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Optimistic Melancholy


How do you combine two incompatible things into one whole where the opposite elements coexist? I want to create work that is fun but sober. I do not have pink sunglasses on my eyes. I see everything as it is, but still, I am full of optimism. I want my work to be playful and enjoyable to look at, but point out the chaotic nature of the world. 


As I wander through the streets I see different moments of the past that are connected in the present. I see the present moments and their abstractness. I see how our world of today is blurred. Different images and experiences smash into one another. Most people do not live in the present and do not think about the past or future. Then, where do they live? When thousands of people die in Israel and Gaza, it does not feel anymore that so many people died. You scroll through your Instagram feed and it feels that the world has no borders or limits. It is inexhaustible. As one guy said once, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” With our technological developments the world got bigger, but our hearts got smaller. Most people of today live outside of the physical reality, but it is not too late to bring them back. As an artist, how do you bring them back? I want my work to demonstrate a belief in the human hand which is not perfect. I want to bring the physicality and rawness of the materials that I am working with. I want to use the materials that are literally “on the streets,” which is the other way of saying - the materials that are accessible to anyone. The materials that hold its history with them, consequently different histories create a new one. The world with its imperfection is right in front of you. It is not on your screen. The question is do they want to come back at all? I hope so, thus comes my optimism. 


There is always the dark cloud hovering over us. It is not new. But what do we do with this cloud? Can we finally and collectively acknowledge that the great promise of modernism has failed? The price of having an iPhone in our pockets isn’t a thousand bucks, it is the price of having an atomic bomb along with other weapons of mass destruction. It is also the price of having an AI amongst us. Lethargic happiness with comfort did not come without a price. When you do not have any illusions anymore, but you still have hopes for a better tomorrow, then the optimistic melancholy appears. 


Today, it is either “this” or “that,” you cannot take the position of being somewhere “in-between.” It feels like nothing can coexist in this world anymore. What I am really after is to show that it is possible to connect the elements that do not fit together, and through the absence of the connection to find beauty. It is much easier to take a stand for something in particular and blame the other side, it is harder to take a stand for everything in this world. The world with its ugliness is still our world. The question is where do we go from here? What went wrong in the past that we have the hostile present that is full of bigotry and hatred? The present that we experience on the screens in our homes in the Western Hemisphere.


My work doesn’t go out there to make friends. It doesn’t give you any resolution. But it gives you hope for living in this world, even though the world goes to hell. It demonstrates how to find beauty in the lack of something. Something that has been dissolved in the never-ending reposts and likes. My work shows how to make a statement without saying one. I screw and staple down stuff to the walls for a reason. It is immediate since we do not have much time anymore. I do not make a commodified product. I am not a decorator. Our culture needs to erase the predispositions of an artist as a clown and that making art is fun. It is not fun, it is a very serious physical and mental labor that comes as a vocation. What comes as a vocation is not simply for sale. 


I reflect on our culture and the world. This is not an object that you can buy, it is my worldview we are talking about. Thus it cannot be for sale. My work is ephemeral. It exists for a moment, then it disappears like everything in this world. And what you have is just a memory, or a photograph of this memory as a reminder of my worldview that stays not on the wall but in your head, and it screams for a better tomorrow. 


Alex Vlasov

October 2023

Alex Vlasov, Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances, Acrylic, magazine pages, drawings, found objects, fabric, drywall, briefcase, stepladder, hardware, staples, 42" x 52 1/2" x 6 1/4", 2023

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