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Igor Kruter - Transience to Eternity/ text by Shirley Meshulam

The first solo exhibition of photographer Igor Kruter in Israel includes works and a collection of his Art works from 2007 to 2019 along with his engagement as a professional photographer in the field of fashion and advertising.

Kruter, a native of Odessa (1979), has a photography studio in Tel Aviv. He immigrated to Israel in 1991 at the time of the 'Great Aliyah' from the former Soviet Union. He studied for a year at the Rabbi Grossman Yeshiva in Migdal HaEmek and then pursued his studies at the educational boarding school in the Jordan Valley's Kibbutz Beit Zera, where he lived for five years. During that time, he developed an interest in art and took up painting. Throughout his military service, he took part for the first time in a group exhibition at the Chagall House in Haifa that had charcoal paintings on display.

During his studies at the ArtEZ University of the Arts in the city of Arnhem, the Netherlands, from 2003 to 2007. He studied techniques in the style of great Dutch-painting artists as he began taking his first photographs at the Institute’s photography room. It is not a coincidence that his photography is closely and deeply related to the traditional values of Dutch painting in particular and of the great masters of European painting in general. In the field of photography, he drew inspiration from photographers Joel-Peter Witkin, Jan Saudek, and particularly the well-known Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf, who Kruter was his assistant and worked in his studio in Amsterdam.

Igor Kruter engages in the dimension of time. He raises philosophical questions about the essence of time as an influential factor on the changing body and mind. Transience and finality are embodied in metaphorical, staged, meticulous and precise photography that elevate the routine to the sublime and the mundane to the monumental. He rests on the traditional values of European painting combined with characteristics of Israeli identity and belonging to local landscapes. Kruter’s photography perceives transience as if it were eternity and eternity as if it were transient.

The connection between photography and painting and the engagement with the time dimension is already manifested in his first work ARK (Noah's Ark), which was exhibited in 2008 at the Moscow Biennial of Contemporary Art. The work consisted of one hundred closed-eyed portraits. The dramatic lighting and the frontal display of the characters perpetuate the momentary and routine action of closed eyes and marks the thin and deceptive line between wakefulness, sleep and death. The title Noah's Ark symbolizes life and survival in extreme situations of destruction and death. Even the portraits of Laura, Sergey and Susan from the Tears (2009) collection, which were photographed following his first work, were inspired by the portrait styles of Dutch painters. Kruter freezes the real tear that drops from their eyes, emphasizes the hair, the neck length, the dark background and the unique lighting that highlights the dramatic and restrained expression on their faces. The Still Fashionable Life (2017) collection, which focuses on perpetuating the fashionable, contemporary and transient, is based on the commercial photography values and the Dutch-philosophical still life VANITAS (Nonsense) genre from the seventeenth century. The time dimension is reflected in the joys of material life and the worship to materialism alongside the recognition of their temporary existence. The appearance of an Israeli watermelon alongside apples, women's shoes and jewelry, generates a photography that combines local and universal features.

At the heart of the Girls of Caracall (2008-2009) collection, which won the first prize in the 2010 Cellcom Russian Accent nationwide competition and COCON (pupa) (2012-2014) stand Israeli women who deal with transitions and temporary situations such as childhood maturity, the military-service period, femininity, pregnancy and motherhood. The young female soldiers who serve in the Karakal combat unit are positioned in a monumental fashion on the backdrop of various landscapes in Israel (Haifa, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the Judean Desert) as if they were models, even though they are not. Some are of European descent while others are of North African and Middle Eastern origin. They hold a rifle in one hand and a doll or personal effects in the other. That photo perpetuates the current state of the female soldiers, while maintaining their identity, individualism and femininity. In the COCON collection, pregnant young women and mothers with babies are displayed by the inspiration of the 'great nudes’ genre of European painting, in which symbols that suggest the fragility of existence and life in the shadow of death were embedded. In the work Helen, a young pregnant woman, standing on a pile of stones cradling her hair with her hands, is photographed and inspired by the image of the goddess Venus from the painting Birth of Venus (1879) by William Adolf Bouguereau. The pile of stones is based on the pile of skulls in the painting Apotheosis of War (1871) by the artist Vasily Vereshchagin and symbolizes birth alongside the finality of life. In another work, Vallery lies motionless with her eyes shut and a crying baby clutched to her body. She was inspired by the painting Benefits Supervisor Sleeping by British artist Lucian Freud.

The infant is identified with loneliness and the separation anxiety from the sleeping mother, who is his only source of nourishment. The preoccupation with time and its effect on the body and soul in the context of a rare disease named after the Benjamin Brothers, which causes the reversal of aging and a return to childhood, while dealing with his father's medical condition, has underlined questions and notions that led to the Untitled collection of photos, where an adult head is crossbred with a baby's body. The phenomenon of rapid growth and decay is also reflected in the work 'Potato'.

(2016), in which Igor Kruter is seen sitting and holding on his knees his father and son, symbolically opens the exhibition and also concludes it. The transient and the eternal are forever etched in a portrait photograph that transformed from individual to group and to family. It is a portrait with profound strength and meaning.