Dashi Namdakov's new exhibition at the Halcyon Gallery, in New Bond Street, is definitely one to see. One of the biggest, if not the biggest, artists in Russia, his name is perhaps lesser known in the public realm. But with this current exhibition and a sculpture having gone up in conjunction with the exhibition in Marble Arch, the 5ft high Genghis Khan, I donâ€™t think this will remain the case for long.
Brought up in the South Eastern part of Russian Siberia near Lake Baikal Namdakov came to art via a less than conventional route. At 15 he fell ill, and for seven years no one could discover the cause. Finally his parents found themselves at a shaman who via ritual cured his illness and prophesied his huge success in his ability to create the world around him in metal. Afterwards he worked under G.Vasilyev in Ulan-Ude, and in 1988 was admitted to the University of Fine Arts in Krasnoyarsk and the rest, as they say, is history.
Namdakovâ€™s subject matter derives from Buryat folk law and other mythologies. The forms, he claims come to him via dreams. Stylistically there is a clear oriental character and charisma to his work, but there is also the hint of Russia in some of the faces and monumentality of the bigger pieces. This is blended alongside a more recognizable western aesthetic. Michelangelo and Bourdelle, who Namdokov has historically sited as references, are apparent in the sculptures sense of movement and animation. Some of the work such as â€˜Sheâ€™ also has an unmistakable surrealist look, through this is unsurprising considering their shared subject matter and reference points. Technically there is no mistaking you are in presence of formidable master of his craft. The smooth black, high finish of â€˜Queenâ€™, or â€˜Abductionâ€™ counterpoises the irregular surface and patternation of the likes of â€˜King Birdâ€™ and â€˜Generalâ€™. Namdakov executes these variant surfaces via bronze, gold, silver and mammoth tusk with equal accomplishment, inserting the smaller pieces with semi-precious and precious stones (heâ€™s also does jewelry!) And this is to say nothing of the drawings which are remarkable. All the pieces have real character and animation. You can fathom their voices, chattering and grunting; their movement, welding swords, prowling, or simply deep breathing while they have a snooze on the back of some mythical creature with a long nose. These sculptures, Namdakov says, are totems and talisman, mantras that challenge our western conception of liner time, and historical chronology. They attempt to open up the realms of Buddhism and Taoism, striving for a state of totality, the designation of an eternal oneness of things, beings and events. This spirituality of materialism may be a bit for some people, I personally love it, and it is really what images and art have been all about for the majority of their existence. But whether you derive enjoyment from spiritual exploration or not, this is a display of great technical talent, and if you like terracotta armies, graphics, shiny things, or simply just a fan of war hammer and fantasy this is definitely, definitely worth seeing.
Review by Freya Wigzell
Halcyon Gallery, New Bond Street, London
May 16 - July 7 2012
Images courtesy of Halcyon Gallery
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