The Gospel quotation in the title of the exhibition is always a risk of being accused both on the left and on the right of being either too much or not enough pathos. And yet, in this case, it is an extremely apt title for the author: "Look at the Lilies," as a reminder, among other things, of the life of Francis of Assisi in his 14th-century treatise "The Flowers. The ecstatic and heraldic flower itself, in reality stupefying with its pungent fragrance, is multiplied in Grigory Barkhin's design of the graphic series or exists as part of the installation of one of his last works, The Prayer of St. Francis for the City (mixed technique, 2023)
This kind of "Mystery of St. Francis" is played out by the artist and teacher Barkhin and his students in the foyer of a small theater, which does not seem to be the best option for the exhibition, also because it is impossible to attend without an appointment. But the subject also dictates the form of presentation, even if this was not intentionally intended. And this, too, contains a degree of humility of the author, quite medieval in hiding his ambitions behind the thickness of the theatrical decor.
The exhibition lies in an extremely narrow bed between the sacred and the profane: it was made as if with a soft smile, which can also be felt in its scenography, which was also characterized by the author's humor. Which smoothes out all the irregularities and irregularities of the plastic interpretation and turns the viewer to the first and key work of the cycle. It was made for the solemn date of the 700th anniversary of Dante Alighieri, who, in case anyone does not remember, was a devotee and follower of St. Francis of Assisi. The plot, devised by Barkhin, has St. Francis escorting Archpriest Alexander Men to the Semkhoz station. And this is almost a "document" because the famous pastor venerated the ancient Italian saint, of which there are numerous testimonies... This sheet of essentially double hagiography was "blessed" by Alexander Panov (Fedor Romer), one of the best Russian art critics, doctor of philology, author of significant studies not only on contemporary art, but also the philosophy of Vasily Rozanov shortly before his sudden death in the fall of the same Dantean 2021...
It should be mentioned that the era of Russian modernism, to which the same Rozanov belonged, made a huge contribution to the world Franciscan. Leo Tolstoy often quoted the saint in his later Diaries ... Dm. Merezhskovsky made a multi-page journey in search of the mystery of the Umbrian hermit . "Without the account of Brother Wolf and the conversation with Brother Leo about perfect humility, which have been preserved only in The Blossoms, the historical truth about Francis would be as incomplete as it is religious." ," wrote in the preface to the old edition of "Flowers" religious philosopher and art historian, the author of the biography of M.N. Nesterov S.N. Durylin ..
Following them, a century later, Grigory Barkhin had a taste for unexpected movements of his hero, and at his will, maybe his own, or that of Francis himself, he sent the saint to Victor Tsoi's stoke-house, or to a rehearsal of the "barbarians" from the band Rammstein.. This monochrome series of endless preaching about "brotherhood" of all times and peoples could become a whole book of comics, if the author suddenly decides to continue creating such magnificent fictions in the form of a modest black and white "miniature.
St. Francis has long gone beyond the confines of the Catholic cult, he is the true patron of world culture and the inspiration of thousands of painters, among them Giotto, El Greco and Caravaggio... Among our contemporaries, Ilya Kabakov turned to him in his work on the scenography of the opera about Francis by composer Olivier Messiaen. The experience of Franciscan "supreme poverty" is studied by such topical philosophers as Francis' compatriot J. Agamben... The practice of rational consumption, responsible attitude to the environment demanded that in 1979 The practice of sensible consumption and responsible attitude to the environment demanded that the Roman Church proclaimed the saint the patron saint of ecologists; and the Franciscan Brother Wolf, who at one point disappeared completely in Western Europe, since then has periodically appeared in the mountains, sometimes in the Appenines, sometimes in the Ardennes... Grigory Barkhin did not forget the legendary hagiographic Wolf of Gubbio and the smiling mouth open to the preaching of the saint is present in one of the most graphically winning series presented at the exhibition. In addition to the textbook predator tamed by the saint, Barkhin's love for God's creation extends in this exhibition to the hated and persecuted cockroaches, depicted with great coloristic finesse. Perhaps the series of noxious insects to the sound of a real cricket, who, it is unknown how, exists in this mysterious space related to the "Tradition" Foundation, is the greatest artistic success of this project.
The artist Barkhin currently exists outside of any institutional bonanza. One could say that his works belong to one of the manifestations of the "new sincerity," but I am afraid that this would be too stenciled for such an agile and direct author. "Let him come in, this is one of my brothers.", reads "Flowers" of St. Francis... This pictorial work is created in such a "brotherhood" with a source of inspiration, and is of value as an experience of the new Russian "nonconformism", as a baton of continuity from intellectual mysticism in the Soviet "pen" of the great masters-sixties in our confused year 2023 A.D.
Anna Kuznetsova 2023.