Why F

Gallery Borey, St. Petersburg

The artist Alena Tereshko starts the itinerary of many of her works with self-observation. She creates the series of drawings, capturing herself without a mirror, depicting what comes to the sight: the breast, the abdomen, the feet (in a top down perspective), and different details of her body. In her video art "Just My Own", the naked artist is dandling her right and left calves in turns, discovering their inherence and estrangement at the same time. When it comes to research of different ways of body representation "a naïve sight" turns out to be a bad ally. The artist prefers to draw her attention to both high and lowbrow art canons and to social constructs that either produce or support them. The exhibition "Why F" is one of the stages of her longstanding work on experiences of her own self-interactions with art works that nowadays have masterpiece status.

Alena Tereshko creates her own artist studio of fake forgeries alluding to academic practices of familiarization with "the classic works" through copying, she also refers to some of the gripping stories of art forgers, whose mercantile attention to artistic legacy can lead to appearance of the originals that have been falsely listed in catalogues.

The exhibition features the copies of Judith by Giorgione, The Wine Glass by Vermeer, The Rokeby Venus by Velázquez, Danae by Rembrandt, and other far-famed art works.

In a mockumentary "F for Fake" directed by Orson Welles, the plot is centred around the issue of "a genuine art work" and one of the storylines is devoted to Picasso's female friend, who was unknown to his biographers and art experts. The undocumented muse is the tool of proving or doubting provenance. By drawing her attention to those who have always been in a plain sight, Alena Tereshko proposes to take a look at the art history from different angles. She pays her attention to those who have always been in sight. Her unalike, inaccurate copies of the masterpieces are emerging from the experimenters of the re-assembling them from the point of view of a model.

A feminist group Guerrilla Girls puts the question "Should a woman be naked to get into a museum?" on seized billboards. This sets an example of an effective criticism of art organizations and their policy towards gender roles in the art history. None of the institutions that claim to be contemporary can afford to ignore this. However, the history of nude and dressed models is still work in progress. In her pioneering article for gender art history "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists", Linda Nochlin states that female artists carrier opportunities in the academy were restrained by "inadmissibility" to paint nude figures.

Alena Tereshko discovers the opportunity to produce her own gallery of masterpieces and to test within the artistic experience the strained importance of these social roles and their connections.

The project "Why F" is not just a sheer attention to models whose names and roles get much less attention than autographs of those who painted them. The question concerning the place and the appropriateness of a woman in the art profession becomes means to relive, to peer, and to allow stepping inside the paintings that are haloed by museum inaccessibility. The artist is looking for her own way of interaction with each painting in the project, not limiting herself only to a recreation of model's view.

The exhibition opens with multiplied reflections of the nude. In Velázquez's original, the model, Venus, is lying defenselessly in a fullback position towards the observer. The artist creates the 3D model of the room, where she places not only the painter, but also the observer who has ordered the painting willing to decorate the interior with an eternally desirable image, and she places one more reflecting surface behind all the figures. Alena's artwork preserves the conventionality of the 3D construction; only the face of the model that was languorously hazy in Velázquez's work is painted in the mirror. Other works in the first hall are devoted to Judith looking from up to down position, playing with head of Holofernes who was seduced and defeated by her. A calm and almost idyllic model is starting her movement in the twirl of restless and dangerous scarlet pleats. Next room is given up to left and right eye of the woman with a glass of wine, and to optical possibilities of Vermeer's time. In the third hall, Danae caught by the Golden shower is lying in a debilitated moment among samovars and other household baroque goods. Two women, Saksia and Gartie who posed for this painting weren't only Rembrandt's lovers but they also looked after his house. The exhibition finishes with the interpretation of the canvas that shows usual learning process in Repin's studio of Art Academy.

Kustodiev's work is the evidence of the turning point in the academy learning system. It shows male and female students who paint a nude model. It became possible only in the end of the 19thcentury. The places of the figures from the century before last are taken by Alena's friends and acquaintances, some recognizable characters from the art-scene: Vladimir Kozin, Liza Morozova, Petr Belyj, Jakov Kalmence, her colleagues from groups "Parazit", "Chud-kruzhok", "Sever-7" and many others.

All together it resembles another discovery, this nude must be the artist herself conducting a new performance.

Anastasia Kotyleva

Technical support: ITMO University, CYLAND MediaArtLab, gallery Navicula Artis

Authors of letters: Maria Bikbulatova, Marina Maraeva, Anastasia Kotyleva

Graphic design: Ksenia Belaya

General fitting: Igor Panin

Works which took part in the exhibition "Why F":