Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Is it art or not? I don't care! There is no definition, it's just Sharmanka."

From Living Scotsman:
IN THE HALF LIGHT OF The Sharmanka Gallery, Eduard Bersudsky's magical machines sit in silence, but you can't help feeling that if you turned your back the whole lot might come alive.

And they do come alive. Each at its appointed time, whirring and clanking in an intricate dance to a music all its own. Bersudsky's "kinemats" are less sculptures than performers waiting for their cues.

This winter marks the tenth anniversary of the Sharmanka Gallery (the word is Russian for "street organ"), opened when Bersudsky and his wife Tatyana Jacovskaya made Glasgow their home ....

Working in secret under the Communist regime, his sculptures came straight from his heart. Shaped by ancient myths and tales and by his memories of childhood, they were also haunted by the darker experiences of Russian history. He would later say of the 12 suffering figures in the "belfry" of the Millennium Clock: "To make it took eight weeks and all my previous life in Russia."

The collapse of Communism brought freedom, but spiralling rents. Support of friends and curators in the West, including Julian Spalding of Glasgow Museums, encouraged them to move to Scotland, where Bersudsky's work took on a new lease of life. The ideas poured out as he scavenged for scrap metal - typewriters, bicycles, sewing machine parts - in scrapyards and markets.

They survive on piecemeal grants from the Lottery and Arts Council, and occasional international commissions, drawing a subsistence wage and ploughing the rest back into the sculptures. Sergey, who graduated from the RSAMD in lighting design, looks after the technical side of Sharmanka in his spare time. "We are a family business," says Jacovskaya. "That's how we survive."

"The more I am here, the less I am in Russia," says Bersudsky. He increasingly draws on the mythology of this country. Tree of Life pays tribute to the Celtic idea of an integration between the worlds of humanity, animals and plants which is also common to the mythology of Northern Russia. "You cannot come from one culture and turn yourself into another culture," says Jacovskaya. "But you discover common roots."

Life in Scotland has not been without its struggles. The Millennium Clock was saved in its present location only after a public campaign. Titanic, the enigmatic sculpture which was once a star attraction at GoMA, was returned to the Sharmanka Gallery when GoMA was reorganised. Bersudsky, more medieval master-craftsman than contemporary artist, doesn't fit into prescribed categories.

Jacovskaya says: "A lot of people think that modern art is conceptual, intellectual. It speaks to the head, we speak to the heart. We don't care, we're happy that we are working, surviving. Is it art or not? I don't care! There is no definition, it's just Sharmanka."

1 comment:

Kathleen Bradean said...

Wow. I love stuff like that. I may have to go to Scotland.