PETR SHVETSOV (b. 1970, Leningrad, USSR). Lives & works in St. Petersburg. Works with painting and graphics. One of the very few of his generation, he uses old-fashioned technique and seeks new opportunities in it.
The main goal of his art is to make beauty, which is so few around. Petr Shvetsov searches for the lost harmony and turns to the past.
His art is expressive that is why he still manages to shock, touch the audience on the raw, that stands ready for anything.
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.
The paintings in these series demonstrate the artist's signature style, explicitly referencing Dutch 17th-century still lifes. The deep black background plays a significant role: this is what creates the desired optical effect that seems to envelop objects in emptiness, while at the same time pushing them to the foreground in all their selfhood and presence. It seems that nothing is actually happening in these works, but they document how things are present in the here and now, how they exist as separate pieces of a cohesive universe.
The series resembles the gallery of a fetishist who maniacally pursues the object of his obsession: half-naked bodies, flesh-colored nylon stockings, lace bras, petticoats and combinations of undergarments are captured in their undisguised delicacy and shamelessness.
The sensual may perplex the viewer at first. It is disconcerting in its candor and straightforwardness, making it awkward to gaze at and examine these intimate transparent materials and folds. But like everything that is taboo and normally hidden from prying eyes, it holds your gaze and draws your eye over the silky and lacy surfaces again and again. The beauty of the depiction, the defamiliarisation of the objects, and their manifested sensuality both fascinate and repulse, or even frighten us — yet through them we encounter ourselves. Because what is captured by the artist and the way these things are captured contain the eye of the beholder, and what we see has long been looking at us.