Two sides of the Belarusian design
If you happen to dig through the Louvre collection of modern prints, you will come across some sheets signed with letters “T & V”. They stand for “Tsesler & Voichenko”, which has already become the brand name of the Belarusian design. Sergej Voichenko and Vladimir Tsesler created their first poster in 1979, and have been inseparable since then. In 2004 Sergej Voichenko passed away, but it is still impossible to think about them separately.
Vladimir Tsesler was born in
Provocative allegory and grotesque irony is the trademark of T & V. Their “social posters” became instant classics. In the late 1980’s they addressed such burning issues as Soviet repressions by drawing the knife shaped as Stalin’s profile (1987) and depicting Karl Marx shaving off his beard as a sign of the coming change (1987) A beggar’s hat full of medals is another sad symbol, – sad irony on the fate of the veterans, neglected and often fooled by the regime they defended („Victory Day“) In 1999, with the authoritarian regime in Belarus getting more and more brutal, they created a poster titled “Good morning Belarus!” – the rising sun formed with the bars, so common on Belarusian windows. A less political, but still socially charged poster is titled „Sarcoma lights“, which is an anti-ad powerful enough to put anyone off smoking for good.
As designers, Tsesler and Voichenko earned their living with such things as advertising new Peugeot cars (double sunset over sea) or creating posters for musical companies and events. No matter if it was a posters for the Belarusian Military orchestra or for a jazz festival, they turned them into real pieces of art.
Tsesler and Voichenko are authors of many logos and trademarks, which you simply can’t help coming across in Belarus. They created a logo for such critical and freethingkin newspapers as BDG and “Imya”, as well as for the oppositional Unitec Civic Party, but also for the Fist National TV Channel, the notorious propaga mouthpiece of the current political regime. How do they explain this paradox? In their manifesto Tsesler and Voichenko explain that they don’t take sides and represent noone but themselves. Still, if you analyze their works carefully, you would see that the critical approach prevails in their works.
The creative couple is obviously fond of “design hooliganism”. For example, they create a mocking logo “Mentsk”, which combines the name of the Belarusian capital with the word “ment” (‘cop’), hinting at the oversized presence of uniformed people on the streets. Or they draw a series of pseudo-“lubok” pictures, grotesque remakes of the old-time Russian coloured woodcuts. More than a century ago “luboks”, combining pictures and short naive stories or verses, were sold to common Russians as a form of mass entertainment. Voichenko and Tsesler use this style to address modern phenomena. Mona Lisa turns into the red-cheeked Manya Lisa, “the Italian beauty who knew L.D.Vinchi in person”.
Riot policeman Kolka fights a Japanese ninja warrior, wolves and piglets dance in a manner of the famous Henri Matisse’s “Dance”, Lenin “who liked children and have built a cradle for the revolution but already died”, pets a cat. The artists accompany their luboks with texts, which mock both the old-time Russian style as well as the present-day reality.
Tsesler and Voichenko enjoy creating three-dimensional objects (no computer graphics, everything is hand made!). Here you find another “Manya Lisa” in the shape of “matryoshka”, , a typically soviet 3-liter glass can filled with “Coca-Cola”, a hand grenade “lemonade” and, yes, a toothy toothbrush.
“Project of the Century. 12 from the 20th” (2000) has become the final project of Tsesler and Voichenko. They created twelve objects in form of an egg representing 12 artists of the 20th century. They called it a form of “mail-art”, a message to the next century. The centerpiece is the gold-coated egg, representing Salvador Dali. When you look into the reflection, you see that the solid reality melts before your eyes, as it does on Dali’s paintings.
“This project is the result of creative comprehension and evaluation of the events that took place in the world of art of the past century”, write Tsesler and Voichenko. “The twelve sculptural portraits — images depict the greatest artists of the 20th century who expressed and to some extents shaped consciousness, taste and destiny of millions of their contemporaries. The modification of the modulus in each portrait puts an accent on the key idea of the given person. The creating of most of the objects required search for new technological inventions. Besides semantic adequacy, the use of high tech stands for an additional sign of the time, mark of the century, address of the senders.”
Who are Tsesler and Voichenko – artists or designers? Probably both. One is not perceivable without another, like two sides of the same coin.
The gold-coated egg, representing Salvador Dali
"Mona Lisa" in the shape of "matryoshka"
Dances with wolves
About Roads safety
Lemon shaped shell which is called "limonka" from the word lemon
Kolka-omon is fighting Japanese Ninja
"Project of the Century. 12 from the 20th" (2000) (eggs)
One of the paintings
More works by Voichenko and Tsesler can be found at http://www.tsesler.com/
By Ales Kudrytski