A Pack of Malingerers / Alexander Dashevskiy

Alexander Dashevskiy

A Pack of Malingerers

26 Apr - 13 Jul 2019

Anna Nova Gallery presents an exhibition by Alexander Dashevskiy celebrating the 10-year anniversary of partnership between artist and gallery. The exposition appears to be an ironical biopic about Alexander’s artistic practice. New project “A Pack of Malingerers” follows the previous series ”Partial Losses” (2013) “The Fallen and the Dropped Out” (2016) and becomes the third episode of the thrilling story about painting genre mutations emerged during the artists’s working process.

The name of Alexander Dashevskiy's exhibition "A Pack of Malingerers" is right out of Hašek's "The Good Soldier Švejk". There is an episode in Hašek's  novel that fits well for the beginning of our story.  One day, an unlucky spy was trying to get on Švejk's good side and bought dogs from him. The dogs later devoured the owner. After learning about this tragic accident, Švejk said: "It’s hard to say whether he will be able to collect his bones when it's time to stand before the Last Judgment".

Of all the symbolic "deaths" in the intellectual history of the 20th century, the "death of painting" was interpreted most literally. Duchamp actually stopped making paintings. Many critics later declared it a "doomed genre" as they examined its sins in detail. Does it broadcast a politically conservative agenda? Does its mimicry dim the enthusiasm of viewers, training them for passive contemplation and teaching them to enjoy captivating imitations? Does it indulge the taste of collectors by easily matching their interiors? In poster format, such questions may evoke a grin or irritation. But anyone who cherishes this form of art uses these questions to crystallize their understanding of painting. Alexander Dashevskiy decided to counter this literal death with a literal resurrection through new painting formats. For previous projects in the exhibitions “Partial Losses” (2013) and “Fallen and Dropped Out” (2016), he contrived canvas stretchers in irregular shapes, freeing figures from the background, breaking the image into fragments and implying that they can grow and change their shape like living beings, or applying shadow to a painted work in a way that juxtaposes mimesis against the laws of physics. "A Pack of Malingerers" was conceived by Dashevskiy as the last part of this trilogy, a continuation of his glorious, defiantly cheerful campaign for "the liberation of figurative painting" (and knowingly doomed to failure). Liberation from what? The exhibition, which is an ironic biopic dedicated to the artist's practice, seems to be the answer to this question.

"Sie sind ein Simulant!" ("You are a malingerer!" in German) — this is the title that the Austrian doctor in "The Good Soldier Švejk" is prepared to bestow on every Czech soldier trying to escape from military service.  Missing ribs or cardiac arrest are nothing more than sabotage.  The main character of the exhibition is a cowboy who is a frequent malingerer: a painted copy of a character out of a Western, invented by Dashevskiy. Like a cardboard cutout at a movie theater, he represents the artist's alter ego. In the first hall of the exhibition, he is frozen with his gun cocked. The title is "Quick Draw", befitting a speed shooter. He is aiming at another painting, a work in which the author strove to collect painting techniques that were key in his various projects. The cowboy is as American as Jackson Pollock. “Quick Draw” points an ironic finger at the physiology and autoerotic nature of painting, as well as its long-running history of victories and its traditional male-centric status, in a brief formula of its inconvenient past.  At the same time, "quick drawing" is also a form of "release". In order for the painting to come off the wall and become a full-fledged malingerer and substitute for the main character, Dashevskiy developed a labour-intensive technique. The stretcher is formed to exactly follow the contours of his drawing, then this complex shape is covered with canvas, which is not an easy task because of the overlaps and patches in the fabric. The works begin to resemble mummies. This gesture seems quite self-sufficient. Applying the actual painting to these forms, adding drama with light and shadow, playing with the contrast of a rough dry brush and small details, using different pastes and airbrushing — these are emphatically superfluous efforts. Maybe the cowboys and painters of the past are extinct, but to assemble the living dead from their bones is an exercise equal to Švejk's literal-minded "idiocy".

Each viewer can develop the biopic plot involving the Quick Draw malingerer and his gang to their own liking. For Alexander Dashevskiy, this project is both an opportunity to talk about the travails of the contemporary painter and an attempt to relate the restrained, "serious", anti-narrative works from his past to the mishaps of his new characters and new paintings. The simulated retrospective is supported by several fake critics, flaneurs, directors, and collectors, with ordinary viewers also playing a role.

Anastasia Kotyleva

In addition to the main exhibition we are also pleased to present present a pop up show "J 10" featuring a series of illustrations created by Alexander Dashevskiy for the anniversary issue of Booklet, a magazine about contemporary art published by Anna Nova Gallery. The headline of the issue is "J is for jokes", so that every drawing appears to be an ironical artistic comment on current events in the art world.