Diana Machulina

machulinaBorn 1981. Lives and works in Moscow. 1998 graduated from Moscow Academic Art Lycee 2003 graduated from Moscow Institute of Problems of Contemporary Art 2004 graduated from Moscow State Academic Art Institute.
Selected solo shows:
2014 Dance Macabre, AAR, Rome
2012 In praise of folly, Marat Guelman gallery, Moscow
2011 Exercises, Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
2008 Rubber Soul, Galerie Stanislas Bourgain, Paris
2007 Old New, Marat Guelman gallery, Moscow
Selected group shows:
2013 Decoration of the beautiful, State Tretjakov Gallery, Moscow
2010 Le contrepoint Russe, Louvre, Paris
2009 Russian Povera, 3rd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Red October, Moscow
2007 Sots-art, La Maison Rouge, Paris History in present tense, main program of 2nd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Federation Tower, Moscow
2006 The Origin of Species. Art in the Age of Social Darwinism, Museum of Contemporary Art, Toyama, Japan

The Body of Labor

What is the influence of labor on human body? Is labor a kind of punishment for people and we need to avoid it, or labor is the gift? Attitude to labor ranges from disgust to adoration.

The painting is the start point of the project. Painted in classical style it remains us to the ancient goddesses of Fate, but in fact it is based on fairy tale Three spinners by brothers Grimm, where three women were injured by division of labor. Beautiful but idle girl was told by Queen: “You will marry my son if you spin me this heap of flax”. Girl was left with this pile of work and began to cry near window because she never works before. And she saw three ugly women who promised to do the work if she invites them to the wedding. Spinning was done. At the wedding ball Prince asked the first woman: “How do you come by such a broad foot?” “By treading,” she answered. Then he asked the second: “How do you come by your falling lip?” “By licking”. Then he asked the third, “How do you come by your broad thumb?” “By twisting the thread”. On this the King’s son was alarmed and said, “Neither now nor ever shall my beautiful bride touch a spinning-wheel.”
They had got a broad foot, a huge thumb and a falling lip by regular repetitive movements. I put these frightening details into the mythical harmony. Is the labor something frightening?

In this painting I am also interesting in contradiction between the depicted ideal and the reality. Labor was not a good theme for art if it was not idealized – and it was: from tidy peasants in Academic painting to Soviet happy proletarians in propaganda pictures. Great gap with the reality – in fact labor was hard and injuring. But there was no trespass into painting for workers and old people! It was an official rule: When painting hands, artist should avoid depicting surface imperfections appeared onto skin as a result of frequent repeat of the same body movement or imperfections over drying of tissue. (Dictionary of painting and sculpture” by Claude-Henri Watelet, Paris, 1792)

There are some roots of my idea. Most famous spinners in art were painted by Velasquez. Jose Ortega y Gasset wrote in his book about Velasquez, in chapter His struggle against beauty: European art with its tendency to an ideal had come to emptiness and needed to be refreshed with truth of life. Velasquez brought plebeians and court dwarfs into painting. By Ortega poor model make spectator to look at the splendid painting skills. If so, I chose a poor old fashioned style of painting to bring to foreground a poor model. As in Van Gogh’s drawings poor technique lets us see the imperfection of life.

The Unhurvested Strip (1854), poem by Russian poet Nikolay Nekrasov was my favorite when I was child. It is about a peasant who is not able to finish the harvesting because he became ill after working too hard. The story is told by wheat field and autumn wind. I had been crying when red this poem, but not because of his withered arms but because he is not able to work anymore and lost the meaning of his life. I think that we are what we do, but it is not always pleasant. I put a question: may the labor be something desired?

I chose two fragments from films to answer. In Call me to the bright expanse (dir. German Lavrov, Stanislav Lubshin, 1977, USSR) we can see worship of the work. It is something like religious asceticism – human body is not for getting pleasure, but to be able to work. “Play, play… The talent is a good thing. If you become blind, your profession still will be with you. Writers are my envy. Blind, without hands and legs, writer may continue to dictate their texts. All his profession is concentrated in his head!” If someone had his legs cut or became blind but still able to work – he is lucky one! But there is one important condition – it should be work connected with a talent of person. In Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (dir. Gus van Sent, 1993, USA) American film Uma Thurman’s personage does not mind she is not enough beautiful and has such ugly huge thumbs – because she turned into her talent for hitchhiking.
The work could bring happiness only if the work is connected to the talent of the person, work that chosen by love. Spinners were unhappy because they were spinning other’s fate but not their own.

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