Publications, interview, links

Calling for Action, Ekaterina Wagner, "Russian Art Focus", 14 issue, December, 2020

Film. In the Footsteps of Ghosts, Geraint Rhys Whittaker, "Wales Arts Review", February, 23, 2020

From Wales to Dzerzhinsk 'In the Footsteps of Ghosts. Geraint Rhys' award-winning film about the artist Pavel Otdelnov, Michele A. Berdy, "The Moscow Times", February, 22, 2020

Artist profile: Pavel Otdelnov, Santanu Borah, "Asian Curator", February, 15, 2020

Pavel Otdelnov: Future Ruins, Kate de Pury, "Russian Art Focus", 14 issue, January, 2020

See Death and Life in Dzerzhinsk, Aaron James Wedland, "The Moscow Times", February 18, 2019

The Last of the Soviet Artists: Who are they?, Victoria Lomasko lection in the Wende Museum, March, 23, 2019

Artist probes Russia's toxic legacy through family history, Kate de Pury, Associated Press Agency, February 20, 2019
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The Collapse of Communism, Whanganui Chronicle, March, 8, 2019

Thinking big. Five promising young artists whose large-scale paintings make a big splash, "Russian Art Focus", 1 issue, November, 2018

NEMOSKVA International Travelling Symposium NCCA and ROSIZO by Andrey Shental, Flash Art

Ural Biennal 2017: Literacy for the New Age by Robert Schulte, SPIKE Art Magazine, October, 3, 2017

Deserts: 2002-2017, Moscow Mayor official website, March, 3, 2017

Pavel Otdelnov, poete du nulle part (French), Rusina Shikhatova, "Le courrier de Russie", №311, september — october 2016

Grim post-Soviet landscapes of Moscow's residential districts, Daria Donina, "Russia Beyond the Headlines",  January, 4, 2015

Biennale of young art opens in Moscow, The Calvert Journal, June, 25, 2014

Alles, was ich will, ist dass der Krieg aufhröt! (German), Larissa Mass, "Moskauer Deutche Zeitung", 2014

Main culture events of the week, Ekathimerini (Greek), February, 24, 2019

Fragments Of The Past": The Superb Contemporary Industrial Paintings By Pavel Otdelnov, designyoutrust, 2019

Press-release of the Pavel Otdelnov exhibition "Promzona", Moscow Museum of Modern Art 

Newsmakers of the month, Ekaterina Wagner, "Russian Art Focus", February 2019

Moodboard. Pavel Otdelnov "Promzona", Dialogue of Arts Magazine, №1, 2019

Pavel Otdelnov. Horizontal motion. Ground Magazine, 2018

Ural Biennal 2017: Literacy for the New Age, An interview with curator João Ribas, Robert Schulte, SPIKE Art Magazine, October, 3, 2017

Mall, Triumph gallery, 2015. Press release on the Triumph gallery website

Russia. Realism. XXI century, The State Russian Museum

Inner Degunino, MMOMA, 2014

Russian Investment Art Rating 49art

The best russian contemporary artists by "Arteex"


