Petr Shvetsov. Portrait of the Unknown with the tail and on high heels.

28 september 2022 - 26 november 2022

Group Self-Portrait Of An Unknown Person With A Pony-Tail And In High Heels


At first glance, this is an exhibition painting, and it’s hard to believe that it can involve anything but colorist experiments. Shvetsov has done literally everything to make his paintings convey romantic rebellion, pastose sybaratism and painting mastery. The thick black paint layer in the backgrounds is laid on by broad strokes of the spatula. Languorous charms are drowned in glazing or bent into multi-layered textures. Ladies are portrayed in furs, masks, shoes, stockings, with fanciful names, like websites that advertise sex services. There are sultry Rubenesque shadows, Rembrandt-like gold in half-tones, Kieferesque lumps and blobs, and a sweeping Richeterian flat brush. Shvetsov has filled his works with killer attractors and triggers that inspire unreflective delight. Or unreflective anger: “Another painting that glorifies gender inequality, that aestheticizes the dehumanizing of women, and this at a time when violence of all kinds has been legitimized”!

The stronger the emotional response, the louder the artist giggles behind the scenes. The painting methods and subjects which Shvetsov piles on so nimbly are necessary to turn the painting into a display of mocking buffoonery. What takes place on the canvas is a total riot: a game of objectivization and a glorification of fetishism bordering on the grotesque, balanced on the boundary between the classical, porno and contemporary. To pass off narcissistic buffoonery as high art, with a cisgender oppressor dressing as his own victim in high heels and feathers is a typical strategy for Petr Shvetsov. The temptations of a painting are required firstly to lure the unsuspecting aesthete into this secret circus tent. Secondly, as an item for performances. Thirdly, as documentation and evidence. Thus, the genre of this work is an archive exhibition about a series of performances.


The curtain rises. On one side of the stage, Shvetsov emerges in the role of a professor fine arts in a white coat, with a haughty expression. On the other side is Shvetsov in the role of a medal. “Jump!” the professor orders and the model undresses down to a negligée. “Jump!”, the professor orders, and the model takes an awkward pose. “Allow me,” the professor drawls, and puts a sack over the model’s head with great pathos. “It’s a very important detail,” the professor says, and hands the model a crooked branch. The painting session begins. “Jump!”, the model orders, and the professor takes off his coat, also revealing a negligee. “Jump!” the model orders, and the professor stands up on high heels. “Allow me,” the model says, and he and the professor start to dance to the pulsing rhythms of the 1930s.

This is what Petr Shvetsov’s show would look like if he emphasized the drag queen component of his practice. This component certainly exists as a common theme in many of the artist’s projects. The change of image, amazing costumes, and playing with gender and social roles are constantly present in Shvetsov’s artistic arsenal and everyday behavioral drawing. Starting as a wise old man and continuing as a pop diva, he may suddenly segue to cold dandyism or athletic stunts. And finish with polite social hugs. It’s the same with his mediums: drawing can result in land art, performance in painting, and sculpture in a balding fox in silicon. The viewers never know what to expect at the next minute, and they are left alone with deceived expectations and the merry travesty artist.

But Shvetsov is motivated by something more complex than the desire for an eternal disco. The project should not be seen as a series of separate works (pictures, painting sessions, shows), but as a complex changing self-portrait, recreated in performance over the course of many years. The sensitivity to his own potentialities, the refusal to reduce himself, the reluctance to conform to standards and prescriptions – this is what in fact is at stake. The change of images prevents the reproduction of gender and age roles, social and national myths. The charming tomfoolery, narcissism and merry carnival undermine the binary opposition and black-and-white vision imposed by the decrepit regime. Is this merriment appropriate at the moment? Yes, more than ever before.