Freedom Street: Evgeniy Pavlov 
Set Art Foundation, Kyiv, 2019

Evgeniy Pavlov, Freedom Street, exhibition view (Hall 1) at Set Art Foundation, 2019
Evgeniy Pavlov, Freedom Street, exhibition view (Hall 2) at Set Art Foundation, 2019
Evgeniy Pavlov, Freedom Street, exhibition view (Halls 3 and 4) at Set Art Foundation, 2019
Evgeniy Pavlov, Freedom Street, exhibition view (Hall 3) at Set Art Foundation, 2019

There was such a powerful social feeling of despair that even love couldn’t cover it.

—Evgeniy Pavlov

Evgeniy Pavlov is among the most prominent yet underrepresented Ukrainian photographers of the Soviet and post-Soviet eras. The curatorial and research team considers the artist's lifelong body of work on a global scale. Born in Kharkiv in 1949, Pavlov aimed to document the most conflicting and distressing aspects of reality, capturing events and narratives that Soviet and post-Soviet societies attempted to exclude from their worldview. Most of Pavlov’s works are currently on display for the first time. His pioneering methods and visionary, timeless approach to photography were too radical to be publicly exhibited during the Soviet era and even in the 1990s.

In 1971, Evgeniy Pavlov, alongside Yurii Rupin, co-founded the  «Vremja» («Time»)  group, which included Borys Mykhailov, Oleg Maliovanyi, Hennadii Tubaliev, Oleksandr Suprun, Yurii Rupin, Oleksandr Sytnychenko, and Anatolii Makiienko. A year later, in 1972, he produced a significant series called «Violin,» featuring a group performance and a photo session with nude male participants—an act strictly prohibited in the USSR. Thanks to the practice of «Vremja» («Time») group, as well as their «Blow Theory» manifesto, the Kharkiv School of Photography has become a key phenomenon of Ukrainian contemporary art.

 Evgeniy Pavlov, from the 1970s-1980s archive

In 2003, Pavlov made the decision to withdraw from the art world, discontinuing his attendance at public events and ceasing involvement in art production. Since the early 1970s, Evgeniy Pavlov consistently expanded the boundaries of creative expression while championing the fundamental right to artistic freedom amidst the subtle, everyday control imposed by authority. «Freedom Street»  tells how the artist reacted to things that were off-limits in Soviet society, his dealings with authorities, and his private world, rich with poetic exchanges with artistic masters. The show displays Pavlov’s experiments with lots of different ways of making art, like photography, video, painting, and happenings.

Curators: Maria Vtorushina, Kateryna Iakovlenko

Hall 1

At this hall the photographic searching of Evgeniy Pavlov are showcased, undertaken during the earlier period of the «Vremja» group (founded by him together with Yurii Rupin in 1971) in communication with the group members, Kharkiv photographers Oleg Maliovanyi, Boris Mykhailov, Hennadii Tubaliev, Oleksandr Suprun, Yurii Rupin, Oleksandr Sytnychenko, whom Pavlov has met at the regional photo club (Anatolii Makiienko has joined them later as well).  For Pavlov’s works of this period obvious and not obvious connections with the world modernism are typical (despite the limitation of the information at the time). Surreal, expressionist, dadaist approaches create a unique context in Pavlov’s photography and transfer the social and political tensions of the Brezhnev’s stagnation period. This decade became significant for the artist. During this time exactly he created the «Violin» series in which he has carried through a mass photoshoot of naked male body, which was a taboo in the USSR at the time. In 1975 he met an art expert Tetyana Pavlova, who became his wife. At the hall the photos from the «Orwochrom» (1974-1985) and «Love» (1976) series areshowcased as well as the works outside the artist’s series.

Evgeniy Pavlov, from «Love» series, 1976 

Hall 2

The 1980s — one of the most fruitful periods for the photographer, which opened with the  acclaimed exhibition of the «Vremja» group at Kharkiv Scientists House (1983), at which their manifesto, the «punch theory», was ratified; and closed with the breakup of the group connections at the end of the 1980s. The changes in the art life coincided with the political changes — the disintegration of the USSR and the beginning of the independence competition processes which lead to the emergence of new heroes in the photography of the Kharkiv artists and to a rethinking of the soviet realities. The meaning of the «punch» concerns exaggeratedly accentuated depiction carried through at the expense of certain technological, visual and formal methods. The photographers worked with the tabooed themes like social unfairness, poverty, marginality, body, nakedness and so on. The exhibition at the Kharkiv Scientists House was closed immediately because of the fear of the House’s head, who right after the beginning of the photographers’ press conference tried to contact KGB. However, even not being fully showcased, this exhibition became significant for Kharkiv and marked the emergence of a new phenomenon in the late Soviet art. This hall’s showcase includes the photography series «Delirium Tremens» (1983), «Montages» (1984-1995), «God’s Con Men» (1989) in which the photographer touches upon social aspects of life of a soviet person.

