Elena Sudakova, Director of GRAD, Elena was director of the Moscow-based G.O.S.T. Gallery which specialises in late 19th and 20th century works on paper and has established a strong reputation among Russian museums and cultural institutions. Elena is interested in developing multi-cultural links between Russia and Great Britain and her motto is ‘L’Art sans frontières’.
Elena talks to us about new exhibition Kino/Film: Soviet Film Posters from the Silver Screen, that opens 17 January – 29 March 2014. As the UK/Russia year of culture begins, this exciting exhibition examines the golden age of Soviet film posters and is co-curated by Elena Sudakova, director of GRAD, and film critic and art historian Lutz Becker.
Why do you feel this exhibition is important?
Both the films and the posters were visual and graphic masterpieces which preceded their times with bold and revolutionary use of montage. But while films were immediately seen as a tool of propaganda by the majority of the population who were illiterate, and were mostly focused on social context, the poster enjoyed ‘aesthetic freedoms’ which resulted in visual and notional paradoxes still widely practised today. The images are eye-catching and dramatic and the design remains innovative even after more than 80 years have passed. The designers eschewed Hollywood-style glamour and romantic narrative images for bold new designs using cinematic montage, repetition, asymmetric viewpoints, dramatic camera angles and bold colours. These factors led to the appearance of a distinctive and highly influential style.
What were the challenges curating this exhibition?
We wanted to show the films and the posters side by side to emphasise the symbiotic relationship between the two art forms. This hasn’t been done before and we wondered whether one medium might overpower the other. But when we projected the films on the walls of the gallery we found they worked in perfect sync with the posters, as their visual language is so similar. October and The End of St Petersburg were both commissioned for the 10-year anniversary of the Russian revolution in 1927. In the exhibition we have reunited them, projecting them next to each other, together with their individual posters.
Which are they key works or your favourite works in the exhibition?
There are two spectacular works by the Stenberg brothers advertising Battleship Potemkin and October, both seminal films of the period. Other pieces promote more obscure productions yet these too have their own appeal. The Three Million Case for instance was a Soviet comedy based on popular American slapstick movies. Although the film itself has little artistic value, the poster design, also by the Stenbergs, is extremely striking, with the heroine’s oversized head looming above two vignettes in which another character scales a building, with disorienting effects. It speaks volumes about how talented these artists were that they had the ability to turn even average material into great design.
What were you looking for in the pieces you chose?
We selected our material based on the parallels we wanted to draw between poster design and film-making of this era in visual terms.
What is the relationship between the posters and the films that they were created to advertise?
The art of this period in the Soviet Union was extremely interdisciplinary and the exhibition focuses on both films and posters and how they influenced each other. Many of the artists who created these posters also had a background in architecture, stage design or photography. There was a great creative effervescence and no medium was seen as too small or unimportant: art was moving away from the easel and into everyday life. This led to many talented young artists trying their hand at poster design and creating a whole new visual vocabulary based on the innovative on-screen techniques used by directors such as Eisenstein, Vertov or Pudovkin.