Pavel Otdelnov’s Hometown

Author Il Gurn
Category Columnists, Culture, Lifestyle, People, Town
Date June 18 2024
Reading Time 2 min.

Pavel Otdelnov’s Hometown

The old waiting room of Peckham Rye station, devoid of any directional signs and missing from Google Maps, embodies the less visible, almost spectral facet of South London’s eventfulness. To access it, one must ascend three flights of stairs adjacent to the teeming railway station, only to find oneself on the same level as the platform where passengers disembark or await their trains. This space, steeped in a sense of desertion, serves as an ideal venue for Pavel Otdelnov’s latest exhibition and his paintings, which act as portals to the realities of the forgotten and isolated.

Pavel Otdelnov’s Hometown | London Cult.

The expansive canvases depict industrial landscapes characteristic of Dzerzhinsk, the erstwhile hub of the Soviet chemical industry and the artist’s hometown, although the scenes speak a universal language of industrial setting: power lines receding into perspective to demarcate voids, rows of garages, sodden expanses, abandoned structures of technocratic ambition with their obsolete slogans, and the monotonous geometry of standardized buildings. The flaking paint layers on the walls of the Peckham Rye waiting room harmonize with the canvases’ subdued tones—pale yellow, muted green and blue, faint brown—each dominant color, tempered by the artist to near desolation, mirrors the nature of memory to fade with time.

Pavel Otdelnov’s Hometown | London Cult.

Among these hazy colors, a singular vivid element—an indigo dog immobilized on a wasteland in one of the paintings—turns out to be part of the real ethos of Dzerzhinsk, where stray animals, due to chemical seepage from old depots, sport the most unusual hues.

Pavel Otdelnov’s Hometown | London Cult.

At the height level as the gleaming patches on the bare cross-sections of the arched ceiling, which in the evening light mimic the dulled luster of forgotten palazzos, the exhibition’s semantic nucleus is anchored—be it a wormhole, a portal, a wheel of destiny, or a meat grinder blade, churning all that is known and familiar into a maelstrom of fusions. (This motif, a threat to the world of symmetry and order, is also present in the cityscape of the entrance painting). The ceiling, skeletal in form, suggests an upturned vessel, encapsulating the observer, Otdelnov’s creations, and the reminiscences of his hometown.

Pavel Otdelnov’s Hometown | London Cult.

Within this topsy-turvy realm, the vernissage unfolds in its customary ritual—the audience mingles, sharing insights or catching up on the latest news—yet, for those on the platform, a fleeting look through the windows may render the interior happenings as a gesamtkunstwerk, just as the external world appears from the exhibition’s confines. The canvases’ integration into the old waiting hall’s structure fosters a layered perception, almost the primary trait; their tangible and semantic interplay is so evident that it blurs the boundaries of what complements or conditions the other.

Pavel Otdelnov’s Hometown | London Cult.

In Otdelnov’s portrayal of a once-familiar environment now rendered obsolete, unreachable, yet persisting autonomously on the fringes of decay, there possibly lies an attempt to locate oneself within the “fluidity of time,” characteristic of the modern world of rapid learning and swift forgetting. Or perhaps, it is an attempt to actualize the myth of eternal return through artistic effort. However, the ability to acknowledge the inclusion in history is to consciously accept an inevitable defeat in the face of its looming catastrophe.

Pavel Otdelnov’s Hometown | London Cult.

Amidst the desolation of Otdelnov’s landscapes, human figures sporadically materialize—partially formed shadows or pixelated images reminiscent of newspaper print—specters of what was, what is, or what may yet come. The youthful Otdelnov in his school uniform, his grandmother—the factory worker and matriarch of a ‘labor dynasty’—and the collective portrait of archetypal provincial riffraff, all surface. The personal and the local converge in a lexicon of metaphors, the full grasp of which is veiled by a certain reticence and the artist’s detachment from absolute theories and concepts. The experiment of reconstruction within The Hometown extends beyond the confines of a specific place and evolves into a more universal narrative, where an individual’s stance in the modern world is marked by an all-encompassing sense of global uncertainty.

Photos supplied by Pavel Otdelnov 

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