Darina Karpov’s references and influences range from mundane items of contemporary consumer culture to nature, to French writers such as Alain-Robbe Grillet, Philippe Sollers, and Eric Chevillard, to Russian sci-fi writers of the 1970s such as the Strugatskie brothers, to Russian filmmakers such as Andrei Tarkovsky. Using graphite, watercolor or acrylic on paper or panel, she weaves disparate elements—rocks, tree stumps, abandoned machinery, torn fabric, ropes, a truck, and architectural elements—through a continuous series of inventions, each effecting the outcome of the next. Her intention is to create a narrative, though neither a clear nor a linear one. She is interested in an unreliable or a “fugitive” narrative, as she describes it. “The work usually starts with outlining an imaginary site, a place where a certain action must necessarily unfold, but as I proceed to gather the ‘props’ for the story I get caught in the details, surfaces, and textures and lose my narrative thread. …The site remains ambiguous, at times resembling a construction site or an abandoned industrial zone, perhaps somewhere on the outskirts of the city—the suburbs of St. Petersburg or Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal. The pictorial tissue develops from things that are ‘caught in the nets,’ so to speak. What interests me most is a possibility of visualizing a narrative structure; how objects and events can transpire and follow one another, sequentially, contiguously, associatively, and get overlaid or conceal one another. What results is a truncated sequence, a temporary stream that could resemble a fragment of a narrative, a sentence, or a musical phrase.” (Karpov, 2007) From a distance Karpov’s paintings and works on paper appear to be abstractions but, upon closer inspection, reveal themselves to be teaming with elements that cohere into familiar and unfamiliar objects.
The title of Karpov’s exhibition, “Infinitely Small Disasters,” is taken from the last three words of French author Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s novel, Making Love
. In this novel Toussaint seeks “to engage…the feedback loop that exists between the creative act and the society that generates it. …In Karpov as in Toussaint, objects, like beings, commingle, intersect and overlap, but never with the intention of closing the loop and bringing the narrative to a close. Rather, the viewer, like the reader, is asked to engage the plurality of things, their variance, and deliberate ambiguity. Here…one must consider how every object, every line, every layer, is but the subset of a fuzzy ensemble whose true nature may never be known. What matters more is how every element is caught in its syntagmatic relation to the next, and how the fragmented, clustered groups of ideograms ultimately end up more than the aggregate of their parts.” (Jean-Louis Hippolyte, “Fuzzy Topographies,” 2008)
A truck in the center lower section of Karpov’s “Blackout” (a large black and white graphite drawing) references a truck in Tarkovsky’s film Stalker
. “In Stalker
, a fragile landscape…constantly changes as the group traverses the distance. The protagonists’ journey has no pre-determined out come. It cannot, since each of their steps effects a change in their surroundings. …Similarly, in Karpov’s work is a narrative structured as a chain of events that disperse on paper, one improvisation at a time, each action evolving from the previous outcome. The exposed spaces of blank paper tell us as much of the story as the dense areas of compressed activity.” (Vera Iliatova and Craig Taylor, “Black and White,” 2008)
This exhibition will include small and delicate watercolors on paper, large-scale works in bold graphite on paper, and paintings on panel. Karpov was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and now lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She received an MFA from Yale University and a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. This is her second one-person exhibition at Pierogi.