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Nikita Golubev - The Art of Removal

Words:

Edd Norval
December 3, 2018

Nikita Golubev's instagram bio reads "Digging Art out of Dirt" and, like an archaeologist, that's exactly what he does. Finding surfaces entirely obscured by dirt and dust, he removes layers to expose his vision. His art comes from taking away, not adding on.

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It's hard to understand his work as being 'graffiti' or 'vandalism' because his methodology is contrary to theirs. There are overlaps and similarities though. The work, just like graffiti, is creating art on a surface that's (usually) in some state of disrepair and likewise in a visible place. They're also both artistic endeavours, ways to make a statement and allow one's own artistic tendencies to manifest.


Where they are different though, comes down less to how it looks, but how it exists. Time, mainly, is what separates the two. Graffiti and street art as a whole, are both transient. Graffiti though, at least, has some degree of resistance. Wind, rain, a passersby's hand. Anything that makes contact with this Russian artist's pieces can remove them entirely.


Beyond just the idea of the movement in his work, it also quite literally moves. His surface, partly through necessity and partly as part of a larger concept, tends to be vans and trucks. Their once sparkling white facade - the perfect surface for most other artist and their subsequent degradation into a dirty and unkempt space occurs through their journey through the world. As this face sits as a product of its own work, it soon becomes the medium of Golubev's exploration of the world. The beauty he uncovers may barely last a day. But it's part of a moving gallery.

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The reverse colourisation of his pieces make them seem, first and foremost, dark and foreboding. An owl's face, intricately detailed, seems mythical and likewise through it's impermanence, gains a poignancy - it's as if the subject is unaware of its fate. It's important that this factor be considered since his subjects are things that jar with our modern way of living.


Owls, lions, gorillas. They're all animals with symbolic importance. They're creatures associated with specific landscapes. Nature and the built world can co-exist, but that tends to be low down on the list of precautions and priorities when we build new complexes and highways, new car-parks and apartment blocks.


On parked vehicles, far removed from their natural habitat, these animals are dripped in melancholgy, they're there for our viewing pleasure, just like the zoo or safari tours - captured to make us happy, but without them in mind. Because this isn't monetized, the aim is different. It's not exploitation, but it is exposure. He wants us to see these animals and think about them. Sure, he's an artist and does it because he likes to. But that motivation isn't powerful enough to seek perfection. For that, it's not a case of want anymore, but of need.

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We seek permanence in our lives. Mortality, morality, behaviour, careers, tea, coffee, music, film. We want to own something and we want it to have some significance. By creating art that won't stick around, Golubev seems humble in creation. He accepts the way we lead throwaway lives but conversely expect to leave a legacy. This is somewhat an ill vision. Society is an expression of our collective psyche and the contradictory facets that live and breathe highlight the lack of collective thought (besides the pervasive hunt for money).


Making art that turns the attention to other creatures, especially when made in a way that will never last, is an infinitely honest form of expression. Because of this, Golubev's poignant work isn't really about adding to a surface, or taking away, rather it's about how we can apply that principles to our own life. We can look around and learn and realise that adding more isn't the answer, but taking away is a good place to start.

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