Valera & Natasha Cherkashin

Elizaveta Lukashova


Art in Life. Life in Art. Valery and Natasha Cherkashin' Photo Actions of 1960s - 1990s.

Elizaveta Lukashova
Exhibition curator, Art historian

The new creative faze of Valery and Natasha Cherkashin's work begins with the exhibition
Night with the Pioneers Leader. It outlines an important period in the art history of the geo-political space of the ex-USSR. Cherkashins' works of 1960s-1990s represent the unknown 'western' facet of Soviet art of that time. The artist himself is the main subject of those photos. He puts under scrutiny the visual diversity of his own personality and that's merely it. Cherkashin began to work in Kharkov in 1960s. He perceived his early creativity as action art years later. 

Cherkashin's works of that time have the spirit of freedom, irony and amusement. That is why their show opens on the eve of Midsummer Night at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Rostov-on-Don). The present and the future, the night with the pioneers' leader and midsummer night, artistic épatage and the bold spirit of Midsummer night are intertwined in this project.

Valeriy Cherkashin took up photography at the age of twelve. The hippy lifestyle and the work at the Kharkov Institute of Applied Arts lead his life in the late 1960s. The main aspect of his photographs of the Kharkov period is their
documentalism and the serial run. The artist captured his spontaneous happenings (Soviet Athlete; Prague Picnic; Dancing at Petrova's Place) and the experimental performances using his camera to record the change of his bodily and face expressions (Rise of the Soviet Bodybuilding; Narcissus; Cellist; End of the Hippy. Haircut). Valery studies- the contents his own 'self' - through the form (his posture, gesture, face expression and the accessories). Hi was taken over by the original aspect of his own personality and its projection on the general issues such as religious philosophy (A Story with an Apple or The Fall) gender (The Hair), sexuality (Sheikh's Harem) and politics (Ferocious Help to Vietnam. There it is!).

In the early 20th century the avant-garde artists turned away from the concept of the finished art work towards the thorough artistic creativity.  The widespread of the action art in the after 1945 is associated with works of John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, Yves Klein, Joseph Beuys , Hermann Nitsch, Nam June Paik and Marina Abramovic. The creativity of Cherkashin is closely related to the body art works of Vito Acconci and Piero Manzoni. Its open and lively spirit is akin to the art of Fluxus group. Cherkachin's play with facial expressions, pushed to the limits of the mockery (The Artist. Monologue;  Face Art) remained us of Andy Warhol's travesty series of works.
The artistic couple was formed in 1982, than Valera met Natasha. Their actions of 1980s have free and spontaneous appearance but adopt more of the technical sophistication. The painted red and blue lines appear to schematise the composition and at the same time to transform the photo into the sort of illustration or a movie shot, a static anime (
Posing in front of the Café, Swinging of the Square). At the time Cherkashins were faced with the new technique, which permitted to combine the philosophy of 'analytical painting' of Pavel Filonov and the contemporary photography. 
The Cherkashins' works form an important collection which reviles their search for the artistic individuality. It was a natural easy-going process. We can't identify their artistic search as the Way from the very beginning, but in the end it gave us the highly original works of action art and transformed their photography technique of the 1990s and 2000s.




Pioneer Camp

Night of Ivan Kupala