Vladimir Potapov

19.06.2015 – 05.07.2015


Triumph Gallery, Moscow

The history of painting is the history of the relationship between human consciousness and light. Two centuries before its demise, Ancient Rome sacralised light in the cult of the sun Sol Invictus ("Unconquered Sun"), preparing the European mind for Christian monotheism and authoritarian rule. In the Middle Ages, light in painting became a force that transfigured visible reality and opened up the unseen, in other words dazzled and blinded for the sake of symbolic intellectualization. In the Renaissance, light opens up perspective and the representative spaces of power, both ecclesiastical and secular. The French Revolution democratizes light and fastidiously combines it with death, transforming the lamps deployed by the police to fight crime into gallows, as a sign of the end of the regime. The lamp would illuminate bodies and disclose the truth, purifying and legitimizing the terror of the revolution. The liberation of Truth by Cronus is yet another allegory of that time. Sometimes these images imitated the iconography of Christ descending into hell, but Cronus was replaced more frequently by Descartes, and by Newton in England. Truth carried the mirror as the source of light, in its way a kind of lamp.


Vladimir Potapov’s series Speck of the Sun imbeds the sources of light with a political context, based on the tradition of correlating light and politics. The political element in this project exists at two levels. The private light refers to house parties, kitchens, non-conformism, and night classes using the light of the desk lamp. At a public level, light is representational; it communicates the might and wealth of the authorities, designates the centre and subjugates the social space. In addition, the imperial light of incandescent lamps, calling to mind the USSR, and the contemporary light of LED and halogen lamps, economical and environmentally sound, introduce yet another strata of differentiation.


Today light reveals not the surface, but rather the essence of things. The voice of the surface is the trauma or packaging. In the history of art, as in reality, the trauma is preceded by the packaging: initially non-figurative expression, then pop art; first Pollock kills himself crashing into a tree, and then Warhol and Liechtenstein ask everybody to relax.