Space as Meaning

(Regarding Volodymyr Budnykov's Exhibition "Hideaway for Light" at the Lviv National Art Gallery)

The idea to create a guide to the exhibition arose immediately after its opening. No doubt, it was primarily motivated by the whimsical configuration of different exhibition spaces that created a miscellaneous ground for building a common context.

Currently, "Hideaway for Light" is simultaneously running in three museums of the Lviv National Gallery of Art. The work seems to be done. However, it would be a shame to leave out of attention the process of creating the exposition. It turned out to be specifying optics, movement, and route at the same time. Given the special conditions created by the pandemic, writing this text has become akin to building a model of an event. It not merely takes place at a distance, but is also difficult to reach due to the restrictions of free movement between the cities. It seems that the relationships with space grew even more complicated. And therefore, this exhibition experience has become something exceptional, completely different from any other display of works.

More than a year has passed since receiving an offer to make an exhibition in three museums. It was supposed to take place in three fundamentally different spaces. The first floor of the Lozinski Palace is a variation of an almost classic white cube, a space almost without signs, where art, relegated to its exhibition reserve, comes in no contact with architecture and stays at a safe distance in a permanent state of quarantine. Meanwhile, the exhibition in the Salon of the Lozynski Palace and lavishly decorated halls of the Potocki Palace, as well as in the sacred space of the church, where the Pinsel Museum is located, appears to develop as a policy of relations with the restricted rules at certain terrains, joins the process of their geometrical and geographical examination, hints at their new realities. Of course, during such an invasion  (although I prefer the word implantation) , it was necessary not only to enter the given spaces but also to come closer to the mental and cultural boundaries of the region, as well as to create a version of denial of their inviolability. It seems that each region has social rules to deal with its cultural terrain. What is considered a conventional norm for some people may be almost revolutionary for others. For example, the display of modern art in the halls of Venetian palazzos has become a tradition a long time ago, however, in Ukraine, many people still consider new and controversial such kinds of displays in the interiors of historical museums. I have to admit, while conceiving the exhibition, Volodymyr and I chose to be influenced by these different spaces rather than build relationships with them taking into account customs and cultural differences. On the spot, in the process of building the exposition, each of the spaces immediately attracted and charmed. The spaces began to turn into meaning, to determine the works in a new way. The call to master the given spaces has become a call of/to these spaces.

Shelter for Light. Lozynski Palace

Solo expositions of this scale usually appear like a benefit night, a form of the artist's final retrospective. Instead, "Hideaway for Light" was created on completely different principles. The very temporary nature of an art exhibition is an ironic denial of the pathos of an event. It requires being in time, entering the space within the given time limits. The exhibition includes works from different periods in between 2003 and 2020. Because of that, some people habitually used an inappropriate word "retrospective". In my opinion, an exposition built according to the chronology of the works contradicts the very concept of exhibition architecture, obscures the understanding of the essential constitution of the artist's figure and seems to make some kind of shameless replacement of live action with a ready-made template. Within each and every new spatial condition, every planned image must undergo significant transformations. When in the process of making an exhibition it becomes possible to maintain a special sensitivity or a mood for change, it gives an opportunity to notice the deceptions of the general plan in order to avoid the pressure of the norm. Therefore, all stages of making the Lviv exposition to a large extent were movements towards spontaneous and sensitive intuitive curation, which was difficult to separate from the actual work of the artist on the pieces displayed. This exhibition could be called a continuation of an artist’s work. A successful artistic piece is often described as something that "worked out", isn’t it? How not to miss a moment of a soft shift of the author's figure that seems to hint that he is not alone in his affair? In the process of its making, the exhibition came across a number of circumstances that activated something that can’t be solved by technique, but grows on its own. I am talking about the chronotope that has to come out of a successful solution to the exhibition problem. In this case, it also became a certain equivalent to the chronotope of Budnikov's projects. Those projects were not simply included into the exhibition, but as if happened anew in it. The exhibition became a reflection of V.B.'s method, namely, a multi-layered route that resembles a painting with the author’s touches, which, “left in sight, look like magical spatial drawings, optical curves of the obvious or hollows in it, gaps through which lays the way to things. The artist freely passes through the wall of the work, leaving the viewer at the border, from where he has to find his own path."* However, such optics, built on endless approaches and deviations, focus and dispersion of a lateral or sliding view, leads to a metaphysical system of coordinates. In his text on exhibition, Taras Vozniak points to this system speaking about "evidence of metaphysical longing for the presence of the Law", "some point of reference, in relation to which a person verifies him/herself and realizes him/herself"**.

