By Elaine Tam
London calling Berlin; where Nikopol-born artist Victoria Pidust has resided since 2015, following studies in Kyiv. It’s a virtual studio visit so there’s always a bit of thawing to do first. I wonder if Victoria’s practice is affected by the present “climate”, not as much as her painter friend, she replies, but it's harder to access the high-resolution scanner nowadays. I ask her about her working process as it’s an obvious, and therefore comfortable, place to start. She responds openly, generously. I’m surprised to learn she works entirely from original material. This is ill-suited to an unfounded theory I have, which relates the work to post-net aesthetics (mimesis and sampling being two prevailing features). But I am rather happy to discard this reductive framework, and the term is never brought up. The course our conversation takes disrupts and rearranges any other such preconceptions; once again, an interviewer plays the losing side of guesswork.
"Instability" II from triptych, 2018
The work begins with analogue photographic surveys, relying on her attention to snatch everyday “moments”, “situations”, fleeting impressions. Autobiographical insofar as she is always making undisclosed intuitive, personal choices. There is the told and tired history: photography began as a scientific tool espousing a commitment, or even fidelity, to realism. This is what allowed for visual indexing, profiling, recording (not to mention a slew of politico-aesthetic concerns). But while Victoria’s practice may be partly indebted to photography, the artist’s “hand” is present, and its treatment with further technological intervention disallows us from understanding her work as only just that. As the images travel, they are transformed: opening onto a rich, multi-perspectival investigation which works across their dematerialisation.
II from "Print me if you can", 2019
The films undergo scanning, objects are reconstructed in 3D modelling software, seeing to the pursuit of new angles and the discovery of glitches, or “digital artefacts”. She says this with enthusiasm, as though there is a certain freshness about imperfection, “to see how the computer sees the object.” A certain fascination for algorithmic logics and the machine gaze is conveyed, which elaborates upon the eye that lies at the heart of photographic thought. “Hyperreality”, she duly notes. I recognise the term as one which has a common prefix with hyperbild — a word she mysteriously floated before. A remark upon the indistinguishability between reality and its simulation, it’s by no means an easily (tra)versed Baudrillardian concept. And yet it feels so mutually understood in the context of the discussion, to the extent that neither of us linger on it. So we digress to Broomberg and Chanarin’s series Spirit is a Bone — a project involving Russian surveillance technology and distorted faces, morphed by movement during their capture.
III from "MEAT", 2020
“I don’t like the word collage”, she states off-handedly, with reference to her own work. It’s actually this comment that disarms me, maybe because it's jotted in my research notes and I’m relieved not to have yet said it. But it does become an important distinction to tease out. While (I later learn!) we share a passion for Matisse, cut-outs or “cut-and-paste” is not a methodology Victoria relates to, or is even trying to achieve. Perhaps collage is too of its time, implicating the work in a way that may not be relevant today as it was in the early 20th century. In fact, her titles seem to semantically counterpose “cut-and-paste”, instead oriented towards the primacy of layering and blurring techniques in the work.
"Hot Little Pool" from "More than all", 2019
Her Smoothie “backdrops” infer a smoothening, of course. But likewise it could be understood as the aliment, which instantaneously brings to mind a blending. And then there is Meat, fibrous and textural, recalling an interweaving we find in the feminine practice of textile work. All this may be illustrative of Victoria’s relationship to spatial-temporal “hybridity”: her works operate in service of a momentary binding together, rather than a series of bits and pieces, cut up or torn apart.
"CUTs" III from triptych, 2018
"Cactus", painting, 2018 | "Lunch", painting, 2018
"CUTs" I from triptych, light box 100x152x10cm, 2018
To these ends, the “painterly” does not displease her; in fact, she more than relates to it. At first, I can only assume that this is on account of the very nature of the medium, which inherently lends itself to the mixing central to her approach. One of the first things we touched upon was the painterly-ness of her work: it’s tangibly gestural and impressionistic qualities. I had referred to abstract painter Julie Mehretu, whose recent works in SEXTANT (White Cube, 2018) take news photographs as their departure point for composition and palette-related decisions. It became all the more prescient when, about an hour later, she coyly revealed the beginnings of her artistic practice as a painter. And a very learned one, might I add! I only have to press a little, and she reels off a list of highly insightful artist interests: “Helen Frankenthaler, Kerstin Brätsch, Katharina Grosse, Katja Novitskova, Peter Doig”. When it comes to the photographic, she memorably empathises with Wolfgang Tillmans' amour fou, a seeming desire to “steal all the world”.
"White Work" from "Hybrids" on the balcony, 2020
"Black Smoothies" from "Smoothies", 2019