21.10.2014 – 02.11.2014
Triumph Gallery, Moscow
The eye has a paradoxical construction. The gaze battens on to familiar details and combines them into objects using models, which have been prepared in advance, which are held in the consciousness, where there are tags for everything. We are so attached to these templates that we see in formless outlines – clouds or spots and patches on walls – people and animals. At the same time, a picture packed with familiar objects exhausts and dulls the senses. The mind is used to classifying everything, and yet it is eternally seeking that which cannot be classified. As soon as something new comes into view, the brain is bewildered by a pleasing fear of uncertainty. You want to flee what is alien, but there is always a temptation to get to know it better. Nikolai Onischenko's project is an optical game where the familiar and the reliable turn out to be alien and dangerous, an alien objects are attractive and “ours.”
Alina recalls the history of an illness. A well-known patient of the neuro-psychologist Oliver Sacks was a mathematician with an interest in drawing who had lost the ability to see an object as a whole. He tortuously attempted to construct complete images for objects and to understand their purpose from their disjointed fragments, venturing ever deeper into a world of cold and immaterial geometry. The progress of the mathematician's illness could be observed through what he drew – he gradually moved from realist subjects to pure abstraction. Eventually, the patient couldn't carry out simple everyday actions, though he remained a scientist and theorist of genius. Sacks named his key book in his honor: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.
Nikolai Onischenko places the viewer in the position of this mathematician, both prior to the illness and when it is underway. The eye instantly captures the everyday image – a road marking, the facade of a building, a corridor, the tops of trees – but, on equal terms with these familiar objects, alien geometrical bodies hover in space. These objects may appear to be bulging or to be concave, they may appear to be slowly approaching the observer, or moving away from him fast, but their presence always puts the everyday objects in the background, almost as if a shroud has been thrown over them. The figures in the works that don't correlate with ordinary life only at first appear to be threatening; then they are sensed as being warm and textured, while the material elements in the works in some way become alienated and unpleasant, as if they are dozens of light years away from the viewer.