Rus Eng

About the work of Slava Baranov

EYEMAZING №2, 2012

Irina Chmyreva

...Absolute, genuine, and beyond his time - three descriptions of Vyacheslav Baranov's work. Baranov came to photography late, after the digital era had already begun. He’s definitely not a “young upstart” but can be described as an “emerging artist,” one who has his own vision and direction, different from the mainstream. 

Baranov’s creations concern a specific subject: his relation with time (which in photography can be understood through the light - it can even be the light itself) and are based on his acceptance of the concept of eternity. He investigates eternity, finding new objects and experimenting with techniques, while being aware that it is necessary to advance slowly and carefully. His experiments are an esoteric process. He works with film, reflex camera, and a portrait lens. He believes his palm is the best support for his camera. 

Baranov finds new routes in the classic analogue photography and brings new dimensions to it. Just like in Darwin's theory; the origin of species of artists can be determined by the place of their spiritual birth. St. Petersburg in Russia is a Mecca for “silver” photography. And it was in St. Petersburg where Baranov devoted himself for the first time to the old practice of silver salt transformation - it was a natural development for the artist referring to local traditions. 

For Russia’s St. Petersburg is like Prague for central Europe - it is a source of esotericism; they have Kafka and we have The (Poets’) Tower; they have spiritualistic photography and air spirits in Sudec's photographs—we have metaphysical exaltation of Valentin Til Samarin, and a movement of photography alchemists. Moreover, while speaking about Baranov's “Petersburg's origin”, we should mention Photoki by Alexander Kitaev (though it was a local project for Kitaev it was none the less valuable for exploring the limits in photography); iconographic light tracings by Andrey Chezhin, and this is not a complete list. 

In listing some of the names of St. Petersburg's photographic elite, I want the reader to feel that Baranov is not alone in his search, and that visitors to modern Russia do not realise what a powerful movement is going on in photography. This is the problem of modern culture on this country's scale. Society does not grasp the significance of many processes going on within their culture; their significance can only be determined “in the future,” in the same way that the contribution of science can only be really appreciated over the years, sometimes decades after theories were born and formulas were developed, after experiments were run, without being of any commercial benefit to the contemporaries. 

Baranov’s Last Romans series comprises of portraits of Roman citizens, portraits of portraits, which are nowadays stored in museum storerooms. Baranov shifts accents: he is interested in the light in faces, the heavy noses, the grief and indifference in the eyes—more than in historical meaning (more than the name and credits of the depicted). The light in these portraits means more than the subject matter. The latter acquires metaphorical expressiveness owing to the light smoothly flooding the surface and which is like the well of time. Looking at the succession of Romans engraved in marble to commemorate their tyrannical actions, and adjusting your sight to the artist’s vision, one grows to recognise suffering in their stone faces. In Roman Portraits the light is like a scalpel dissecting the surface. 

In his Shagreen Time series, with its still lifes - compositions or clocks, pieces of scenery and sculptures - the artist, while still representing eternity, seems to have a different relationship with the light. The light is completely independent; it doesn't seem to print images on the film's surface, but lets them freely float in the air. It is not suppressed, but emancipated to the extent that it can disobey the will of the artist. Shapes lengthen out, get distorted, modified; there is an illusion that the objects are oscillating in the air.

How can thoughts, being spiritual phenomena, exist in our physical world? Only as materialized symbols. How can an author’s spiritual search become known to contemporaries and posterity? Only through his creations. Even the words of interpretations will be obliterated; paper may wear thin and crumble to dust, but images will imprint in viewers' minds. Baranov's compositions have a precise visual matrix. The magic of his original prints and the attractive power of photography as a physical object (with a certain size, tonality, colour, etcetera) impel the viewer to keep an experience of the encounter forever...