Atlas in Drawings by Yevgeny Merman

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The artist’s exhibition includes large-scale paintings inspired by the illustrated geographical atlas published in many editions in the late XIX-early XX centuries in the German city of Leipzig. Along with the landscapes and landmarks, the illustrations depict the inhabitants of countries, islands, deserts and mountains in different parts of the world. The paintings in detail show the structure of a human body, skull and face of different races and nationalities through the lens of a German explorer and illustrator whose work depicts the times of the German Empire decline and the Nazi movement creation. Merman’s paintings follow the illustrations in the second volume of the atlas dedicated to non-European countries. The artist focuses on certain images he is interested in: people from different cultures and nationalities; fauna and flora.

Merman’s paintings emphasize the discord between the West’s admiration for the “noble savage” and the history of the occupation and exploitation of these “savages”, and remind us how over the centuries until today the fear of the unfamiliar and unknown has turned into hatred and violence.

Yevgeny Merman interprets the atlas through the eyes of an artist − he only refers to the drawings and ignores the German text he cannot read. His approach in this series as a painter is less meticulous and less realistic than that of the illustrator. He selects the topics and compositions that interest him by periodically combining images from different illustrations into a single painting or by merely referring to the original illustration section. This results in a very colorful series of paintings characterized by rapid and expressive strokes. It gave a new lease of life to the old world with the great historical and traumatic events of the XX century that changed beyond recognition.

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