Special temporality of Budnikov's projects is also worth mentioning. Instead of being completed, these projects last in time, gather into time folds, catch up with important themes in the past and in such a way advance into the future. One never knows in which temporality their perfection is, where they are being fulfilled. In certain cycles or projects, Budnikov involves earlier works. For example, "Flight" dates from 2010 - 2018, and "Hideaway for Light" – from 2010 - 2020, respectively. However, the previous spatial objects simultaneously act as the beginnings and final theses for both previous and current projects. As if fulfilled past tense seem not to exist for an artist; as if he goes where he wants. So, the more circumstances interfered with our plans, changing the completeness of the finished pieces into actuality, the more interesting it was to work with an exhibition. In the foreword to the exhibition catalog, Vozniak also noted that "the author will deeply agree with such an interpretation, despite the fact that it will catch him by surprise"**. The same thing happened with the exposition spaces, namely with some organizational changes in the exposition, which suddenly appeared, outraged, surprised, caused resistance, despair, but in the end launched the process of making extremely risky expositional decisions that were inspired by the circumstances. The vulnerability and accuracy of such decisions could not be compared to any preliminary planning.

Shelter for Light. Potocki Palace

The exhibition was supposed to be built as a superposition, taking into account that each of the author's themes will simultaneously unfold in different conditions. All expositions are connected like a system of vessels, where everything affects everything and nothing is divided into parts. The author here seems to be everywhere and nowhere, which, in fact, reveals the lonely character of Budnikov as an artist whose "way of thinking does not fit into a scheme, but he himself stubbornly moves against the current, along the roadless, laying on his own imaginary map a multivariate route with many paths. Mobility and elusiveness could be noted as important features of his method. As if he stops, intercepts the vision at the moment of its slipping into the danger of concreteness. Close approach instead of identification of things exposes the chaos of lines and spots, as if the artist takes away a clear image right from under the viewer’s nose."*

From the very beginning, we were looking for a solution to this complex territorial task, studying the plans, agreeing on technical details, and putting together fragments of individual projects into a coherent picture. However, understanding of the real state of things and the desperate acute vision of all elements in their unity came only on the spot, when we began to work directly in the halls. As the selected works were supposed to become the keys to understanding artistic practice in the exhibition context, the exposition architecture is built on the principle of avoiding final definitions. It can be described as a pulsation, a constant oscillation or balancing on the edge. Fragments of the same projects are scattered in different locations to create a single shimmering field where there is no contradiction between abstract gesture and figurative image, free improvisational movement and geometric composition. Realism with a question mark would probably be the most apt definition of Budnikov's position; this is what he says himself : "When something seen in reality comes into the realm of abstract, when this translation - necessary for me - takes place, the abstract in some incomprehensible way accepts and holds the parameters of the image perceived. For me, even the purest conventionality in an abstract work is based on a real thing. Each possible similarity of contours acquires a special meaning in the abstract, especially when this similarity begins to relate not only to its original counterpart, but unfolds a whole fan of vectors, addressing any possible similarities."*** At the exhibition, vicinity of works from different periods seem to additionally nourish a common field of tension, creating a complex network of mutual comments and cross-references. In turn, the historical spaces of the exposition started "the play of amplification", acting as an additional vector in the dimension of time. The statement in general gained new expressiveness and volume.

Thereafter, Budnikov's entire practice as an artist is a language. In the whimsical context of the Salon in the Lozinski Palace, the works from the projects "Inscription" (2019) and "Questions to the Visible" (2018) appear like rebellious graffiti. From this very spatial position, the invasion (one of the works is even called like that) into Baroque architecture begins. At this moment, the author ignores conventions of the etiquette and, as people say, brings language into action – genuine relevance, as we might call it, emerges in the exposition: "I started ‘inscripting’ and thus returned painting to its literal essence – the principle that makes the language alive again, ‘living writing’. The inscription appears as the boundary between the image and the narrative, it exists on both terrains at the same time, its perspective reveals the way the abstract drawing holds the content.”**** Baroque excitement in the architecture of some exhibition spaces, as well as in the sculpture, which was included in the total installation in the Pinsel museum, visualized one of the general lines in Budnikov's work, namely the baroque worldview. Kostiantyn Doroshenko in his essay "What the artist wanted to say" wrote the following on Budnikov: "the artist confronts us with a baroque view of the catastrophic nature of existence. In Baroque times, it appeared as a result of a chemical reaction from an encounter of religious mysticism, the revolution of gunpowder weapons, and the sprouts of modern science and enlightenment. Today, this role plays the effect of the information revolution, which includes the technological one along with its hysterical rhythm. In the baroque catastrophe, a motto, a thesis, an inscription, a slogan captures the masses, replacing wisdom. They become a manifestation of self-sufficient power. A phenomenon, a non-rational provocation to action, choice, expression of will, movement."*****

