Michele Chinitz

Michele Chinitz

Kharchenko & Practical Transcendence

The Young-Hegelian ideologists, in spite of their allegedly “world-shattering” statements, are the staunchest conservatives. The most recent of them have found the correct expression for their activity when they declare they are only fighting against “phrases”. They forget, however, that to these phrases they themselves are only opposing other phrases, and that they are in no way combating the real existing world when they are merely combating the phrases of this world. The only results which this philosophic criticism could achieve were a few (and at that thoroughly one-sided) elucidations of Christianity from the point of view of religious history and all the rest of their assertions are only further embellishments of their claim to have furnished, in these unimportant elucidations, discoveries of universal importance.
It has not occurred to any one of these philosophers to inquire into the connection of German philosophy with German reality, the relation of their criticism to their own material surroundings.
— The Illusions of German Ideology, 1845

Marx opposes idealism and materialism from his opening statement. But what happens when materialism readopts so-called “transcendence”? What about when the starting place consists in the physical and the intended cognitive breakthrough returns one instantly to the physical? Does this posit a return to a lesser, earthly life, i.e. that of the Kierkegaardian Knight of Faith? Or, in contrast, what of transcendence as a naturalized process, from start thoroughly to end?
This account speaks to the work of 24-year-old Russian-German painter Yury Kharchenko. To his mind, artwork ought to be philosophical. Too clearly, this runs the bottomless risk of ideology: art as the platform for a phantom world of symbolic representation. Artwork would play out a life of the mind and, even more, a triumph of the mind that Kharchenko calls transcendence. This enlightenment departs away from a material grounding in paint thickness and pigment, in objective designs and the striving of human craft. Yet intriguingly, Kharchenko’s ardor withdraws at just the hint of “abstract” philosophy. He sees his artistic choices only through the lens of “concrete” philosophy. From this vantage, one ought not expound “to his mind,” but instead that exactly to his eye, artwork ought to be philosophical.
This unexpectedly resists the fight against phrases, resists what Marx faults as the view that our self-conceptions build our restrictions. But the sudden alternative does not, in defiance, turn away from the conceptual pursuit of transcending. This strain of concrete art philosophy all the more consciously pursues transcending. Yet its terrain can be founded as man’s activity and man’s attempt at a seemingly philosophic grasp of it. The scope of the concrete then implicates a constant relation to material surroundings. Material thickness, visible layering, and suggestions of perspective forge the physical reality of Kharchenko’s work. These facets demonstrate productive doing. That he views his works as partly inspired by spirituality buffers against art as “elucidations” of Christianity.
 Nevertheless, a problem arises of spectator subjectivity. Namely, intuiting momentarily the physical properties and emotional directives of a work differs categorically from shaping and impressing them with one’s own hands: the role of seer is necessarily passive in relation to that of maker. However, the starting point of an individual confronting the concrete work coheres with Marx’s preferred hermeneutic. “In direct contrast to German philosophy which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven. That is to say, we do not set out from what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as narrated, thought of, imagined, conceived, in order to arrive at men in the flesh.” The individual who addresses the artwork effects his own activity, turning himself into a person who thinks deeper about the design before him or walks away. “We set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process.”

26 March, 2011


About yurykharchenko

Kay Heymer, Director of Modern Art Department, Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf Yury Kharchenko’s Houses With his twelve wall-sized paintings in the cycle "The 12 tribes of Israel" the artist Yury Kharchenko opens up unchartered terrain to the art of painting and at the same time consciously refers to an heroic tradition of non-representational painting, which originated in the U.S.A. in the 1940s. The painters of that tradition - in particular Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb - wanted to find their specific identity in a sharp separation from European painting, especially Surrealism, as well as in the invention of a visual language which aimed not to portray, but rather to set free form and colour in order to charge their works with spiritual power. They did so with huge aspirations and equally huge formats. This tradition was heroic because it did not allow itself to be discouraged by the disillusionment caused by the social and historical experiences of the 20th Century with its disasters was not discouraged and believed unswervingly in the integrity of a transcendental form of painting which stood for mental and social freedom. Yury Kharchenko’s works can make one forget that such a thing as pop art and post modernism ever existed. His pictures are completely free of cynicism, and there is nothing second-hand about them. His painting is not that of an epigone. They focus on the formal and emotional possibilities of painting. They are both non-representational - pure visual phenomena like sounds – and representational - simple shapes such as the houses, which form the backbone of the cycle, or as the silhouettes of figures hidden in the thickets and scrub of the dark lattice structure of these pictorial spaces. Yury Kharchenko’s paintings are delightful in their texture and their sense of color, stimulating the senses and arousing strong feelings in the viewer. Kharchenko refers to his Jewish roots - particularly the tension between religion and philosophy- in order to give structure to his paintings. His ambivalent attitude towards the subject-matter might explain this, however that is not the key to the success of these works. They already have enough depth and power of conviction as pure forms in their own right. His paintings hold their own even without the viewer having knowledge of the branched and fascinating details of Jewish spiritual history. A decisive quality of these paintings is their individuality, which makes it seem logical that Kharchenko has given them the names of brothers. Their archaic quality shows itself in the reliance on the energy personified in each painting. Kharchenko’s painting relies on a general human spiritual force that has
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