A Russian artist glimpses history in the making by exploring the country’s ugly side – from toxic industrial wastelands to city landfills.
Seen from high above, a massive, sculpted ziggurat rises out of the dense pine forest that stretches to the horizon. At first glance, clean, architectural lines in this work ‘Landfill Alexandrov’ by Russian artist Pavel Otdelnov, almost mask the fact that the towering mass is simply tonnes of garbage, packed into a landfill site.
But the other painting in his exhibit for this year’s Moscow Biennale zooms in on the same landfill and here it’s an uncompromising, hyper-real view, showing a cluster of dump trucks lost in a vast sea of rubbish. In ‘Landfill Timokhovo’ flecks of coloured plastic give way to an unnatural grey-on-grey horizon of flattened garbage that is entirely man-made. It’s a chilling vision, but one that reflects one of the most hotly-debated issues in Russia today: how to dispose of the waste generated by its new consumer society. Otdelnov joins that debate in his latest work. He filmed an investigation into where his own trash went after he threw it away, producing an 18-minute video ‘The Trash Trip’, which plays alongside his paintings in the new wing of Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery, as part of the current Biennale.
The artist attached GPS satellite trackers to his garbage; one was stuffed inside an old bread roll, another encased in bubble wrap and a third placed in a discarded soap box. Otdelnov charts their progress with cool detachment. He narrates in matter-of fact style as we see the flashing GPS signal travel from his courtyard trash container to the waste plant where workers sort rubbish by hand (selecting only about 10 percent for recycling) and finally to the landfill in a forest over 200 km from Moscow. It’s a personal story, but one Otdelnov scales up with devastating effect. “As an ordinary person, a citizen, I live here in Russia and I do this each day,” Otdelnov told Russian Art Focus. “Near me, there are a million people, doing exactly the same thing without really thinking about it.”
Following local protests in 2018 against the noxious effects of waste sites around outer Moscow, city authorities began transporting trash further afield to neighbouring regions and even as far as the Archangelsk one in Northwest Russia.
When residents of Shiyes, a village in a region located over 1,100 km from Moscow, discovered plans to locate a new landfill on their doorstep, they set up a protest camp to stop construction of the facility, which is due to process 500,000 tonnes of the capital’s waste each year. Local officials, eager to fulfil orders from the capital, called in security groups and there were sporadic clashes with local activists as plans for the dump went ahead. It’s a sensitive topic for the Kremlin as the strategy of exporting rubbish seems also to have exported protests to these new locations. The plight of Shiyes has struck a chord with ordinary Russians and thousands of people across the northwest joined protests this summer.
“Of course, it’s awful and I completely sympathise with those people who are protesting against this landfill site,” Otdelnov said. He watched intently during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual call-in this year, expecting a response to the Shiyes garbage protests, but none came. “He avoided it because it’s not a popular subject,” Otdelnov said. “Besides, I think he supports building a landfill in Shiyes. That’s why he didn’t talk about it.”
Reflecting on past political power is familiar territory for Otdelnov, whose haunting landscapes often reflect the breakup of the Soviet Empire and Russia’s search for a new social and economic path. But this is the first time he has made an artistic intervention into a live political controversy. In Russia, this carries a degree of risk.

