27.02.2015 – 12.03.2015
Triumph Gallery, Moscow
Following the public crucifixion by Osmolovsky on Red Square of Marx, Stalin and Lenin, one wants to cry out: "Where are you, country of the Soviets?" That era of socialist peace and joy has passed into oblivion.
Looking at the pictures of Ilya Gaponov, however, you unavoidably move on further through the ideological and political frameworks — they, of course, only superficially touched upon the minds of children. You go into the depths of mystery and dream, that higher, Divine providence that is only given to children — it is not even faith, it is the very essence of love, equality and brotherhood.
These minds are pure and simple: they are ready to absorb everything that their wise parents command — true, a certain self-confidence sometimes overpowers them: "We are children, we can still live by our toys alone, don't distract us from that! We can still live, loving the son, not looking at the clock, and being entirely carefree. The country's flag in our hands means no more to us than a balloon — it's simply a toy, and an opportunity to boast in front of our friends". This tender, carefree and joyful time, a time free of worldly, mundane principles, draws remembrances from deep within us.
As for Gaponov's style, his children's portraits in their coarsely graphic nature recall the renowned photographs of the seminarists by Giacomelli, where they play in the snow like children, leaving tracks on the white canvas. The same sharpness of tones, the same naiveness and simplicity, the same recognizability of “the theme".
We look at these moments from the vantage point of time passed, mistakes made, a bitter aftertaste and repentance. We ask for forgiveness and purify ourselves, we enter into a dialog with the God that our parents gave us.
Snow in the frame confirms our fortuity, but also our intention to apprehend our birth. This is not just a sign of the transience of childhood in general, or specifically that our childhood is forgotten, it is a symbol of simplicity and naturalness, an accordance with external conditions. This undoubted joy of life, conveyed by a child's face against a background of snow, is particularly strengthened in the scale of Ilya's paintings: their sizes stress the close-up with which this spirit of the time is "targeted".