"Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires.
William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Liudmila Konstantinova is a virtuoso of visual deception, trompe l'oeil, in the broad sense of the term: the image often turns out to be not what it seems, and the titles contain an entirely unexpected plot twist. Sometimes the canvas, covered in the lightest of washes, pretends to be a piece of Carrara marble and gets its title after Gloria Gaynor's timeless hit, I Will Survive. A profanity pretends to be a picture in a Soviet alphabet book, a painting desperately mimics digital illustration, and three canvases put together professing to be granite slabs turn out to be a tricolour. Liudmila Konstantinova's creative method can be described as ironic reinterpretation of the styles of different art movements, ranging from avant-garde to conceptualism, through the prism of the life experiences of the younger Gen X. Nostalgically flipping through Eric Bulatov's and Ilya Kabakov's oeuvres and unexpectedly 'wrapping' them into Edward Hopper's melancholy realism or Georgia O'Keeffe's magical one, the artist chooses established formulas of politeness, dull euphemisms and impersonal sentences over slogans and run-of-the-mill vernacular, generously measuring out the exact dose of flagrant shame and carefully tamed absurdity that we are so accustomed to these days.
'This series is about the impossibility to comprehend the sincerity of an emotion that is expressed impersonally, whether an invitation in the form of "welcome", an ingratiating request to "visit us again" or a polite farewell of "bon voyage". In the world of exhausted people wearily uttering these worn-out phrases and other exhausted people wearily consuming them, what does actually lie behind the socially acceptable "happy to see you"?' – explains Konstantinova.
This elegy about the helplessness of polite rituals is set off by a giant papier-mâché snot, an old TV with an iron rose in the centre of its broken lamp, and a series of abstract works featuring metal flowers in the middle. However, when inspecting the sterile, expressionless landscape with a standard building sporting a shining 'Get Lost' sign, one comes to the realisation that for children of the 80s and 90s it has nothing to do with impersonal niceties, hypocrisy or even cowardice, and everything to do with the fact that nearly all is lost.
*Some works in the exhibition feature obscene language.