthetics of classical futuristic American comics. Ostretsov tends to refer to the landmark postmodern literature, to the novels of Hermann Hesse and Jorge Luis Borges. In Gosha’s art, this literary line organically merges with the comics and the science fiction narrative. This thematic synthesis is not accidental. Many creators of the original DC and MARVEL comics were not only versed in science but are also influenced by postmodern art and literature. The exhibition in Belgium is also a symbolic “move” of the artist. Here the comics rare viewed as a high art genre equivalent to other main forms of art.
The art of Gosha Ostretsov is completely intertextual. In his works, the artist uses various cultural codes, seeks to develop a universal language capable of describing the world as a single text, similar to the symbolism of Jorge Luis Borges' novels. With the help of different metaphors, the artist indicates the allegorical point of convergence of the many aspects of being. Reminding us about the mystical symbol of the Aleph created by Borges, by his art Ostretsov demonstrates a certain philosophical system, where everything is manifested in everything and the whole is nothing more than any of its parts. There is an artistic absurdist game and pseudo-mystification in the presented exhibition. This is a narration about the idea that an infinite multitude can be enclosed in just one object - in our eye, contemplating reality.