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                                                        RIMMA GERLOVINA AND VALERIY GERLOVIN


                                                                                        (A SHORT OVERVIEW OF THE ARTWORK)

                                                                                 © 2010, Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin

                                                                                              PART 4: PHOTO CONCEPTS


      In our work in photography, we tend to explore what's given indirectly by means of direct examples, shifting the spotlight from conceptual object to conceptual subject. Toward the end of the eighties, we began the photographic series Photoglyphs, which literally means "carving with light" (in Greek phos-, photos- denotes "light," and glyphe means "carving"). This series was presented in the exhibition Photoglyphs, hosted by the New Orleans Museum of Art. Containing mainly close-ups, with cryptographic words and drawings made directly on the skin, which we used as human parchment, the show, which featured an extensive catalogue, traveled to venues in fifteen cities from 1994 to 1999.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Installation view of the travelling exhibition Photoglyphs at the New Orleans Museum of Art, 1994. Left to right: Birth of Aphrodite, ©1992, C-print in aluminum frame, pencil drawing, 42 x 48"; Be-lie-ve, ©1990, C-print in stainless steel frame, 48 x 48"; Dust, ©1990-91,C-prints in stainless steel construction, 48 x 48".


       In Photoglyphs we photographed the "chosen" words without verbal context, placing this curious organic metaphysics not within the traditional bookish e nvironment, but directly on faces, moving it into the realm of poetic truth. In such a new environment, words appear in the full body of their allusive meaning, not as faceless morphemes of the linear textual form. In this way, we give them flesh. At the same time, our own thoughts become visible, recharged through the expression of facial features. For example, we literally dissect the word "believe" on the forehead through the use of braids.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Be-lie-ve, ©1989, C-print, 40 x 40".


       By demonstrating the treason of falsity, the word is forced to reveal its contradictory core. The reliability of the mind, a question investigated in the cubes, is thus addressed in our photographs. A lie can come in the form of a truth, and the truth can come in the form of a lie. Be-lie-ve it or not. By words, we can arrive anywhere, but not necessarily at the truth. The Sufi master Mullah Nasreddin once said: "I never tell the truth." If this is true, it contradicts his statement. But if he lies, as he says he does, it means he really is telling the truth.

In 1991, we had a retrospective exhibition at the Fine Arts Museum of Long Island, which included both our objects and our photographs in metal-frame constructions that look like an extension of Valeriy's metal sculptures. While the style of the close-up photographs derived from Valeriy's close-up murals and paintings, the words came from Rimma's cubes.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, installation view of the joint retrospective exhibition An Organic Union at Fine Arts Museum of Long Island, Hempstead, NY, 1991. On the left: Tree of Life, © 1989, C-prints in stainless steel construction, 87½ x 48".


       Our collective creative imagination synthesizes ideas from different realms; it nurtures a new aesthetic offspring within us. The male/female union contributes much. Fused into a joint "receptacle" for the phenomenal world, it naturally increases the outcome. The union of opposites tends to produce new seeds.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Am I Me? ©1991, C-print.


Visual poetry inscribed on the face permits not only the distillation of metaphor, but also the intertwining of factual and poetic, physical and metaphysical. Vintage (1990) seems to be an example of such blending.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Vintage, ©1990, C-print, 40 x 40".


       By its very nature, life is not at peace; in a symbolic way it rests on contradictions, our share of which increases once we begin to recognize them. Not for nothing do we have our vintage of pain and pleasure, which chase and cancel each other out. For that reason, this image of harvest bears the stem of a cross that casts a shadow of doubt on the fruitful adornments of the head. Grapes are our food, our wine, and they can be sour.

       A series of concepts literally passed through the looking-glass when we began to deploy bending-mirror surfaces. In the visual formula Chaos (1990), inscribed on the face, the chemical and cosmic meaning of that word is equivalent to shaping the chaos within the self.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Chaos, ©1990, C-print in stainless steel frame, 48" in diameter.


      The collective self-image is dispersed in all directions, as if being cast into the universal chaos, while in essence it's one indivisible union. Nothing is separate; division is evident only on the mirror surface. One is simultaneously the one and the all, dividing oneself into the creation of diversities in their endless reflections of pars pro toto.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Madonna with Child, ©1992, C-print, 40 x 40".


