Sputnik Gallery is pleased to announce its first solo exhibition with New York-based photographer Sasha Maslov.
Forgotten Village is a series of photographs depicting the life and every day reality of a coal miner. Seemingly everyday almost accidental scenes intertwine life in a post-Soviet world, the fortunes of its residents and thoughts about work as a way of life.
Maslov’s photographs are extremely simple, almost ascetic. He tends to avoid any literary feeling or symbolism in his images. They contain nothing that would attract someone who likes pretty things; while at the same time, they do not promote a negative perspective. It is life as it is, but as seen through the eyes of the artist. Most of the photographs in this series are enveloped in semi-darkness. Objects are barely distinguishable. The space contained in the shadows shows no illusion of being infinite. On the contrary, the space is compressed, creating a feeling of confinement and a lack of oxygen as if we were in the mines ourselves. The lives of Maslov’s subjects are also constrained. Darkness absorbs them and moves towards the viewer. At times, from the shadows, a detail – a miner’s helmet or a piece of uniform – pops out and catches our attention. This low-key, understated approach gives Maslov’s photographs meaning, adding weight to a point that they become almost monumental. The atmosphere of a mine, its tight and enclosed space, is present even when we see the workers’ changing room, the manager’s office and recreation room. It is a world in which space is measured in meters, a world resembling a grave. Even in that almost otherworldly life, it is evident that these people have retained dreams of other worlds, of a paradise lost. The photograph of three women, all cooks, sitting in front of wall painted with mountains and endless sky serves as a counter-point to these monumental, glum works. These are the only subjects who actually pose for the photographer. The pomposity of the poses, the artificiality of the smiles and the kitschy painting all underscore the illusory nature of the dream. The bright happiness of this photograph accentuates the tragic nature of the world shown to us by Sasha Maslov.
According to social theorist and philosopher Slavoj Zizek, today, production is being moved to the periphery of our life, consciousness and language. Factories are being relocated outside of major cities and out of the “civilized” world. They are now found on the outskirts of cities or in lesser developed countries. Maslov masterfully brings back this connection between man and labor, of work as a purpose of being and shows us its spiritual meaning and beauty.
Sasha Maslov was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. His work has most recently been exhibited at Project Fabrika in Moscow and the Ukrainian Arts Foundation in Kiev.