Masha Svyatogor

Masha Svyatogor (born in 1989) – a Belarusian visual artist based in Minsk. Graduated from the Belarusian State University. In 2017 had her first solo exhibition “Kurasoushchyna, My Love”, at CECH Art Space, Minsk, Belarus. Her works were shown in around 20 group exhibitions held in Lithuania, Poland, Malaysia, Germany, Armenia, China, Belarus, Slovenia, Austria, the USA, Russia and Canada. In 2018 she got the MFM Bureau award in the nomination “the photographer of the year”. Masha’s photographs were featured in GUP, Calvert Journal, i-D, Fisheye (fr), FotoRoom, FK, kwerfeldein (de), Konbini (fr), Feature Shoot, Dazed & Confused Magazine, etc.

“Kurasoushchyna, my love”       20 pieces             digital printing 2017

By Vera Zalutskaya, curator

Works from the series “Kurasoushchyna, my love” by Masha Svyatogor are about her
complicated relationship with the Belarusian urban and cultural environment. She tells her story through personal photographs – her childhood pictures, images of her parents and friends with Minsk’s featureless panel buildings and ponds, the River of Svislach and the Kurasoushchyna neighborhood’s water reservoir called Smyardzyuchka [Stinkpot] at the background.
Topography of the place plays the key role in shaping the artist’s identity. Something very
typical becomes extraordinary when the subject attributes that meaning to it in her reflections.
The artist’s memories of childhood give her food for thought that translates into images on
display.
She sees childhood, adolescence and maturity as a state of trancelike sweet drowsiness, dreams and melancholy. The heroines of her collages often drift or fly away. According to Vladimir Propp, leaving home is the beginning of every basic plot of a folk tale. Even more folk tale elements are present in “Svyatogor Adrift”: a first-grader, against all odds, leaving the shores of Kurasoushchyna in a traditional Indian boat. The beginning promises future adventures, hardships and miracles. This is a moment of initiation for Masha Svyatogor into her “grown-up life,” which implies ability to take a critical view on her environment.
The boat was taken from an image by Eduard Curtis, who documented the daily life of North
America’s indigenous people in early 20 th century. The fascination with documentary images characteristic of many photographers of the 20 th century from Steven Shore to Zofia Rydet inspires Masha Svyatogor to meticulously frame the elements of Belarusian present-day reality.
Belarusian context is multifaceted and ambivalent, so the best way to document it is to interpret – take some elements and present them in the form of colorful collages. This helps the artist rid her works of exotic elements of desperation and sadness characteristic of Eastern Europe’s many photography projects. Specific issues of Minsk’s urban environment come to the fore such as buildings that do not match the architectural landscape, are not used for their originally intended purpose (or remain incomplete) and also the demolition of historic buildings and districts.
The inability to influence what is happening makes collage heroines aloof and estranged, but
they are trying to offset their impotence by morphing into mythical water nymphs or fairytale birds. By going over and over the cycle of costumed escapes and comebacks they justify the need to stay at the place.
The drowned woman in her work “Lying Low on Smyardzyuchka’s Bed” is reminiscent of John Millais’ Ophelia. Masha Svyatogor’s other works also evoke associations to various Western art movements such as Dada, Pop art, Conceptual art, Ready-made and Arte Povera. The latter two are especially important for interpreting sculptures made of old tires and disposable plastic objects that can be found in many Belarusian yards. The creators of these naïve art works unintentionally use some methods of avant-garde artists. Masha Svyatogor’s collages made of fragments of her photos emphasize the emancipative function of art, erasing the boundaries of aesthetic categories.