“It is foolish to change the vector of chaos. You shouldn’t try to control it, but fall into it.”
Gueorgui Pinkhassov has a singular vision – his richly coloured, multi-layered photographs are distinct microcosms that embrace the visual complexity of contemporary life. He is an artist working with photography and within Magnum’s documentary tradition. The purity of his approach, a visual stream of consciousness inspired both by his early mentor, the great Russian film director Andrei Tarkovski, and Magnum’s founder Henri Cartier-Bresson, has led fellow Magnum photographers to herald him a genius of the medium.
For this, Gueorgui Pinkhassov’s first commercial exhibition in London, Magnum presents a career overview of key colour works from the early 1990s to the present day. Prints such as Balcony of a hotel, Andalucia, from 1993, show his mastery of colour and reflection – so often in Pinkhassov’s images scenes are glimpsed through, or reflected onto, surfaces – as in this case, on the shiny metalic surface of a lift. Bold compositions demonstrate his virtuosity with light and shade, such as the early image of a cockerel from Uzbekhistan, 1992 or flowers photographed in a Moscow underpass, 2002, in which details appear spot lit or emerge from a halo of light. An inclination for “all over” compositions, such as that created by a matrix of wires in Fish Market, Jakarta, 2013, and unusual focal points, disrupts the instant accessibility of Pinkhassov’s subject matter - these are images to come back to again and again – absorbing, complex and poetic.
Alongside Pinkhassov’s seductive aesthetic sits a documentarian’s engagement with world events and the human condition. The most contemporary works included here are two extraordinary images taken in Kiev this year in and around the protesters encampments in Maidan Square. In their visual beauty and scale, akin to a tableau d’histoire, they transcend their subject matter. Yet, Pinkhassov’s engagement with enfolding events led to an empassioned call to fellow Magnum members to travel there to bear witness: “I remain convinced that documentary photography should remain our agency’s priority (even if all the magazines disappear) if only out of respect and gratitude to our founders, who were counting on us to continue their work when they created this chain of succession, this “genetic code”.”
Born in Moscow in 1952, Gueorgui Pinkhassov has an interest in photography since his school days. Between 1969 and 1971 he studied cinematography at VGIK (Institute of Cinematography in Moscow). Between 1971 and 1980 he worked for the studio, Mosfilm, in a team of cameramen, and later as a film stills photographer. Andrei Tarkovski noticed Pinkhassov’s complimentary aesthetic and invi¬ted him to take stills on the set of “Stalker” in 1979. In 1978, he had joined the Moscow Union of Graphic Arts, the status of which allowed him to participate freely in exhibitions. In 1985, he moved to Paris and in 1988, he was accepted as a nominee by Magnum Photos.
For years, Pinkhassov has worked actively for the media covering major events for magazines such as the New York Times and GEO, alongside of refining his photographic creativity on more personal projects. Combining his curiosity about the world and inventiveness in recording it, this is a photographer who has embraced the communication opportunities of digital: his output, as frequently seen on Instagram or online video platforms, as it is on gallery walls. Publications include Sightwalk (Phaidon, 1998) and Nordmeer (Mare, 2008). Pinkhassov’s mid career retrospective, Just Like Light, was co-produced by the Centre of Contemporary Art, Winzavod, Moscow where it opened in 2008.