Semyon Faibisovich is the most extraordinary representative of Photorealism to hail from this remarkable period of Russian art. Classically trained as an architect at the Moscow Architectural Institute, the art of photography - defined by form, line and geometry - seems a natural progression for Faibisovich who shifted his focus to fine art, and Photorealism in particular, in the late 1970s.
The concept of realism is a familiar one within the realm of Soviet Art and is, at its core, the underlying principle behind the Non-Conformist movement. The wave of Photorealism to emerge in the 1970s and 1980s resulted from a deep need to reexamine the notion of representation. Artists accomplished this by utilising the one instrument defined by its ability to capture The Real: the camera. They recognised the most transparent documentation of reality, the photograph, was in itself a subjective artwork worthy of decoding. The photographer dictates what a viewer 'sees' in a snapshot moment and it is this problematic concept that fueled the masterfully executed works by Faibisovich in the 1980s.
Faibisovich dismantled the illusion that photography objectively portrayed reality and in doing so, forced viewers to question their assumptions about the representation of Soviet utopian identity. He questioned successfully the tendentious 'social' role of paintings in Russia.
Faibisovich's Photorealist breakthrough occurred in the 1980s with a series of paintings that constituted a critical portrait of the Soviet era. As evidenced by the present lot, the artist directly transformed photographs into traditional paintings and depicted subjects that were typically mundane and commonplace: riders on public buses or trains, people waiting in lines or on benches. He believed in the merit of creating work that engaged with his community, his reality; unlike Conceptual and Sots Artists who communicated by manipulating symbols, signs and western iconography. For Faibisovich, the 'stamp' of Sovietness, of the oppressed reality scrutinised by artists at the time, was most visible within the details of daily life. As expressed by the artist himself, 'the pathos of it was in the fact that the system expressed itself at every point in space, on every face, in every window' (quoted in Exhibition catalogue, Comeback, Moscow, Regina Gallery, 2008, p. 13). Photorealism enabled Faibisovich to highlight the seemingly banal yet intimate, vernacular moments of Soviet life in their most vulnerable form.
Reality as presented by Faibisovich is too multilayered and complex for even the camera to capture with accuracy. We see this clearly in his ghostly, surreal Double Portrait of the Artist at Work (1987), painted four years after Movement, in which the artist himself is reflected twice within a busy, blurred city street. Here we are reminded that the artist's straightforward perspective does not absolve him of the responsibility to influence our vision.
The present lot not only exemplifies the artist's distinct style and technical proficiency, but it embodies his finely tuned photographic aesthetic and ability to balance countless details within one decisive moment. In Movement, the artist's photographic eye is identifiable in each line, shadow, and fabric fold; each section of the canvas has been considered precisely. The painting is deliberately composed and balanced. At the same time, our focus remains on the anonymous central figure and his vacant expression visible in the rearview mirror. Interestingly, Faibisovich rode a tramway to school every day as an adolescent. He recalls settling down in the space behind the tram-driver, which he believed provided the best view. The artist himself mused that since then, 'the views from the window of a tram took an important place in the theme of my works' (S. Faibisovich, Nevinnost, Moscow, 2002, p. 27). Ultimately, Faibisovich directs both our voyeuristic gaze and the tremor of emotion we cannot quite identify but which the artist intended wholeheartedly to evoke:
'I just get excited, sometimes I can't understand why. I am waiting for that tremor, for something to move inside me. Sometimes there are moments when you are ready to give your eye away for a camera. I don't know what it is. Some facial expression. A motive. Some scene. It is an enigma - something that touches your heart, and you don't know what it is.' (Exhibition catalogue,Comeback, op. cit, p. 14).