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PAKHOMOV, SERGUEI
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Serguei Pakhomov
 
Born in Moscow in 1966, Pakhomov reinvents the icon, the traditional Russian artform, with witty political themes.  Pakhomov has exhibited widely in Europe, including Russia, France, Germany and Finland.
With the traditional icon as his starting point, Pakhomov constructs his paintings in the same painstaking way as artists of the 13th century.  Using egg tempera paints he makes himself, Pakhomov recreates the colors reminiscent of the Russian landscape - colors that inspired iconographers of long ago.  Painted on board with crude handmade frames, Pakhomov reminds the viewer that worship (and in this case socio-political commentary) is accessible to all, regardless of station in life.  Lastly, his paintings utilize the traditional “lack of perspective,” giving the appearance of an unnaturally flat surface, lacking depth.  Original icons used this technique in order to adhere to Christian tenets, which disallowed idolatry; by avoiding a “miraculous” effect in which once created three-dimensional world in paint, the icons were not sacrilegious or pagan.  For Pakhomov, this effect underscores the inherent difficulties of life in the Soviet Union, a system which reduced life for its citizens to a flat, repressed plane.
Pakhomov is inspired by the far-reaching impact of iconography - the icon was in many ways a popular artform which changed Russian history.  First coming to Russia by way of Orthodox Christianity at the turn of the 10th century, they quickly became one of the most potent symbols in Russian culture.  Originally viewed as “unholy graven images,” the icon was condemned as pagan by traditionalists of the time.  The effectiveness of the icon lay in its accessibility; found wherever people lived or gathered, they allowed every person a personal relationship with God.  Pakhomov’s icons seek to have a similar impact:  to allow all people to contemplate themselves and their lives in a deeply felt but unobtrusive way.
Pakhomov uses characters from Russian folktales, as well as people from everyday Soviet life and explores them in delightful, often sardonic ways.  Finding both bittersweet humor in everyday situations and indignation at political repression, Pakhomov caricaturizes familiar folktales and the Russian “man on the street.”  His most potent commentary is the most simple, and like traditional icons, which were created for people who could neither read nor write, Pakhomov’s icons are designed to be enjoyed and interpreted by each person individually, regardless of nationality.