Evgeniy Pavlov, the «Alternative», photo collage, 1985

The «Delirium Tremens» series (1983) emerged from the documentary photoshoot at the Kharkiv Psychiatric Hospital. The artist’s camera lens caught the patients in this state of delirium tremens. Emotional tension and the social tragedy are being underlined by the author with help of large frames and atypical perspectives of the photoshoot. Deploying the «punch theory» art concept, Pavlov unites the shocking documentary pictures with surreal images, among which are the grotesque self-portrait of the artist. At the hall the first installation of the series is showcased arranged in the way the artist demonstrated at he 1984 exhibition at the Regional House of Art Amateur accompanied by the commentaries from a psychiatric textbook which has legitimised this display. The «Alternative» photo collage (1985) also bears connections to surrealism and expressionism, to the esthetics of Serhii Paradzhanov (whom the artist have worked with during 1977) and raises questions connected to the future. The Madonna in a gas mask depiction became the key idea for the collage creation. Executed a year before the Chernobyl wreck, and reflecting the absurd of the Paradzhanov’s style, the work has come to be surrounded by new tragic connotations and now it is seen as an artistic foretelling of the ecological and technogenic catastrophe.

Evgeniy Palov, from the «Delirium Tremens» series, 1983

«God’s Con Men» («Blatari Vospoda») series (1989) is a frieze consisting of ten photos, in which pictures overflow from one shot to another creating a whole panorama together. The title of the series is a pun of two words: «blatari» from Russian «blat» (slang for protection, pull), and «Vospoda» — similar to the word «Hospoda» (God’s). The author’s irony in this work is focused on the ethical values of the late Sovie society. Andrii Saharov in the text «Alarm and Hope» (1977) wrote: «Now all of it — disgusting and violent, tragic and heroic — went under the layer of a relative financial stability and mass indifference. The caste, deeply cynic and, in my opinion, dangerously ill (for itself and for the whole mankind) society emerged ruled by two principles: «blat» (slang word, which means «you give me, I give you») and life’s quasi-wisdom, which is expressed in the words — «the wall cannot be broken through with a forehead».The «Energetic Portraits» series (1989) and the «Eclipse» (1999) series placed between the two halls mark a transitional period happening in the state politics. In the focus of both series — communal and individual portrait of the late Soviet time worker. In these series the author was interested in questions of anonymity, communality and individuality. These works can also be regarded from the point of view of history and memory in art today.

 Evgeniy Pavlov, from the 1970s-1980s archive

Hall 3

In the 1980s Pavlov began to experiment with colour in his photography, which can be
primarily seen in the «Archive Series» (1988), where he brought forward a method of a colour editing the black/white photo as a conceptual gesture. However, the colour began to truly appear and dominate in his practice in the 1990s. The emergence of colour can be explained not only by the changes in the society and political state, but also primarily by the artistic searching and aspiration to find a new visual language, which would resonate with the age. In this hall the following series are presented: «Archive Series» (1988), «Total Photography» (1990-1994), «Common Field» (1996), «Pairnography» (1998), «Pair Still Lives» (1998). The «Total Photography» (1990-1994) unites more laconic and minimalistic works (mostly portraits) with expressionist shots, which have a kitsch character to them. Although formally coloured photography was a usual matter for the Kharkiv artists, ideologically the«Total Photography» series differs from the previous experiments. In it the artist is trying to detect the boundaries between photography and art for the first time. In The New York Times commentary (July 23, 1995) in relation to the exhibition where Pavlov’s works from this series were showcased, William Zimmer has descried in the artists multilayered photos a connection with icons, «with their golden background and frozen face

Evgeniy Pavlov with Volodymyr Shaposhnikov and Tatiana Pavlova. From the series «Common Field» (Based on the 1972 «Violin» series) , 1995-1996

