Vanishing act
24.04.2024 —
24.05.2024
24.04.2024 —
24.05.2024

The Danish artist Nicky Sparre-Ulrich is a distant relative of the famous portrait painter Leonid Pasternak (1862–1945), father of the equally famous writer Boris Pasternak. The story of family ties is extremely important in this case. In addition to portraits of famous contemporaries like Albert Einstein, Maxim Gorky and Rainer Maria Rilke, Pasternak often depicted his household and close friends, as well as himself. This extremely personal, if not to say intimate part of the painter's legacy is understandably filled with coziness and warm feeling. And exactly portraits like these, Sparre-Ulrich chose as the basis for his own works. On his canvases, the people depicted by Pasternak disappear, turn into a mysterious haze or lose their faces, become shadows or glow. Only authentic interiors remain: chairs, sofa, table, green lamp, frames on the wall. Since this is about a large Jewish family, the collective image of which is shown by Sparre-Ulrich, the disposition at first glance seems obvious: death was always nearby; those who managed to survive the storm of the civil war perished during the holocaust; not necessarily the heroes of Pasternak's specific paintings, but people of their circle in general.

 

But the artist does not propose to put on mourning clothes and contemplate a time-distant catastrophe in which, like a vortex, some of his distant relatives were sucked in and others were scattered around the world by the same force. For him, history is not a textbook of moral judgment or a catechism with clear questions and no less unambiguous answers once and for all. For Sparre-Ulrich, the past is a fluid matter that he, and everyone around him, continues to influence in the present. It wavers, ripples, distorts, boils. And together with the past, which is in no hurry to bronze like a monument, it corrodes us sinners. Only we think that mankind has solved this or that question of the past days, as there is a force that questions the next infallible solution of the historical dilemma. Besides, people are prone to change the readings of the backwaters of their memories. An overly abrupt awakening or a bad breakfast can change our past, and what to speak of eras when the world around us is cracking at the seams—at such times history becomes a shimmering kaleidoscope of shifting patterns, one different from the other. In such circumstances, a light fog instead of faces and memory lapses look much more honest.

Sergey Guskov