Olga Chernysheva

“Unpacking Things” is the new exhibition project of painter and media artist Olga Chernysheva. As an attentive observer, she is constantly changing perspectives between the ordinary and the unique, the astonishing levels of everyday life. As if she is attempting to look beyond the shell of things to reveal their invisible components. The title of the exhibition is based on the text “The Psychology of Art” by Russian psychologist Lev S. Vygotsky:

“A thing passes by us as if packaged, we know that it exists by the place it occupies, but we see only its surface… And in order to return the feeling of life, to feel things, in order to make stone stone, there is something called art…”

Olga Chernysheva uses painting as media for such daily fragments, that are usually not the objects of aesthetic admiration. Window cleaners and their reflections, pensive ice-cream sellers on the evening boulevard, old toys on a home shelf – they are like the reverse side of what we are used to perceiving as an event. In her works, Olga Chernysheva employs the concept of “estrangement,” which was also proposed by Vygotsky. This technique alters the viewer’s gaze distance, and the duration of perception, and thereby reshapes the entire process of conveying a message from the artist to the viewer through art. In that way, Olga demonstrates how trivial moments of reality transform into fragile and poetic sensations, emphasizing a variety of life.

The exhibition combines painting and small-format graphics. In 2022 Olga Chernysheva became the laureate of the 15th Drawing Prize held by Daniel & Florence Guerlain Contemporary Art Foundation.

LANGart opens the solo exhibition of Olga Chernysheva (1962) on June 2, during Amsterdam Art Week. In 1994-95 she studied at the Rijksakademie. In 1997, while still working at Singel 74, we made the first exhibition with her. After that we made three more solo exhibitions in the gallery (former Metis-NL).

Olga has had exhibitions around the world, including: 

2000, The State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg.

2001, 49 Biennale di Venezia, Russisch Paviljoen, Venetië

2004 Moscow Museum of Contemporary art, Moscow.

2004 White Space Gallery, London

2005 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

2005 White Space Gallry, London

2007 Courtauld Institute of Art, London

2010, 6th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Berlin

2010 Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Torino

2011, BAK, Utrecht

2011 Kunstverein Nuernberg, Germany

2014 Huis Marseille, Amsterdam, Netherlands

2014-2015 M HKA, Antwerpen

2014 Pace gallery London

2015 All the World’s Futures. Curated by Okwui Enwezor, Venice Biennale, Italy

2016 The Drawing Center, New York

2024 Houseplant is leaving, Volker Diehl, Berlin, Germany

Her work is in collections all over the world, including:

MOMA, New York, Tate Modern, London, Albertina, Vienna, Centre Pompidou, Paris, V&A, London, Ludwich Museum, Aachen, The National Mjuseum of Art, Oslo, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin, Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Museo d’arte Moderna e contemporanea, Rovereto, Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Frac, Bretagne, EVN, Vienna. Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turijn, The State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg. M HKA, Antwerpen.

Winner Guerlain Drawing Price in 2022.

She made a number of paintings and works on paper especially for this exhibition.

In 1986, Olga Chernysheva completed her training at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography, which was then still under the control of the Soviet regime, which only allowed art that promoted the ideology of communism. At the same time, many artists, who threw off the straitjacket of this Social Realism, worked underground. From the 1960s onwards, the illegal movement, Moscow Conceptualism, emerged, which remains the reference for contemporary Russian artists to this day.

In 1996 Chernysheva studied at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam.

She breaks away from the traditional training in the Social Realist tradition, partly thanks to Moscow Conceptualism and her introduction in Amsterdam to Western teaching methods and art. Right from the start Chernysheva has shown her interest in ‘ordinary’ people and their dealings with, first the communist regime and later in the confusing times after the fall of the wall with the hard neo-liberalism that ultimately led to the great economic difficulties for many and the formation of a small group of gigantic rich olichars. One of her first projects was ‘Russian Chocolates or Natural Anti-depressant’ in 1996 in which she attempted to uplift the Russian population living under the yoke of communist rule. It resulted in chocolate-brown printed photos, cake slices made from model plaster and chocolate boxes. Olga Chernysheva works with all available media: photography, film, painting, drawing, installations. She records everyday life in the streets of Moscow. The people she observes, paints, photographs and films are not aware of her presence, they continue undisturbed with what they are doing. People sell their last possessions on the street (Citizens), boys from eastern Russia wait like modern slaves, resigned to be chosen to work somewhere for another day (High Road, 2007), the attendants on the escalators look bored ahead (On Duty, 2007), a stream of travelers in the underground stands patiently on the escalators (Moscow Area, 2008). The images are reminiscent of Walter Benjamin as he presented it in his essay: ‘The work of art in the age of its technical reproducibility’; Olga turns these people into ‘actors who introduce themselves – first and foremost themselves in the work process’. Benjamin saw the use of ‘ordinary people’ as actors as a phenomenon typical of Russian cinema in the 1920sIn her down-to-earth and objective portraits, Chernysheva shows people who passively accept the fate of their difficult existence, the human condition in post-Communist society, which sometimes consists of grueling and sometimes extremely boring and monotonous work. In their daily discipline they seem resigned, but in their own modest way certainly not unhappy. She presents the trivial lives of ordinary people, capturing a part of history that would otherwise never be preserved. After all, the media is only interested in urgent news, in what is new and special. This is how Chernysheva captures the egg seller. ‘I want to remember the street vendors who appeared during perestroika. A very mixed social group. Employees of research institutes who had been removed from their positions. From various specialized laboratories. Armed with rare knowledge and special skills. Escaped from the shattered utopia of closed scientific departments. On the street they looked strangely vulnerable, as if they were ill-suited for the task. These types of people usually slip, fall and lose their suitcases, which shows that they have no foothold in the practices of street life. Life on the street was ‘never real’ for them’Her work transcends the documentary function, because she portrays the lives of these people in a committed manner and thereby investigates and defines her role as an artist.

The exhibition ‘Unpacking Things’ is based on the text ‘The Psychology of Art’ by the Russian psychologist Lev S. Vygotsky”

“A thing passes by us as if packaged, we know that it exists by the place it occupies, but we see only its surface… And in order to return the feeling of life, to feel things, in order to make stone stone, there is something called art.”