       The creative source acts in the particular moment and in the particular place, issuing force, time, and space out of the self. In a way, it is a child of itself. The filamentous structure of flaxen hair, in which nature has enclothed woman, permits us to create a sublimated form of the body with the minimum of corporeal density, thus arriving at the exaltation of consciousness. Recalling the authoritative premise "The very hairs on our heads are all numbered," hair is the most natural primordial outfit of a woman, the most archetypal fashion that never goes out of style. In that respect, the aesthetic quest (and what is aesthetics - in Greek it means "sense perception") builds on that idea. In the cultural and religious intensity that characterized the early arts, the benevolent side of reality was shown by harmonious qualities when physical appearance was not supposed to overshadow the metaphysical aspect. Socrates is credited with the prayer to give him beauty in the inner soul, and to grant him that inner and outer man be as one.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Greek Formula: The cruciform monogram composed of the Greek words for light (phos > photos) and life (zoe > zoo) ©1990, C-print, 40 x 40".


      If the Photoglyphs "talk" primarily through words and drawings, the later series of photographs called Perhappiness is a visionary development. We see it as a mode of being wherein "perhaps" and "happiness" are entwined. Perhappiness encodes the play of intuition, theurgical elements, the contemplative state, the aesthetic quest, and more.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Pilgrim, ©2000, C-print, 39½ x 30".


      Each of us has a dose of happiness that can be characterized as perhappiness. Many live in the incessant pursuit of desires, and that is like a dog that chases its own tail. Real happiness is unconditioned; it does not fade away with the change of a situation. It is a balanced state wherein the dualism of happiness and unhappiness disappear: a treasure hard to find.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Slow Heating, ©2002, C-print, 39½ x 30".


       Perhaps the following is an accurate enough analogy for our photographic practice: similar to how a chemist employs tinctures and flasks for his experiments, we use our minds as solutions and our faces as vessels. The roles of the observer and the observed are thus extended to the unifying state of being the observatory itself. In technical terms, this method is convenient, compact, and self-sufficient. For example, we use hair, the material that happens to be near at hand (and on the head). The series of linear drawings made from braids explores the idea of projection beyond the self, as a personal wave of a transpersonal impulse.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Flask, ©2001, C-print, 39½ x 30".


       The magical part of this series deals with the play of paradoxes on which the bittersweet scenario of life is based. We try to convey a message through subtle humor, switching to paradoxical propositions when the rational mind reaches its limit.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Grail, ©2001, C-print, 39½ x 30".


      Unintentionally, many of our photographs reflect the weirdness of quantum theories: How do you like it when an atom can be on the left and right side at the same time? But if an observer looks at it, the atom "chooses" to be seen only in one place.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Two Eggs, ©2002, C-print, 39½ x 30".


      Nature itself is full of magical tricks. For example, in the case of the so-called paradoxical frog, the adult is less than one third the size of its tadpole, and can serve as a model for human society. Why not? Has it not been stressed in different scriptures that those who wish to become wise must be like children? Of course, it is difficult to find among the learned those who would be willing to undertake such a feat. Artists have fewer limitations. They can afford to play with perhappiness.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Void, ©1989/94, C-print in stainless steel construction, aluminum, pencil drawing, 48 x 41¾".


      All of our photographic work is divided into three main cycles: the Photoglyphs, Perhappiness, and the Photoreliefs. Technically, they differ in format: the Photoglyphs are square, Perhappiness features an array of rectangular shapes, and the Photoreliefs are sculptural works of various forms that unite photography with art objects. Valeriy's metal sculptures were destined to enter our photographic oeuvre in a distinctive, integral manner when we began extending its form and meaning to the three-dimensional world of objects.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Dust, ©1990-91, C-prints in stainless steel construction, 48 x 48".


