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Andrei Molodkin’s TRANSFORMER No. V579

The Russian artist discusses his latest exhibition of politically charged sculptures and the significance of using oil in his works

Andrei Molodkin’s art is dark and grotesque, but also strangely beautiful as it brings a glimmer of hope. Inspired by the Constructivists, who believed that art should be a direct reflection of the modern industrial world, Molodkin’s oil sculptures explore the world today and its dependence on oil. By confronting us with the pre-historic substance, Molodkin seems to ask – what does the future hold?

Dazed Digital: When did you decide that you wanted to become an artist?
Andrei Molodkin:
 I actually started drawing with a ballpoint pen while serving in the Soviet army, where soldiers were issued ballpoint pens to write their letters. That’s how I developed an interest in constant, monotonous drawing. I later realised that this was a bad habit.

DD: How has serving in the Soviet army shaped your attitude towards oil?
Andrei Molodkin: During my military service, my job was to convoy missiles. Guarding the missiles with our own weapons, we would have to stay on the train for around 25 days at a time as we travelled from the factory in Siberia to their designated end location. I remember how we once spent fifteen days delivering gigantic oil cisterns to Siberia by train. The entire way, we heated our cattle cars with the same oil, scraping it off the cisterns because they were covered with a huge fat layer of it, and it didn’t freeze, even when it was 40 below zero Celsius. As a result, we become completely black, filthy, since we didn’t get a chance to wash, and any time we got off at a station to ask for bread, they’d give us spam or some other kind of meat out of pity because we were covered in oil. We also used to smear dark rye bread with a thick layer of black oil that was used to polish boots, and dried it on the radiator. The bread absorbed light particles of oil like a sponge, and was then used by us in lieu of vodka to intoxicate ourselves on holidays or birthdays. Oil somehow performs this strange cycle, this transformation into something else – and then it once again transforms into something different, and in a totally different way. Oil is the symbol of transformation. That is what my art tries to capture. 

DD: What artists changed the way you think about art?
Andrei Molodkin: I am interested in politically engaged artists who work with language and Santiago Sierra is one of my favourite contemporaries.

DD: What should we expect from your new exhibition?
Andrei Molodkin: All my work is political. Russian contemporary art is lost in translation and that is why my art is direct, like that of the Avant-Garde. Unmasking is an ambition of the Avant-Garde and the Avant- Garde is something new that arises from the decomposing old. From the oldest of the oldest oil.

DD: What emotions do you want your art to stir in the audience?
Andrei Molodkin: I want to start a revolution.

Andrei Molodkin’s TRANSFORMER No. V579 exhibition takes place at the Art Sensus Gallery until 17th December 2011