Always on the lookout for work by outsider artists, I discovered this gem at the book market today: a collection of paintings by naïve artist Ivan Skolozdra.
In a byzantine fashion traditional to the region, he applies oils to the underside of old window panes, reversing the images by transcribing from a reflection in a mirror. The resulting 'primitive scenes' glow through the layer of glass. From the text:
"Painting on glass became popular in 19th-century Ukraine mainly in the Carpathians. At the turn of the 20th century this kind of painting, once so popular with the broad masses, declined noticeably due to competition with printed material. The traditions of the painting technique were nearly lost and there was no attempt to renew them until recently in academia. Ivan Skolozdra is the sole amateur artist who has rejuvenated and now promotes this kind of folk art which was traditional in western Ukraine in the past."
His scenes draw heavily from myth, literature and history. Depictions of Ukrainian folklore are especially rich, many layers of narrative are rolled up into single paintings (Chumok Road, Firmness). Likewise, his Themes of Gogol looks like a Ukrainian Bosch in its devilish complexity.
He is perceived differently by the art world than the previous Eastern Slav "naïve" artist I looked at, Nikolai Nedbailo. An artist with (advertised) formal training, Nedbailo's use of the awkward appearance of folk art is described as social critique. Meanwhile Skolozdra from the village is presented as having no social perspective (or training), he is only channeling tradition.... like some sort of missing link to the past. It is a dubious claim for many reasons, not the least of which (aside from the obvious condescension) is the view of history as some sort of static, precious chunk of stuff that sits in isolation outside of metro areas, in need of institutional protection.
To sample a dynamic collision of musical histories, check this world music track that left even the Pitchfork nerds at a loss of words:
Sabali (Produced by Damon Albarn) - Amadou & Mariam