Damir Muratov - From Siberia with Love

18 May, 2013 to 25 June, 2013


One day the Omsk artist Damir Muratov noticed that he had become very famous. That is, not he himself, but his picture Che Burashka. It portrays the cute, big-eared, much-loved cartoon character. But he looks extremely militant, in beret, with a “Kalashnikov” at the ready. This image has become so appreciated by the broad masses that it has begun to be reproduced on T-shirts, mugs, bags and used as an avatar in blogs. Naturally, no one has paid much attention to the name of the author of this image that is so popular. He did not particularly strive towards gaining such nationwide fame, although he did upload the picture onto the network. Indeed, he quickly became bored with working on the Che-pop series.

Now, he is often called a Siberian Pop artist and a successor of Sots Art. However, in this memorable series there was no particular critical context, just the pure play on words. Amongst the Sots artists he prefers Leonid Sokov, who is the most folksy and crude. As for the representatives of Pop Art, Muratov also chose as his idol the brutal Robert Rauschenberg, to whom Muratov pays homage in the picture-flag of the United States of Siberia. However, the closest to him in spirit is the art of Jimmie Durham, an American Indian by birth and a defender of the rights of the indigenous population of the United States.

Moreover, Damir Muratov has no particular inclination towards direct political activity, although he does admit that he is interested in postcolonial studies. That is why he, not without defiance, gave the name of the legendary figure Kuchum to the gallery that he opened in his own studio. Of course, it is not in fact a gallery, but the typical artist-run space, situated in one of the most neglected areas of Omsk; a place that the artist affectionately calls Bednotaun (Poortown). It is namely in this, to put it mildly, not the most beautiful place in the world that Muratov carries out his postcolonial studies. He asks the neighbours for plastic bags and bags which they have dragged back from the supermarkets to their unpretentious homes. And he makes “Flags” out of them, to comfort all the shopaholics of the world.

Damir also very carefully examines the local rubbish tips, collecting crumpled cigarette packs, advertising leaflets, pizza packaging and other garbage there. Out of them he constructs his “Barricades” and then paints them in a style in which Pablo Picasso would have worked, had he suddenly decided to become a psychedelic artist.

The work titled “Foreign Countries” is also made out of rubbish, under streaks of paint we can see a box of cigarillos smoked long-ago or a bedraggled clipping from a magazine with a photo of the members of Abba. But this garbage has a very special property, it was treasured by Soviet people in the Soviet era, embodying thus their illusions about foreign countries. Since the days of Kurt Schwitters, the artist who digs around in rubbish tips does not look like much of an oddball. But Damir Muratov has no inclination for absolute originality. And he believes that the main thing is to deal with the chaos in the minds of people.

Wild animals, in reality cheap plastic Chinese toys, are also trying to break through the rubbish of civilisation. The title of the series –We will leave the Zoo – is taken from a song of Egor Letov, who was born in Omsk. And the title of the exhibition – From Siberia with Love – was taken from the inscription on a souvenir comb made out of Siberian cedar wood.


Andrey Kovalev