Damir Muratov

4, March 2013 · Visiting Artists

Damir Muratov is undisputed leader of Siberian pop art. He lives and works in Omsk – a three-hour flight from Moscow, which he visits only every few years. But, being geographically distant from the international centres of culture, Damir does not droop and uses local specificities as one of his art’s components.
Damir Muratov’s work might be called “pop art squared.” For example, taking as the basis an icon of American art – Jasper Johns’ flag, Damir turns it into a “United States of Siberia”. In addition to American classics, the artist has a multitude of other sources of inspiration – artistic clichés, local kitsch, classical Eastern art, etc. According to Damir himself, he likes to bring a topic to the point of absurdity, frank farce. His motto: “If they are awaiting you on the left – show up on the right!”.
Damir is a multifaceted artist: painter, graphic artist, sculptor, set designer for the theatre. In my opinion, the most original and striking of his works are those made of junk materials: cardboard boxes, paper bags, old LPs, video cassettes, toys, cigarette packages. Damir also turned his own home into a kind of work of art, “adorning” it with all kind of stuff.
In 1995, Damir Muratov has organized in the industrial zone of Omsk the Gallery “Kočum′”. According to him, it is more of a private club, with many artistic activities, performances, visiting projects and exhibitions.

Leonid Zeiger

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A brief biographical note:

Born in 1967 in Tobol’sk. Graduated from the Graphical Art Department of Omsk State Pedagogical University. Participant in exhibitions since 1988. Works are in private and museum collections in Siberia and Moscow.


Leonid Lerner, text for catalogue (in preparation)

Damir’s workshop is a cabinet of curiosities. Original and unique, it’s not a cabinet of European scholastic, where everything is gray, metallic, and shiny, with many glazed shelves, folders and cranny with neglected artifacts. Damir’s cabinet is Oriental couch, with a spicy dust all inside out, the home of an extrovert (although I’m not sure that Damir is such a complete extrovert, he certainly has his corked bottles and secret little albums). Cabinet of a generous master, confident (but doubting, perhaps even vulnerable), showing to himself and his visitors the results of ongoing experiments.
If you succumb to the temptation of a cataloger and to build fragments of Damir’s research in a series or string of discoveries and revelations, you’ll get an interesting line, provoking predictions, a guessing game – what’s the next step, turn, will the artist come, after all, to the geometric abstraction or completely dissolve in the web-art?
My personal acquaintance with Damir happened around 2000, maybe a little earlier. Unforgettable Sveta Kogan took me to some show where I discovered “Pillow Fight” and “Cook’s Shaolin” – things exceptionally cute and just as much important to Damir. Then I was in his studio, where I saw the artist, as well as the works in progress, and was finally confirmed in the opinion that in front of me was a very interesting artist and a wonderful character. On the same (or next) day I examined mid-nineties canvases and corrugated cardboard “Omsk … I Did Time Here … ” at the Art of Omsk Museum, and found that Damir belongs to the category of artists who can easily change the style of painting and the” ideological” line, the philosophy of their art. This guess was confirmed later more than once.
Damir’s daily exercises in art form from the deep cleavage, delamination of shape. Even referring to his most well-known today “ideological” works “Che Burashka,” “Mickey Mao,” “West Is Dead,” Damir can be reckoned to innate formalists (work on numerous Ches has a particular formalism). And in the works of the early and mid-2000s much attention of the artist is given to the texture (“Afrussia,” which is always in front of my eyes, is very revealing in this sense.) The search of form(s) and texture creation eventually led Damir to a radically different art of the last three or four years, when he again made a sudden step to the side, refusing his recognizable style.
Works and even more method that gave him a reputation as perhaps the most relevant of the Siberian artists (of course, we do not take into account the capital quasi Siberians), Damir preferred to call pop art. He probably just liked the concept, as well as belonging to the style, a certain way of creative work, personified by extremely likable to him Andy Warhol. Endless quotes, his own quotes, animation, recognizable images, playing with “ideologies,” creation of some new myths and fakes everything crystallized into a clear program of art, art-system. And any image being placed in this “solution-formalizator” – from Thumbelina to Chingachgook to Chernyshevsky and Pushkin was instantly assimilated by Damir’s history, which had the potential to become infinite as his myth gained the ability to absorb any image. This form and image producing biomass could eventually lead the artist to the factory (in all senses) and the big money. But Damir stopped, preferring Chinese consumer goods to Swiss watches.
And this choice seems to me quite natural. The artist moved to another level. And, following the logic of the art game (or rather, a game called Art), he began again from the beginning with a study of the forms, the simplest, uncomplicated, from touching of new surfaces, scrutinizing previously unknown (or uninteresting) texture. Old characters, an integral part Damir’s life and philosophy of life, of course, slip into a picturesque reality, but that’s a whole different reality. After the bright, lush “pop art” recent “art-brut” sometimes looks cloudy and poor, but in it, if you look and listen, there is the same voltage on the background of a new crunching and grinding. Damir stirs, softens their shapes and images, throws them out and …observes the process of crystallization.
It may seem that Damir opens evident truths, illustrates his own studies of art history, and that collection of his works is just an abstract from which the text was deleted, but the pictures were left. In fact, it seems to me, Damir not so much studies some history books (of course, this also) as writes this history for himself, stays inside it, as inside the maze, where there is no linearity, predictability, but rather, solid crannies, pockets and stone cells, where he sometimes stays for long, highlights some interesting ephemerality, captures it all in the format of travel notes. Yes, Damir’s art, in fact, is the travel notes of the alchemist of arts.

Leonid Lerner, editor and publisher, “The Art Magazine “, Moscow 2010.

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