Valera & Natasha Cherkashin

Svetlana Kruze


Night with the Pioneers Leader

Svetlana Kruze, PhD.

The vivid Non-conformism of Valera Cherkashin's works came to light in the late 1960s. The later works from 1980s were executed together with Natasha to form an original creative team, known as 'the Cherkachins'.

It was the Kharkov period that outlined Cherkashins' talent for conceptual reasoning. This brought the light on and gave a finishing touch to the later conceptual works of the creative couple. The true Non-conformist qualities of their work had developed in the
Ferocious Help to Vietnam. There it is! series. The very first works show artists' particular quality of convincing conventionality, later to turn into rejection of the traditional artistic forms in favour of their original language of symbolical gestures.

In the series
Night with the Pioneers Leader the forbidden in the USSR subject of sexuality was treated in the ironical, playful and rather odd way. Along with the sophisticated treatment of the subject that makes the series a unique work of art.

The sport series, presenting the exercising with all sorts of tools - from trolleys and metal rails to vegetable shop weights - are characterised by their frankness and irony. The philosophical issue of the 'corporal', considered at the time, most certainly had influenced his photo sessions of the 1960s and 1970s. The discovery of the potential of a human body pushed Cherkashin to represent himself as a bodybuilder, provoking the viewers' reflections on the Freudian issues of autoerotism and narcissism. The gentle play with his photo-reflections allows Cherkashin to think

over his own image and even to reshape it. The young artist used his own body along with the accessories and the environment to give symbolical meaning to his gestures and facial expressions. The anxiety, caused by the corporate spirit of society, didn't stop the artist from 'sacrificing' his handsome head of hair. The week-long process of the staged haircut was recorded by the artist to show the transformation of his own 'self' in the statement-like photo-series End of the Hippy. Haircut.

This project is a bright, in a way paradoxical reflection of Valera and Natasha Cherkashin of the 1960s-1980s mentality through their photo creativity. It based on the deep understanding of the irrational nature of any stereotypes. Nearly each one of their works is a performance or a happening, staged against the background of the everyday life, brought to life by the artistry and the original behaviour of the characters themselves. As a result, the ordinary things show their extraordinary facet.

The happenings and the performances are the original constructions of the different reality, there the new history and culture will replace the old, outdated principles and symbols. Witnessed by the participating public, the real and familiar tree-dimensional space and the common every day life turned into the two-dimensional photograph.

Created at the time of the dominance of Social Realist stile, in the vigilant and imposing totalitarian state, the works of Valera and Natasha Cherkashin helped to shake common mentality. Through penetrating the border between real and virtual the artists show their masterly ability and freedom of manipulating the photography tools and the artistic forms alike.




Pioneer Camp

Night of Ivan Kupala