Yevhen Pavlov's Eclipse
"In the series of seven montages of Eclipse (1999), the reference to history and Malevich's Black Square is obvious. It has a symmetrical composition that can be read both from left to right and from right to left. The manifestation of the extremes of natural and historical processes, an attempt to unite them into a single whole (from the darkest to the lightest) was inspired by the 1999 solar eclipse, which was a sign of the final point at the edge of the millennium.
Plastic variations of the mundane image of a labour collective appear in the struggle between white and black squares, where people appear and disappear, falling into the field of historical “eclipses”. The man standing isolated is particularly suggestive; he was the decisive element in the choice of the scene for the Eclipse concept, personalising the arrogance of the overseer, a typical figure from the life of those years. He is aware of his own arrogant power and undisguised authority over others." ~ Yevhen Pavlov
About the artist
Pavlov Yevhen (b.1949, Kharkiv, Ukraine) took his first steps in art in the late 1960s, and by 1971, along with his friend Jury Rupin, had already established Vremia (Time), a group of avant-garde Kharkiv photographers (Boris Mikhailov, Oleh Maliovany, Oleksandr Suprun etc.). The group’s arrival marked the beginning of the phenomenon of the Kharkiv school of photography, known for its “blow theory.” For a long time it was the only active center of the photo avant-garde in Ukraine.
Pavlov embodied the ideas of the nonconformism of those years in his exceptional work, Violin (May 1972), with its shocking, large shot of male nudity. Even dignified by the instrument, this transgression of the erotic subject was perceived as an attempt on the moral foundations of Soviet society. But thanks to the violin’s presence, the performance “with musical instruments” invoked high art, bringing to mind connotations with classics of visual art. His next large-scale photo shoot, which took place in Kyiv in March–September 1976 under the working title of Love, was separated from Violin by his service in the Soviet Army and studies in the cinematography department at the Karpenko-Kary Kyiv National University of Theater, Film, and Television.
When he returned to Kharkiv from Kyiv in the early 1980s, Pavlov left film behind for photography, resuming close contact with Vremia (Time). Since the late 1980s, Pavlov has also worked extensively in documentary photography. But it would be fair to say that he rather uses the typology of this genre. After its completion, the monumental work Archive Series exposed the structure of the “self-developing” photo-novel.
The concept of Total Photograph summarized all the previous experience of Pavlov’s work. The meta-technique of the handmade photograph was a free, uninhibited gesture, significant for the appearance of the “true reality” of photographs that capture daily life and being during the Soviet period. Through the process of work, the depiction is stratified into a few layers: the main one and those that are created by mechanical and colorful intervention, editing details, and so on (up to five levels). Total Photograph was shown in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Bratislava, and the USA (as part of a traveling exposition of Ukrainian photography), where it discovered viewers with the particular distance of its gaze.
Commenting on the exhibition, William Zimmer from the New York Times wrote about Pavlov’s photographs in particular: “Repression and overwhelming sadness can be turned into glory through art.”1 In a paradoxical image, the critic associated the multilayered photographs with icons under their precious oklady metal coverings, seeing in them archetypes of Slavic statuary. He continued his later work with the artist Vladimir Shaposhnikov organically in three large projects (curated by Tetiana Pavlova): Common Field (1996), Parnography (1998), and Another Sky (2003). At 2000s Pavlov created an extensive series of black-and-white photographs called Home Life Book.
It appeared as a book only in 2013, but it refers to the start of the millennium, presenting a mix of current photos and some taken from a vast archive. With its fundamentally detailed approach connected to a heightened sense of time, this series was noticed by director Oleksandr Balahura who used it in his film The Life Span of an Object in a Frame (produced and co-authored by Svetlana Zinovieva), a significant portion of which is built on Pavlov’s works.
The Polish critic Tomasz Szerszeń wrote an essay on Home Life Book in which he noted that Pavlov selects works that are “tender towards the visual traces of ‘that life,’ while preserving their inner cool. ...lacking strong contrast, dazzling with their perfect grayness—in this case, less of a synonym for what is ‘Soviet’ or life within a ‘monochromatic’ totalitarian reality, but rather the sign of temporal distance, and the work of memory whose distance obliterates the most radical of extremes, effaces contours and cools the emotions down.”