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OLEG TSELKOV: UNOFFICIAL ART

AP Contemporary is pleased to present OLEG TSELKOV: UNOFFICIAL ART, which recalls Moscow’s fecund period of underground creativity by displaying recent work of iconic artist Oleg Tselkov. In this exhibition Hong Kong audience will be able to see and experience bits of the creative life of this Russian master.

In the history of 20th century art, Oleg Tselkov is a name never to be forgotten. He was one of the artists who were active in the underground, but escaped legal prosecution and  survived the repression towards experimental art in the Soviet Union during the '60s and '70s. Till now both Tselkov’s remarkable work and dramatic life have received international attention.


During the 1950s the Soviet Union denounced Western cultural influences, many young artists worked in the underground since official attitudes towards experimental art remained negative; many artworks were seen as ‘nonconformist’. Oleg Tselkov was one of them and became a significant figure of the Unofficial Art during the 60s. He was expelled from art school for ‘formalism’ in 1955, was forced into exile in the late 70s and went to Paris, where he still resides.


Tselkov’s work consists of very different components. There are elements of the theatre of absurd in his work, or tragic buffoonery. He is a genius to invent his own theatre, where inflatable rubber puppets that look like homunculi are created to perform various scenes – funniness, horror and tragedy. The somnambulistic atmosphere of his paintings is matched by a mysterious luminescence of colors that reminds us of Rembrandt, and a slight vibration of the background, created with the use of the barely noticeable relief of the canvas.


For over 40 years, day after day, he has been painting countless canvases, one after another. Something changed in them, with time, coming out of the light, or sinking into darkness… but always – these faces, these portraits of faces, repeat themselves. “There is no satire in Oleg Tselkov’s paintings, let alone, social satire. They have nothing to say about the time and place in which they live. They are of a different nature. They are more about physiology. They emanate from the dark and sinister things lurking at the bottom of any man’s soul.”(Eric Bulatov) The character represents what is hidden in his consciousness and sub-consciousness which turns out to be mystically beautiful with a sense of evilness. Tselkov’s paintings are an orifice releasing the demons of his soul. Giving these phantoms shape and image, he detaches them from himself thus getting rid of them and redeeming himself. These paintings are offered to the viewer as a medicinal remedy. A cure that is good for the author should also be beneficial for his audience.

Born in 1934, Oleg Tselkov is one of the most influential contemporary Russian artists of our time. His work can be found in the State Russian Museum, Zimmerly Art Museum New Jersey and various public and private collections in Russia, the US, France and Japan.