The Ruarts Foundation presents ‘Form’, a solo exhibition by Petro, a Russian multidisciplinary artist with a street background
Petro, one of the most famous representatives of the ‘street wave’ art movement, has been painting on walls for more than 20 years. He is a founder and member of the post-graffiti duo Aesthetics Group. Today Petro is at the forefront of Russian street art, and his current eclectic style is based on a combination of various trends in applied art and architecture. Moving on from font compositions over time, Petro has concentrated on geometric abstraction. The artist takes part in major festivals, exhibitions and projects, in Russia and abroad. In his work Petro strives for constant development and self-realisation, and in addition to murals the artist creates works on canvas and produces three-dimensional installations and sculpture.
Classical graffiti has gathered together many styles and trends and is fundamental to street culture. Graffiti writers rarely develop an entire alphabet – as a rule, the tag consists of just a few letters. Petro’s personal exhibition became part of the larger book project ‘Graffiti-Alphabet’, for which the participating 33 graffiti artists and representatives of the ‘street wave’ from Russia developed a design of the Russian alphabet in their own style, as well as each being randomly assigned one particular letter of the alphabet. This large-scale project curated by Andrey Berger (Aber) and Dmitri Aske demonstrates the wide range of styles and approaches of modern writers, their interest in the culture of the font and its use in the visual field.
Developing the concept of form, Petro has given his original graphic images architectural volume: plywood elements are laser-cut, glued, sanded, then painted and assembled together. The shape of the letters determines the rhythm as a whole, the alignment of lines allows you to study the process of architectural design in detail, and the combination of local colour – red, white and black, adds rigour. Reference to the iconic colours of the Russian avant-garde, a direct source of inspiration for Petro, lies at the heart of the artist’s entire work.
As the parts of letters were cut on a laser machine there was a lot of waste from the plywood, so the idea of upcycling arose. Creative recycling and reuse of things and found materials is becoming an important topic for many artists – more and more often they turn their attention to issues of ecology or conscious consumption and practice eco-style in art. “Having selected interesting shapes and planes, I cut off the excess and looked for the best combinations. Then I took the digital drawings used for cutting sculptures, transformed them and applied a ‘scheme’ in the form of laser engraving on top of the remains. So I showed a kind of ‘life’ in which all the stages of creating works are present.”
The letters in their new form ceased to be signs of communication, they dissolved into an empty visual cipher. Their physical absence makes the eye move across the plane along complex trajectories. The abstract quality of the cut fragments and the effect of fading colour intensity allow you to think about the slow dissolution of your ‘I’ in the culture of incessant repetition. Working in assemblages with a void, the absence of an object, Petro raises an important question in graffiti – the ephemerality of street art objects. At any moment a one-of-a-kind ‘exhibit’ may disappear without a trace.
The ‘Form’ exhibition shows that handwriting is an expression of personality and, thanks to the writers’ vision of their ideal visual language, we can evaluate the entire alphabet as a new form of artistic work. The exposition of 33 sculptures, 16 assemblages and the detailed letter ‘F’ assigned to Petro is the result of the street artist’s long-term study of the construction of the letter, the range of design possibilities and the perception of fonts.
The author is grateful to Evgeny Skorobogatov for help in creating the sculptures and technical support.