The world currently has an infatuation with the aesthetic from the former Eastern Bloc and by extension its art too. Spanning from Russia to Slovenia, Czech Republic to Ukraine, eastern Europe is home to an incredible diversity of art that is as innovative as it is timeless. It is a region that has been through incredible change throughout its history, the effects of which are still being felt and gone through today. As a result, it is up to eastern European photographers to preserve what they find particularly noteworthy. To highlight the best of eastern European art, we have rounded up five photographers for you to know.
Enri Canaj wields his camera like a weapon, using it not only to take aesthetically pleasing pictures, but as a means of socio-political documentation. His pictures of Syrian refugees in Greece are a case in point, simultaneously contrasting their pain and needless struggle with their humanity and capacity for hope. Pictures like these provide a great counterpoint to the lies about refugees’ intentions that are spread daily in the media.
Joanna Piotrowska creates raw and inviting pictures that focus heavily on questions of identity and familial relationships. Creating portraits that in their very ambivalence unsettle and make the viewer question notions of selfhood, she says of her work that it aims “not to tell a story, but evoke scattered associations of inertia, violence or being mentally overwhelmed, but all of this accompanied by contradictory feelings: intimacy, closeness, joy, protection, and tenderness.”
Upcoming Exhibitions: Chapter Art Centre, Cardiff, UK; Southard Reid, London, UK; Art Basel/Statements, Dawid Radziszewski Gallery, Basel, Switzerland; ROOM, Sadie Coles, London, UK
Having learned his scientific and catalogue-like approach at the Dusseldorf school of photography, Mikahilov is known for documenting his native Russia. Among his best works are his photographs of children’s playgrounds, linking their use of rocket imagery with the old Soviet desire to conquer space. As he eloquently puts it: “these children’s rockets have become heaps of rusting ruins. These rockets are the nostalgic story of my childhood, an attempt to run away from reality into the world of dreams.”
The Polish-born photographer has had his work exhibited everywhere from London to Toronto. His opus is the Family Triptych, which took five years to produce. Focusing on his relationship with his wife and child, it uses abstraction to unbound it from the constraints of time. As his website says: “Despite using photography whose exhibitionist potential is well known this is not a story about privacy and access to it. The possibility disappears from our sight very quickly.”