       In the fictitious cube of D-us-T ("us" is written in red letters on the forehead), the context of the photograph increases the illusion of volume, bringing it into the square package of diffused particles, a theoretically suspicious combination of shape and shapelessness. The sequence of Flat Solids is based on optical illusion; although at first glance the works look like three-dimensional bodies, they belong to the same "flat land" of photography: their metal geometrical constructions are actually two-dimensional. In the composition H2O (1990/94), featuring pseudo-water in a pseudo-cube, the whirlpool of the "great deep" is created out of hair, "incubated" in a similarly flat solid.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, H2O, ©1994, C-print in stainless steel construction, 48 x 48".


       Our sculptural photographs, on which we work now more than ever, extend the form and the meaning of photography to the three-dimensional world of objects. The different series dictate a variety of sculptural forms, from cut-outs in metal frame with additional pencil drawings to elaborate sculptural reliefs.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Subliminal Child (the third from left): The silhouette of the child is cut out, © 1995, C-print in stainless steel frame, 46 x 34", collection of Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, NC. Photo of the exhibition at the museum, 2000.


       All of the Photoreliefs are based upon the law of symmetry and balance, especially the metal constructions with the male images. Not only music but also life, poetry, and art contain equivalents to the principle of the harmony of spheres in Pythagorean terms.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Metal Glove © 2009, C-print in stainless steel construction, aluminum, 36 x 36 x 2½".


       Many concentric metal constructions are likewise built around centralized images, as in Dodecahedron (2008), Orbit (2009), and Metal Glove (2009). Everything in life seems to be united within the space-time continuum emanating out of some sacral center, to which the human soul continually aspires. Having neither beginning nor end, that focal point cuts through the entire universe. Each of its expressions might be activated in the luminous center of human consciousness. "As all the spokes are connected both with the hub and with rim, so all creatures, all Gods, all worlds, all organs are bound together in that Self," reads the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (11, 4, 15).



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Ouroboros, ©1994/2009, C-prints in aluminum construction, 45¼" in diameter.


      The Ouroboros, or snake eating its own tail (that's what ouroboros means in Greek), is also a circle, perhaps in some devious sense. It's an old symbol of self-generating and self-sustaining nature in the eternal cycle of renewal. Feeding on its own tail, this non-ending force eternally prolongs the daydream of matter, while maintaining the ring of undifferentiated totality, which, simply put, is the continuous, fundamental principle of life, with all of its bad and good connotations.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Prayer, ©1993/2009, C-prints in aluminum construction, 35½ x 52¾".


       Replete with the weird and wonderful chain of references between art and life, the works touch on both the hidden sacral process and everyday reality. Born from the inner vision, these images helped us apprehend the archetypal ideas that entered our minds as people enter their houses. We experienced them as alive in our consciousness. The concepts are not only openly exposed on our own faces, thus bearing the seal of direct experience, but the systematic, diary-like approach added stone upon stone to the pile. Some people understand and observe themselves only in a constant state of flux, while artists do so through their art.




Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Slit, ©1998/2009, C-print in aluminum construction, 48 x 39".


      First comes the reception of knowledge (visual or verbal), then its absorption, and finally its application. It's a gradual development of the inner capacity for metaphoric truth, apprehended when one wants to apprehend the creative order of things. We hope that via the artwork, the sacred can enter the everday world and somehow influence the viewer. Perhaps this psychological dramatization and its analytical synopsis can somehow inspire others as well. Each can verify the reality for himself using his own methods. Our vehicle is art. It's useful until it leads us to the essence, but as soon as this essence is reached, there's no further need for any vehicle. If understanding already exists inwardly, then outside of this, thereีs no right finding.



Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Dodecahedron, ©2008, C-print in aluminum construction, 37¾ x 35".




   Photoglyphs (images)

   Perhappiness (images)

   Photoreliefs (images)


   Art Institute of Chicago Collection, Chicago, IL

   Centre Pompidou Collection: (Cubes) (Mirror Game)  (2x2=4)  (Ursa Major)

   Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, NC

   Ackland Art Museum Collection, Ackland, NC

   The Museum of Fine Arts Collection, Housten, TX

   Art in Embassies Collection, U.S. Department of State

   Art4.Ru Contemporary Art Museum Collection, Moscow

   Spoleto Festival, Charleston, SC, Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art

   Book Art On The Edge and over

  The Concepts, book,1012 (video)    On ISSUU: Part 1  Part 2

  Thought of Thoughts, series of books




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