This week sees Ikon launch the UK’s most comprehensive collection to date of the definitive works of Russia’s arguably most evocative contemporary artist, Timur Novikov. Until the end of April, Ikon plays host to the exhibition, co-curated by his step-daughter, mapping not only Novikov’s progressive career and artistic vision from the 1980s right through to his final works in the Noughties, but also tracing him and his contemporaries’ political and artistic ideologies, alongside visible representations of his decline in health.
Novikov’s seemingly simplistic use of bright patterned fabrics with appliquéd motifs and beading hide a multitude of deeper messages, reflective of the political state in Soviet Russia, and of the ideals of the New Russian Classicism movement, of which he was a prominent figure in defining in the late Twentieth Century. The group went against the cultural grain, wishing to deviate from popular culture in favour of a return to the Golden age of classical ideology, producing works steeped in Neo-Academicism. Novikov draws subtly, yet undeniably, upon the ideals of Victorian revolutionary Oscar Wilde, hidden amongst a charming and humorous composition, manifesting his commitment to New Russian Classicism through Wilde’s definitive opulence and grandeur that translate into a return to classical ideals. Novikov’s reference to Wilde also marks his own political optimism, the Victorian revolutionary’s ideas relating directly to Novikov’s political ideology at a time of great change in Russia, on the brink of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
A key theme in Novikov’s work is the image of the horizon, often presenting itself clearly through the joining of two starkly different fabrics. This image, present throughout Novikov’s work, fits in clearly with his ideologies, indicative of not only the new horizon upon which Russia was looking, but boldly symbolic of the joining of cultures; the popularity of modernity with classical ideology.
Novikov’s exhibition at the Ikon, running into the spring, is an absolute must-see; if not for his quirky and engaging use of fabrics and motifs to brighten up this dreary British weather, but for an intelligent manifestation of revolutionary and engaging political and artistic ideology in a time of great turmoil.
13 February – 21 April
Words: Charlotte White