It Could be Much Worse
Valery Chtak in Multimedia Art Museum
22.01 - 28.03.2021
Valery Chtak is a very special phenomenon in Russian art. He has often been called a conceptual artist, but that is an over-simplification. He began participating in exhibitions from 2002, and from the outset his work became clearly recognisable. His visual language absorbed the aesthetics of graffiti, street art and comics. The colour palette is almost always monochrome: black, white and grey are very sparingly complemented by other colours. These visually laconic pieces incorporating texts in various languages (Chtak is a library scientist by education) could be instantly and unmistakably identified as his work.

A technique he uses all the time is the inclusion of text in his images. Any language is a way of conceptualising the world, and a tool for understanding it. The variety of languages and alphabets that exists in all of Chtak's projects represents the diversity of worlds that we ourselves produce and in which we live, raising them to the rank of objective reality. Chtak works with the illusory nature of such attitudes in his art.

Each of his projects is a multi-level fluctuating narrative where flashes of understanding are replaced by the failures of misunderstanding — starting at the linguistic level and continuing with the impossibility of rationally correlating the figurative image on the canvas with the words written on it, even when the language of this inscription is known to the viewer. 'People ask me "What does this mean?" It doesn't mean anything! Haven't you heard: there are works of art with no particular meaning? They were created that way, so when you see the emptiness — in a picture, at an exhibition — you actually see the emptiness in yourself, in your head, and begin to understand it,' Chtak says.

In a world where the quantity of information is off the scale, Chtak's art is opposed to the belief that we can and should search for a logical and therefore universal explanation in everything. Or, broadly speaking, that the world in general can be understood and translated into a particular language. Using a multiplicity of languages, verbal and visual, he obstructs the very possibility of establishing a logically structured narrative around his pictures. This feature of his art is even more pronounced because he consciously imitates the presence of a coherent narrative: linking the works with a connecting line, he seems to suggest a sequence of 'reading' to the viewer that presupposes a beginning and end, and thereby the completeness and integrity of the statement. But which side we should read from is also unclear. True enough, 'Immediately Visible', the centrepiece by its position in the exhibition space, really is immediately visible. Right away, from the museum entrance. Yet everything in Chtak's oeuvre tells us that nothing is visible, either immediately or in hindsight. That not understanding has its own ontological value. And we should react to this fact, and many other things, with stoicism. 'It Could Be Much Worse'.

Anna Zaitseva
Curator, Multimedia Art Museum
Valery Chtak (b. 1981) has developed his significant black and white painting style, an artistic language that he continues to explore to this day in the late 90s. Around the same time Chtak and friends attended an informal contemporary art school founded by Avdey Ter-Oganyan. Between 2000 and 2005 Chtak was part of the Radek Community – an artist association committed to staging cutting-edge performances.