Dadiani Fine Art presents a series of still life paintings by Elena Khudiakova, the celebrated Russian artist and fashion designer who died earlier this year aged 57. Conceived between 2012 and 2014, each painting depicts objects that would be familiar to anyone who grew up in the old USSR – dolls attired in native costumes, leather-bound books, a television set placed in the corner of a room broadcasting a ballet.
Painted from memory, each can be seen as a nostalgic evocation of Khudiakova’s own childhood. However, there is much more at play; her use of bold primary colours and brand names draw them into the realm of Pop Art, and in doing so she wryly comments on the Soviet Union’s repudiation of Western-style capitalism.
This is given full expression in Caviar, which depicts the delicacy abundantly spilling from open barrels and tins, each branded with the CCCP logo. The production of caviar, which was a state-run enterprise, made it ubiquitous in countless homes across Russia, where it was served as a special treat. Another familiar sight for any Russian child is found in Sweets, which presents a range of traditional Russian confectionary, some lined up in their wrappers and others broken open and half-eaten.
Vases and Flowers incorporates more explicit symbols of the USSR, with one carved glass vase featuring the face of Vladimir Lenin, and another depicting a heroic worker couple holding a hammer and sickle triumphantly aloft. These mass-produced trinkets were a source of pleasure, status and pride for their owners, and would be displayed around the house not just as decoration but as proof of loyalty to the communist regime.
In all of these works, Khudiakova inserts her own authorship and identity by inscribing her initials within the paintings. For example, she places ‘EK’ alongside the company television logo in Television, playfully demonstrating how an individual can through their work become a brand and consumer item; the artist’s conflation of the personal and the commercial is crystallised in a gesture.
In Memoriam: Elena Khudiakova – Dadiani Fine Art – 9 Sep to 18 Sep 2015