The Stuffof Life; Making Ordinary Experiences Extraordinary and Exploring Society's Forgotten People Is What Two Artists Shortlisted for the Artes Mundi 4 Prize Are Doing. the Visual Art Award's Chief Executive, Tessa Jackson, Profiles the Work of the Candidates from Moscow and Taiwan
Byline: Tessa Jackson
ALMOST all of the artists shortlisted for the 2010 Artes Mundi Prize have been affected by the fall of communism.
The social upheaval following such political change has forced some to leave their country of birth, move away from family and build life afresh in a new and strange context.
Thankfully, not everyone has had to experience such dramatic change.
Others have continued their existence where they have always lived, experiencing "the new order", but from familiar surroundings.
Visual artists are particularly equipped to reflect, not just on the radical shifts in society but on those almost imperceptible changes which only become stark when reviewing old photographs and films.
Olga Chernysheva continues to live and work in her native Moscow. She trained at the city's Cinema Academy and then went on to spend time at the internationally renowned Rijksakademie in Amsterdam.
On completing her studies she returned home. She now spends her time walking familiar streets, sitting with her camera in neighbourhood parks and basing her art on life around her.
Chernysheva makes films and takes photographs, but also admits to needing to paint regularly.
She misses the immediacy of it, the physical nature of applying paint, both oil and watercolour, to canvas or paper. However, whatever medium she chooses, she explores contemporary Russia.
In recent years, Chernysheva has observed her subjects negotiating society and whatever the turbulent political and economic changes have meted out. Her photographs, films, drawings and object-based works go beyond any appearance of the documentary and become lyrical images of individuals trying to make sense of their lives.
Ordinary experiences become extraordinary, and the viewer becomes aware of observing intimate moments in the lives of others. She focuses on figures, on individuals, offering a penetrating, psychological atmosphere. Her gaze is neither nostalgic nor judgemental and in it there is inherent humour as much as there is pathos.
Instead she seems to be informed by the legacy of writers and artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, who reflected similarly: Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Mayakovsky and Mikhailov She is not presenting a moral story when she follows a man consuming vodka from a bottle wrapped in a bag. Nor is she presenting disillusionment; when asked she once said: "Of these bare essentials our life is made."
Artes Mundi's theme is that of the human condition - artists from all over the world are considered, and the prize is awarded to those who add to our understanding of humanity. …