“I have always been interested in the relative non-variability of landscapes — whether it be a natural or architectural landscape — and historical events passing through them, human fates, and faces. I ask my heroes to stop. And they stop in front of the camera as if in front of the infinity of time and space, exposing their greatness, beauty and fragility. That is how I wish to remember them and how I wish to talk about them, and therefore I photograph them like this, assuming that the artistic photograph will capture the elusiveness and the emotions it aroused in me. Or at least I do everything I can to save them.”
About the Artist
Valery Katsuba (born July 21, 1965) is an artist working in the realms of photography, video and performance; he also writes stories. His best known photographic series are Phiscultura (2006), The Model: Classic and Contemporary (2018), The Seasons. My Friends (2005). Each was created as a narrative, based on classical traditions in art and literature, and on historical research. To create such photographic series the artist works (as director, choreographer or trainer) with models – athletes, dancers, actors, circus performers, workers or friends. His work can be found in the collections of the Centre Pompidou (Paris), the Russian Museum (St Petersburg), the Museum of the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Madrid) and others.
Valery Katsuba started out in the world of photography as a stage director on the eve of the new millennium. For New Year's Eve, marking the turn from 1999 to 2000, he set up a crew that included Andrey Samatuga and Yury Vinogradov, to record the way that the city of St Petersburg was meeting the new millennium. This inspired him to create, that same winter, a series that came to be known as Winter Tales, a collaboration with Yury Vinogradov, Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe and Evgeny Sorokin. In the archives he researched the ways that the residents of St Petersburg commemorated the arrival of new year 1900, leading to another project, New Year's Festivities. St Petersburg 1900 and 2000, composed of contemporary and archival photographs. This was shown by Olga Sviblova in the Moscow House of Photography that same year. From 2002, Valery Katsuba moved from producing and directing to taking photographs himself. Seeking to discover connections between all times and spaces, through things that please the eye and the imagination, he produced a series of portraits of friends, The Seasons. My Friends (2000-2005). His aim was to create an impression of timelessness, in order to put the focus on the combined appearance and character of the subject. The Seasons. My Friends was exhibited at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art in 2005. Poetic series of portraits are now one key aspect of the artist's work.
The other trend in the artist’s work is determined by the influence of the academic, realistic tradition in art. Under this influence he produced two series of photographs, Phiscultura (Physical Culture) and Air Flight. Phiscultura premiered in Madrid at the Society of Fine Arts (Circulo de Bellas Artes) in 2006. It is a visual narrative on the influence on contemporaries of trends in sport and physical education over the past 100 years. Air Flight (2010-16) is a series of photos and videos capturing Moscow aerial gymnasts.
The influence of artistic academies is obvious in The Model: Classic and Contemporary, a series that combines photographs taken at the St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts (the shoot curated by Semen Mikhailovsky), at the Museum of the San Fernando Royal Academy in Madrid (the shoot curated by José Maria Luzon), and at the Academy of San Carlos and the Museum of San Carlos in Mexico City (curated by José Manuel Springer). In this series, Valery Katsuba establishes a dialogue between ancient cultures, the cultures of the Renaissance, the Baroque, the Neoclassical, and the Modern. Amidst copies of ancient sculpture at the Academy of St Petersburg, he photographs contemporary dancers of the Mariinsky Theater. Amidst copies of ancient sculpture in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Madrid, he photographs athletes from the Spanish Olympic team; ballerinas from the National Dance Company are set against the background of paintings by Francisco Goya.
“There is nothing more attractive than the dream of perfection and truth. When Valery Katsuba’s camera captures ballet dancers and dancers in front of Goya’s paintings or copies of antique sculptures... it connects art and life. No triumph can be higher than the vital aspiration of a strong and at the same time fragile human nature.” Antonio Bonet
In Mexico City, next to copies of sculptures from ancient Greece and Rome at the Academy of San Carlos and the Museum of San Carlos, he photographed the traditional Indian ball game and Conchero dancers.
“The result of this spontaneous collaboration was stunning: for the first time in one work of art, in one set scene, one can observe samples of classical aesthetics (such as a Renaissance sculpture or a copy of ancient sculpture) and Conchero dancers posing as guardians of the culture of the Indians of the continent.” José Manuel Springer
“Valery Katsuba reminds us (Mexicans) of who we are - the merging of races. His exhibition is innovative, and this is a stylistic exercise outside the usual norms." Carmen Gaitán
All three parts of the series The Model: Classic and Contemporary were shown in the National Museum of San Carlos in Mexico City in 2018-19, including staged photographs of the educational process taken in the Academies of St Petersburg, Madrid and Mexico City.
The artist has also worked on special projects with companies such as MaxMara and Christian Dior, and on two joint projects with the artist Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe (Every Passion is Blind and Wild, 2001 and Metamorphoses of the Monarch for St Petersburg Early Music Festival supported by Marc de Mauny and Andrey Reshetin, 2005); in collaboration with Katya Galitzine he directed and produced the 60th birthday party of Mick Jagger in the Yusupov Palace in St Petersburg, for which he staged a performance with acrobats. He has also staged a performance at the National Museum of San Carlos (Mexico City) and produced a series of family portraits. In 2015, at the St Petersburg Academy of Arts he presented a project that is still in progress, Far Away From Home, the tale of a sailor getting to know the world, consisting of a series of photographs and short stories.
Valery Katsuba currently lives and works in St Petersburg and Madrid.