Review: Selected Works 1978- by Sergey Chilikov


Book Reviews, Photobooks




I had been looking forward to seeing Sergey Chilikov’s photography in book form, because most of it is so hard to come by. And it’s never quite clear how well photographs seen on the web hold up once being printed on paper. Chilikov’s work in particular had me slightly puzzled when I viewed it online: What is going on in these photographs? There clearly is an artistic vision at play that is different from most of contemporary photography. Selected Works 1978-, just published, now gives a wider audience the opportunity to experience the strange world created by Sergey Chilikov. (more)

It is a very strange world indeed. The first thing you’ll notice at the selected spreads from the book is that my digital camera seems to have gone haywire. But it did not. If you keep your eye on the background (the hardwood floor) you’ll see that the white balance did not change. Instead, for Chilikov colour appears to be one of those things that’s not necessarily supposed to be consistent, which I find oddly refreshing (of course, this could be in part because of the photographic materials, especially in the photographs dating back to Soviet times).

Something else you’ll notice when looking at the book - the end paper already gives it away - is that the artist has a very large body of work at his disposal, large parts of which are being presented here. This, alas, is where things get a little iffy. The book has so far frustrated my attempts to understand the work better, simply because the viewer is literally bombarded with images, often with multiple images on one page. The design takes as many liberties as the photographs themselves, and that combination makes the book a bit hard to digest.

Photographically, Chilikov’s work seems to oscillate between different poles, with, very crudely speaking, the main ones being provided by some sort of staged narrative and by what you could consider the snapshot. The artist doesn’t really adhere very strictly to these categories, but it might give you an idea what to expect. Furthermore, the images are made more complex by the fact that often enough, people just move through the composition, and it’s sometimes not clear whether that’s intended or accidental, in fact it’s not even clear whether any of that matters (why would it?). The photograph on the cover summarizes a lot of the work neatly, with its slightly odd colours, the naked or partially undressed women, and the men moving by, drinking.

So if you’re looking for contemporary photography away from the paths well traveled, Chilikov’s Selected Works 1978- will be right up your alley, its often frustrating editing and design notwithstanding.

Selected Works 1978-, photographs by Sergey Chilikov, essays by Dmitry Kiyan, Vladimir Dudchenko, 192 pages, Schilt Publishing, 2012