Rinat Voligamsi

OVERVIEWEssays on Artist
    Arseny Sergeyev

                        From “You’re Not in Moscow Here”

“….A profound analysis, desacrilization and exposure of Soviet and contemporary, newly constructed neo-Soviet myths, form the basic artistic strategy of Rinat Voligamsi. His odd surname is his real name, Ismagilov, in reverse. In Bashkortostan, where he lives, Ismagilov is as commonplace as Ivanov in Russia or Jones in England. But the reason for the pseudonym is not to have an unique name but an unwillingness to be associated with the well-known dynasty of socialist realist artists in Ufa, the region’s capital. Rinat Voligamsi manages better than others to reveal and display the ‘sovietness’ which still influences the life of the country. One such work is the series of manipulated photographs in the mockumentary aesthetic—the story of the Soviet Man in the Iron Mask, V. I. Lenin’s twin, who lived into old age somewhere in the Central Asia. The sarcastic transformation of the holy Communist story into medieval passions over an heir to the throne is a metaphor for the endurance of the Leninist ideology. The artist is also interested in militarism as a special mindset and behavior. The conceptualization of Soviet militarism and ‘sovietness’ are expressed in the materials with which he works. All his sculptures—rusty monster stats, houses with distorted proportions are no longer looking ‘human,’ made of rusted metal which colour is associated with dried blood and is a reminder of the cannibalistic policy of Stalinism toward the citizens of the USSR in the years of the Great Terror and World War II.

Rinat Voligamsi’s monochrome paintings, resembling old sepia photographs, present Stalinism as a mystical teaching, centered on the cult of war, deification of the military, and military subordination. The paintings, like his sculpture, have a rusty ‘Soviet’ tone and are executed in a now-rare painting technique—glazing grisaille. However, instead of paint the artist uses bitumen, the main component of asphalt, in which the propaganda of the official mass media figuratively ‘rolls over’ opponents of the regime and on which Dmitri Peskov, the president’s spokesman, wanted to ‘smear the liver of the protestors’ (the line, spoken in a private conversation with Deputy Gennady Gudkov, became a topic in opposition political circles in 2016)”.