What if the painted figures of classical masterpieces were given the chance to be part of our modern day lives? This intriguing question gets visualized poignantly by Ukrainian artist Alexey Kondakov. His work, labelled as surrealist documentary photography, combines the lavishly depicted icons of mythologic past with the images of day to day life of mostly his home base of Kyiv. His recent series has highlighted the effects of the brutal war on his home country, but I chose to take one his earlier works to focus on today. The true delight of Alexey’s work for me comes in how he re-purposes the richly painted figures in often absurd, but also surprisingly emotional and poetic situations. His strength as a collage artist is the seamless integration of these masterpieces with their new background, shining a new light on the beauty of the original while repurposing them in often stunning fashion.
This piece, Love Hit (In the Nightclub), combines the grimy, piss stained urinals of an underground haunt with the nude cherubs and central figure of ‘Le Printemps’ (The Return Of Spring) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. The combination shouldn’t work as well as it actually does, which only highlights Alexey’s achievements in finding that right balance between his real life locations and the featured artwork. The red tones of the lights make it feel like we’re witnessing some forbidden secret, a though shared by the puritans who found the original work too provocative and even physically attacked the painting. Perhaps that’s why the figures now have found a moment of refuge in the last place we would expect them and have fully embraced the salacious undertones their original pursuers saw in them. Or it can remind us that we can find beauty everywhere, even hidden between the discarded beer bottles and traces of midnight vomit. The location could be in Kyiv, I have not found the setting confirmed anywhere, but if it is, one could hope that its angelic visitors helped safeguard the place from harm.