Otdelnov says this step into “social consciousness” was important for his development as an artist.
He points to a politically-engaged art tradition in Russia, from the 19th century ‘Peredvizhniki’, who staged mobile exhibitions “for the people” outside Moscow and St. Petersburg, to the revolutionary art of 20th century Avant-Garde. But he claims he is not worried about repercussions, because his aesthetic treats the personal experience of ordinary Russians with a sense of distance, thereby removing it from everyday politics. It’s a balance between detachment and personal involvement which he seeks in all his work.“I look at what is going on as a person on the inside and as if I am also at one remove… as if it was another civilisation, not the one I am part of,” Otdelnov explains. “To me it’s important to have that viewpoint. Art makes this perspective possible.”
Art critic Ari Akkermans says the work on show at the Moscow Biennale marks him as “one of the emerging voices in contemporary Russian art”. He argues that Otdelnov’s brand of “melancholy realism” is right on trend, as global contemporary art rediscovers figurative painting. “Otdelnov represents a kind of renewal of figurative painting… something unseen in Eastern Europe for a long time, where it’s usually conceptual/abstract art that leads, followed by a kind of ironic realism… His paintings are not just historical scenes, but have a very emotional connection. It’s a personal story,” Akkerman argues.
Earlier this year, in a solo show with the title “Promzona” at Moscow’s Museum of Modern Art, Otdelnov dug deep into his own personal history and that of the city where he grew up. Born into a Soviet-era ‘labour dynasty’, Otdelnov drew on stories of his family, three generations of engineers who worked at highly polluted chemical factories of Dzerzhinsk, to examine what he described as “the ruins of a Soviet mythology”.
In ‘Promzona’ (which translates as “Industrial Zone”), Otdelnov’s huge, photographically-precise canvases showed the now abandoned factories where his family once worked, interspersed with everyday objects and stories of their lives. His exploration of Russia’s Soviet industrial past shows how its mythology failed to translate into reality for the ordinary people working in often dangerous and toxic environments. And yet growing up in Dzerzhinsk, Otdelnov says he felt it was an optimistic place. Born in 1979, just over a decade before the Soviet Union collapsed, he traces his first exposure to art to his father, who would often illustrate explanations of how science worked. “He would tell me stories and draw them. He showed me how to put out a fire; he made drawings of how big machines worked,” Otdelnov recalls. He remembers, too, how his grandfather tried to direct Otdelnov’s early artistic career. He disapproved of young Pavel’s dark comic-book illustrations and would buy him brightly-decorated colouring books. Pavel didn’t take the bait and simply coloured the drawings in black. “He was fighting against the blackness, he wanted my drawing to be more optimistic, but it didn’t work,” says Otdelnov, remembering how offended he was when his grandfather found another use for his dark drawings. Those were the days when toilet tissue was in short supply in Soviet households, Otdelnov chuckles.
Today he says he is ready to leave the ruins of Russia’s Soviet past behind, to look further at the “present-day ruins” of landfill sites being constructed every day at huge speeds. It’s history in the making, on a human scale. The story of our civilisation will be told by archaeologists of the future, sifting through these sites to piece together a picture of people’s lives through the garbage they threw away, Otdelnov explains. “It’s a way of looking at history so you can touch it… offering not the big narrative, or big historical concepts, but reflecting history through your own reality.

Kate de Pury, "Pavel Otdelnov: Future Ruins", "Russian Art Focus" #14, January 2020


The prevailing topic of the artist’s works is urban environment of industrial outskirts and the person’s experience of being in this area. Non-sites depicted by him are the part of his artistic- research project. The author’s strategy can be described by M. McLuhan‘s words: "Art is not to be the vault of impressions, but to explore the surrounding, otherwise it will stay invisible". In his works we can see industrial areas, town outskirts with standard buildings, dullness and hopelessness of which are diluted by alien patches of ridiculous in their inappropriate brightness "colorful sheds" — supermarkets, countless clones of town buildings of 2000-s. In shuttle movement from nowhere to nowhere, setting the tempo-rhythm of our daily routine, these non-sites always stay on the periphery of our consideration. «Taste is the scare of life» (M. Ugarov). In fact, the developed aesthetic feeling, which makes us look away squeamishly from anything what does not comply with it, restricts us.

The more it is developed, the narrower is the spot, which seems to be a reality for us. This psychological mechanism works when we don’t notice daily occurrence, which is not in congruence with our likes as our unseeing glance glide typical depressing environment of the town outskirts. Our aesthetic feeling is formed by existing discourses — such optics always falls behind. It is impossible to catch the image of present with the help of yesterday’s cognitive instruments. Present finds out to be practically invisible. That’s why Pavel changes the optics and tries to observe present from the future: to imagine what a person would see in our deserted industrial landscapes , who has different cultural prisms, enabling him to have a different look at non-sites: interested, accepting, forgiving, sweet, seeing fragility and temporariness of today’s urban monsters. As the artist says, they can fall apart into pixels and vanish.

Svetlana Polyakova, "Non-Sites in Art and Posthuman World", "Dialogue of Arts", #4. 2017

Interview in the Newspaper"Le courrier de Russie", (French), №311, september – october 2016.
Click to enlarge


Interview in the Newspaper "Moskauer Deutche Zeitung"(German)
Click to enlargeLitography from the "Industrial project", Magazine "Idantutkimus" (Finnish), 02, 2015


The album "Ark" of the KernHerbst group with the artwork "Ark". 2014