Sunday, 6 March 2016

Boris Mikhailov in Antwerp

Boris Mikhailov, from Kharkiv in Ukraine, is regarded as the most important fine art photographer to have emerged from the Soviet era.

He began exhibiting in the 1960, and quickly fell foul of the KGB, losing his job as an engineer when it was found that he had taken nude photographs of his wife.

Subsequent series of his works are considered as criticisms of the Soviet system through the sheer
frankness with which he shows life as it really was.

He is currently being exhibited at FOMU, the photographic museum in Antwerp.

His early work in the 60s involved layering colour transparencies, and many of these are shown by means of a slide show, lasting several minutes, to the soundtrack of Pink Floyd. 

When these images were first shown, it had to be done secretly in private homes.

But to see how far Eastern Europe has come since the collapse of the evil empire, it is his Red Series and Salt Lake that show life as it really was. It is hard now for us to imagine that Europeans really lived like that, although in many parts of Russia, and possibly Moldova, little, if anything, has changed. 

The Red series portrays the social system that emerged out of the October Revolution, whilst the somewhat grim Case History shows the homeless and dispossessed who were left behind after the fall of the Soviet Union.

I found the latter to be somewhat 'staged', and so for me as an attempt at social documentary it didn't really work. 

We were very lucky to attend a Vernissage in advance of the official opening. Mikhailov himself was present at what was a superb event. 

The Ukrainian community in Antwerp is very lively, and the turn out at such cultural events is always high.

The exhibition far exceeded my expectations, and is well worth visiting.

The exhibition runs until June 5th, details can be found here:

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