The «Common Field» art project (1996) was created together with artist Volodymyr Shaposhnikov and Tetyana Pavlova. It emerged due to an aspiration to understand the boundaries of photography: where does photography end and something else begin. Various technical and visual methods were tried out in the project, from photographic (like, for example, montage, collage, chemical interventions) to artistic, graphic and even sculptural ones. The works were created in turn: firstly, one author would make a change, then he would give a work to another and so forth until the understanding of an end result emerged. Thus, the artists were in a constant common field of creativity and communication, in which they were «testing» the boundaries of photography typology. The «Pairnography» series (1988, together with Volodymyr Shaposhnikov and Tetyana Pavlova) researches the questions of body, sexuality and pornography in the Soviet Union, marking the changes happening in the society concerning these topics. The series title is a pun based on an anecdote about a police report: «both pairnography and singlenography were confiscated from the detainee». «Pair Still Lives» or «Forty Still Lives» (1988) — a series, which consist of pair depictions taken from the photographers surroundings illustrating his daily life. Everyday life here acts in contrast to a stereotypical understanding of esthetic art.

Evgeniy Pavlov, Volodymyr Shaposhnikov and Tatiana Pavlova. From the series «Second Heaven», 1998-2003

Hall 4

«The Second Heaven» project, which the author himself entitled «monumental photography, a farewell epos after the deceased «sovok» (slang for the Soviet Union), was created during 1998-2003  together with Volodymyr Shaposhnikov and Tetyana Pavlova. It consists of nine big coloured photo collages which appeal to the painting of the Sistine Chapel. Similar to the previous works, this series embodies direct and indirect references to the history of the world art and at the same time reacts to the Ukrainian realities of that time: poses questions of poverty, social fairness, absence of radical changes in the society, ethics, faith and moral guidance.

Texts: Kateryna Iakovlenko

Evgeniy Pavlov (born 1949, Kharkiv) — Ukrainian photographer, member of the «Vremja»
(«Time») group. In 1967-1972 he studied economics at the V. N. Karazin Kharkiv State University, in 1972-1973 he was conscripted for military service, in 1974-1979 studied at the cinematography faculty of the I. K. Karpenko-Kary State Theater Institute (now Kyiv National I. K. Karpenko-Kary Theatre, Cinema and Television University). Pavlov joined the Kharkiv regional photo club in 1968. In 1971 together with Yurii Rupin he initiated the foundation of the «Vremja» group which has also united in itself Oleg Maliovanyi (1945), Borys Mykhailov (1938), Hennadii Tubaliev (1944-2006), Oleksandr Suprun (1946), Yurii Rupin (1946-2008) and Oleksandr Sytnychenko (1949), as well as Anatolii Makiienko (1949). A year later he created one of his significant series «Violin» (1972), in which he has carried through a mass photoshoot of a naked male body, which was a taboo in the USSR at the time. In 1975 he met an art expert Tetyana Pavlova, who became his wife in 1979. In 1983 the «Vremja» group, with a support from the Club of Young Scientists, organised an exhibition at Kharkiv Scientists House. At it the concept of the «punch theory», which the group members have used, has been declared for the first time. The exhibition was
closed the very same day. 

The last large-scale event of the group was an exhibition during the «Photovacations» in Sozopol (Bulgaria) in 1988. The first personal Pavlov exhibitions took place the same year: at the Kharkiv Fine Art Museum and at the Kyiv House of Cinema. In two years, in 1990, the first international personal exhibition took place at Stockholm Armémuseum (curator Annette Rosengren).  During the 1980s-1990s the artist created several series in which, apart from the bodily, average person, loneliness, society and other themes employed at the beginning of the art career, he turns to thinking of photography as a medium. In the 1990s-2000s together with a Kharkiv artist Volodymyr Shaposhnikov and Tetyana Pavlova he creates three large-scaled interactive projects: «Common Field» (1996), «Pairnography» (1988) and «The Second Heaven» (1998-2003). 

From 2001 he teaches at the television faculty of the Kharkiv State Academy of Culture. Pavlov is an author of more than 20 photographic series. His works were exported to Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Greece, Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Iran, Italy, China, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, the
USA, Finland, France, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Japan. They are also being stored at the museums and private collections in Spain, Italy, Lithuania, Germany, Poland, Russia, the USA, Ukraine, France, Sweden, Japan. Among such places are The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Cincinnati Art Museum and Contemporary Arts Centre, Zimmerli Art Museum of Rutgers University (USA), theMultimedia Art Museum and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (Moscow), Photography Museum in Šiauliai (Lithuania).