In their large-scale paintings Ilya Gaponov and Kirill Koteshov revisit the Soviet imagery. The mythological figures of the heroes and titans of the recent socialist period, whether miners or cosmonauts, seem to be looking from the distant centuries past. The conceptual choice of painting materials – hard coal-tar varnish with its limited colour palette instead of traditional oil paint defines the masculine expressiveness of their canvases. The elongated horizontal format of the two-part Odyssey echoes the proportions of a film frame. On the right hand side there is a close-up of Yuri Gagarin’s face – the symbol of one of humanity’s greatest achievements and, at the same time, of the short-lived victory of the USSR in the Space Race. His eyes are looking through the viewer. On the left hand side Gagarin’s figure in a spacesuit is frozen in zero gravity, his face is indiscernible behind the glistening glass of the space helmet, and the only recognizable element is the USSR (CCCР) letters painted on top of it.
In the recent 50 years the era of the first human space flights has become the ancient epos of the mass culture, comparable to Homer’s Odyssey where the return of the hero promises the triumph of peace and justice. The translation of this epos into the language of painting in the version of Gaponov and Koteshov turns into deconstruction of the Soviet myth, which is covered in layers of time like ancient ruins.