108 is a solo show of Maria Kolosovskaya, which compiles a selection of her ceramic, photographic and videographic works.
The title of the exhibition – 108 – references a series of unique carefully crafted terracotta vases, which Maria created in collaboration with ceramic artist Vladimir Kosyak. These pieces have been created using traditional Russian techniques, in which clay is covered with honey and milk, in order to create a very special, warm surface, which is reminiscent of polished wood or leather.
108 – is a very important, mystical number for Maria. In the Hindu and Buddhist tradition it stands for the number of earthly desires for mortals, and in the tradition of Gaudiya Vaishnavism it is the number of the followers of Lord Krishna. It is also used as a symbol of the Universe: twelve constellations with nine planets in each.
The show also includes most recent works by Maria Kolosovskaya, such as series of masks and objects, created as a tribute to the traditional folk toy of the Abashevo region, as well as a total installation dedicated to the phantasmagoria of New Year Eve.
The exhibition features works created in different media: some of the featured works are a result of collaboration between Maria Kolosovskaya and photographer Ilya Batrakov. Together they created video-works that were directed by Mona Ermishina. They picture the scenography for Maria’s physical objects, being surrounded by the landscapes reminiscent of Russian folk lore; the clay objects become animated and show their character. In these videos performance artist Albina Vakhitova is a mediator: she translates the physical language of the clay into the free-flowing language of choreography.
“At this table, during this dinner, I would like to gather all the people who played a role in my life. The people, who are significant for me. Those who brought me joy, and those who brought me sorrow. The living and the dead. Please join me, you are welcome.”
New Year’s Eve dinner – a liminal act happening on the last night of the outgoing year and the first night of the year coming, always carried a sacral meaning. It is full of symbolism, because every gesture, every piece or dish in it can be considered as a statement, an illustration of an abstract idea.
We are trying to cross an invisible threshold with people whom we care about, in order to keep them in our hearts. The table created by Masha Kolosovskaya for her solo show 108 at fābula gallery is a surreal homage to the Russian tradition of New Year’s celebrations. The creatures in clay masks who are gathered at this table, are called “entities” by Masha. They represent the people in her life. They are like guests at the feast in a time of plague or at the mad tea party – they do not notice anything happening around them as they are absorbed in communication and interaction with one another.
Masks, dishes, food, glasses: everything at this table is made of terracotta – the material that Masha chose as her chief artistic medium. Clay is a sacred material, it is often referred in the Old Testament as a substance of which we are all made of. The name of Adam, the first of the people, is consonant with the words “red” and “earth” – red clay, terracotta. The flexibility of clay inspires; it is an invitation to tactile contact. According to Masha, working with clay reminds her of interacting with the people around her. As a ceramist gets acquainted with the material, so two people get to know each other, trying to find common ground.
However, despite its apparent softness, clay, as a material, often dictates its own rules and the ceramist has to consider them in his work. In Masha’s words: “The shape you conceived will always be adjusted by the characteristics of the material. If the clay is, for example, too dry or too wet, you may not get the shape you intended”. Pieces of raw clay on the table invite contact from the audience, they become a transitional form, a metaphor for the “entities” at her table, delicately waiting for anyone to start a dialogue with them. Each of them has its own character and its own story, and in this way, they are a reflection of ourselves.
In order to make clay stronger, it is necessary to burn it. The quintessence of the dinner is a fire: Masha burns her table, her guests, her old joys and grievances, so that they, crossing the New Year’s Eve threshold, acquire a new status, and a new form. They cease to be themselves, but become something more durable and lasting.
We shall also follow her example and start a new year with an unclouded gaze, and an open heart.