Concrete Whispers, Brutal Dreams

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Category Columnists, Culture
Date July 29 2023
Reading Time 4 min.

Concrete Whispers, Brutal Dreams

The London-based gallery Shtager& Shch has opened a new exhibition combining the latest works by a renowned Russian artist Kirill Chelushkin and a British sculptor Emma Papsworth – Concrete Whispers, Brutal Dreams. The works, as well as the backgrounds of these two incredibly talented artists are drastically different, which, however, only adds to the charm of the exhibition. Organised as a dialogue between the two generations of artists, Concrete Whispers, Brutal Dreams offers its visitors a glimpse into a surprisingly harmonious dystopian world, mixing pagan patterns of the past and futuristic landscapes of the future.


The works by Chelushkin and Papsworth were created specifically for the exhibition at Shtager & Shch. According to the gallery owner Marina Shtager, the joint exhibition is intended not only to help to draw more attention to the young sculptor Emma Papsworth, but also give Londoners the opportunity to view Kirill Chelushkin’s work from a new perspective. This is not the first time both artists have exhibited in London, but the format of their previous exhibitions is radically different, as well as is the audience following them. This way, on the opening night of the exhibition Shtager& Shch were able to bring together the two art worlds, both in the form of the artists and the fans and friends who followed them, creating an interesting international fusion.

Kirill Chelushkin is a renowned Russian artist. He has had numerous exhibitions around the world, and many of his works hang in the Tretyakov Gallery, the Itabashi Art Museum in Tokyo, the Balzano Art Museum in Italy, and many other international galleries. In Russia, the artist is primarily known as the author of magical illustrations of children’s classics like Anderson’s fairy tales and “Alice in the Wizard’s House”. Chelushkin graduated from the Moscow Institute of Architecture (MARHI), which he decided on, in his own words, because of the “extensive toolbox without ideology” provided to students. Chelushkin currently resides and works in Paris.

Since childhood, the artist has been inspired by the European New Wave cinematography, especially the works of Andrei Tarkovsky, which, together with his architectural background, has clearly influenced Chelushkin’s latest paintings presented at Shtager& Shch. In these monochromatic works, the artist depicts supernatural landscapes consisting of modern office buildings gradually flowing into futuristic structures resembling of spaceships. The works, familiar to the viewer acquainted with Chelushkin’s style by their multi-layered and incredibly fluid nature, evoke a real emotional outburst by the deep level of detail in the paintings and the dystopian apocalyptic overtones embedded in each stroke.

In her works, Emma Passport continues this futuristic vision of the world, but deliberately reinforces this dialog between artists with patterns and figures resembling those from the distant past. Unlike Chelushkin’s works, which appear moving in every millimetre of canvas, Papsworth’s sculptures simultaneously resemble static totems of ancient civilisations and wreckages from constructions from the distant future. In this way, Papsworth’s sculptural installations create contrast through the counter-temporality of the calm and stillness of Brutalist architecture with the endless chaos of Chelushkin’s vision of End of the World. This notion continues through Papsworth’s evident interest in metaphysical architectural patterns and figures through which ancient civilisations conveyed their emotions and history.

Emma Papsworth represents the new generation of British sculptors – in her work the artist explores the static nature of life in the contemporary urban environment of big cities and draws inspiration from 20th century mainly Soviet architecture. Papsworth has been fascinated by science fiction since childhood and this is strongly reflected in the sculptures she creates, guided by her fantasies of what the fictional architecture and technology from sci-fi classics might look like in real life. In the words of Emma Papsworth, who attended the opening of the exhibition, she views herself as a “whimsical architect”.

Interestingly, unlike her Concrete Whispers, Brutal Dreams counterpart, the sculptor has no architectural background. Papsworth studied at the Ruskin School of Art, which is one of the colleges of Oxford University, and is currently completing her master’s degree at Goldsmiths University in London. Papsworth’s work has been exhibited in many contemporary art galleries in London, including a solo show at the prestigious youth gallery FOLD. She has also had exhibitions at international galleries in Sweden and Germany in the past, which is a great achievement for such a young sculptor. In parallel with the exhibition at Shtager & Shch, Papsworth is participating in a large art exhibition organised by the Goldsmith University. In addition to her work as a sculptor, Papsworth also curates exhibitions at White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey, which regularly exhibits work by some of the most successful contemporary artists.

Concrete Whispers, Brutal Dreams is not the first mesmerisingly abstract exhibition prepared by the gallery Shtager& Shch. Last month it hosted an exhibition of a contemporary Russian artist Vitaly Pushnitsky, who in his works explores the themes of space, time, modern society and the history of civilisations. The exhibition of his work, titled Fields, was devoted to the theme of rebirth of soul, specifically its most unexplored part — the place where the human soul resides after death but before its rebirth. Pushnitsky depicted this place, which according to him is individual to each person, in the form of multicoloured shimmering fields. Each abstract field is unlike the previous one, but they are all united by a colour scheme that evokes a warm and calm emotion. According to Marina Shtager, this way Pushnitsky wanted to give people strength and optimism in these difficult for many people times.

The exhibitions at Shtager& Shch are updated every month, displaying brand new artists and sculptors from a wide variety of backgrounds every time. Was distinguished Shtager& Shch from the many other London galleries is that the exhibiting artists prepare material specifically for the gallery, so all the works presented are always the latest works of their creators, which allows visitors to make a perfect juxtaposition of current world events with the artist’s inner world and the impact of contemporary everyday issues on art. The current exhibition is no different and strikes with the relevancy of the works on display. The exhibition Concrete Whispers, Brutal Dreams is free to attend and will be on until August 17, 2023.

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