The apotheosis of the exposition takes place in the Pinsel Museum, where the series "Folds" from the project "Demarcation Line" (2016) became the general line of the total installation built by Budnikov inside the church-museum. Budnikov uses Cartesian radical doubt in his approach to dealing with the sacred space, and the church started to resemble a giant studio. The lines on the paintings began to look like X-ray coordinates. As if Pinsel's sculpture is being scanned and thus opened from the inside, however, not as an engineering structure, but rather as an idea. Typically for him, in a sacred space, Budnikov reflects on life, death and eternity. He critically assesses the temptation to consider what we see with our eyes as truth and pays attention to what is hidden behind the surface. Exposition areas with drawings and "dissected" sculpture that reminds a constructor (fragments of the statue of Joachim disassembled for restoration), resemble anatomical tables and, at the same time, tables of a scientific laboratory, where important research happens as a mystery. Budnikov takes away conventional qualities from artistic media. Normally, drawing is perceived as the least serious artistic practice, while sculpture, in contrast,  is perceived as an enduring medium that  addresses almost towards eternity. However, in this installation, Budnikov's drawings  look like sculptures. The fragments of Pinsel's sculptures on the contrary resemble three-dimensional drawings. Depicted folds seem to materialize in sculptural details, they rear up. " Baroque folds were taken as a model for the work with folds as their fabric follows neither the body nor the architectural forms. In contrast to the delay of time or the "standing of time" in the "folds of time" that Merab Mamardashvili talked about in his "Conversations on Thinking", the baroque fabric seems to be on its own, without the influence of external will, it feets up,  throws out and shakes out the time that became stale in its folds. Moreover, the baroque fabric is constantly in motion and frequently changes its configuration, forming something like an raptured landscape with many combinations of demarcation lines. This landscape is in a state of continuous creation, which leaves no chance for even a corner of the fabric to remain in peace. Only on the six large drawings the folds, unlike the rest of them, are gothic and frozen. The chosen order of their lines is clearly fixed, as if the fabric itself is suddenly petrified."****** Roman Huk’s video was placed within the installation too. In this video, moving graphic drawings of clouds of points (obtained during the scanning of Pinsel's sculptures) act as an important rhyme to Budnikov's drawings. The scanning process ceases to be exclusively a technique – it turns into a poetic visualization of another life of the work of art, becoming its abstract essence beyond time. In the video, the old, wooden museum sculpture eaten by wood-warms seems to be reaching for its project, manifesting its own idea.

Shelter for Light. I.G. Pinzel Museum of Sculpture

The whole exposition is built with the Platonic cave in mind. Perhaps the most static is the hall with works from the "Khudshkola" project. In this project, Budnikov created something like a personal canon, where the question of choosing between abstract and figurative appears as a statement. Budnikov confuses things and shadows and we seem to start looking through familiar objects that suddenly become unimportant, giving way to emptiness, chaos as the only possible light.

The name of the exhibition refers to the name of the object created in 2010 in Hurzuf, as well as to the installation (2020) this object is part of (the latter is  located in the Ballroom of the Potocki Palace). In the spring, the installation was shown at the Ya Gallery in Kyiv, however, now, in a radically different space, it has taken place anew. Budnikov dissects the concept of project and focuses attention on light as the very cause of projection and its meaning-making element. Despite the complex architecture of the installation, a darkened empty space is its key element. But unlike the previous exhibition, the role of a dark void is played by a luxurious hall of mirrors, where repetition in chandeliers multiplies the illusion further and further. The artist constantly questions the upfront of the work in order to infect us with his own uncertainty about trusting what he saw with his own eyes. "Budnikov concentrates attention on the wasteland, which, in fact, is the main strength of the work. It determines the important topography, where the essential section lies between what "the artist wanted to say" and what the viewer saw."******

On exhibition tours, visitors often asked how important it was to view the exhibition in a certain order. It is high time to finally challenge the very format of the guide as a collection of recommendations. There is no strict order, the exhibition can be viewed as one like, starting from any point in one of the three locations. Complete freedom.

(The structure of the exposition:

Lozinski Palace (projects 2003 - 2020): "Metaphysics of Code", 2003 - 2005, "Poet's Shelter", 2014, "Shelter", 2015, "Khudshkola", 2015, "Realism?", 2017, "Question to the Visible", 2017, "Inscription", 2019, "Flight", 2010 - 2018

Potocki Palace (projects 2010 - 2020): "Flight", 2010 - 2018 (Blue Hall), "Hideaway for Light", 2010 - 2020 (Ballroom)

Pinsel Museum: "Folds" series (the "Demarcation Line" project, 2016), fragments of the sculpture "Ioachim" by Iohann Georg Pinzel, video by Roman Huk)

Vlada Ralko

  *Vlada Ralko "Things and Shadows"

** Taras Vozniak "In front of the gate of the law or proposals for the interpretation of the Volodymyr Budnikov’s painting"

***Volodymyr Budnikov "Realism?"

****Volodymyr Budnikov "Inscription"

*****Kostiantyn Doroshenko "What the Artist Wanted to Say"

******Vlada Ralko and Volodymyr Budnikov "Folds"

*******Vlada Ralko "Hidden"

Shelter for Light. Opening