A strange sensation imposed on my body when I encountered the work by Oleg Dou (Russia, 1983). One that is almost indescribable due to the unnatural nature of the body of work. Dou creates portraits, encompassing the composition of the photograph that we are all familiar with but manipulates the images in such a way that we get into contact with the surreal. His series Cubs demonstrates the portrayal of the most innocent form of human kind, but even these beings are in touch with the dead, an idea that is immediately associated with the Devil. Therefore our natural instinct is clouded by something new, and it becomes almost impossible to place these images. But that is the beauty of it; the absurd and confronting aspect that makes us feel a tad bit uncomfortable. Oleg Dou talks about wanting to come into contact with something that borders beauty and death, it seems that his own images portray exactly that. On the other hand, Another Face depicts the idea of wearing a mask to hide your true self, but your eyes already tell your whole story, but can that mask become your other self? Often masks are worn in order to create a different persona, to get away from who we really are. The lines added onto the photographs also seem to resemble those markings drawn on the body when a face lift or some other body transformation is about to take place. In a way, plastic surgery is also a form of mask because you are hiding from who you truly are, what you truly look like. In a very extreme manner this also reflects the idea of bordering beauty and death at the same time. But his work doesn't repel in the sense that we are confronted with blood splattered images, instead the scale-infected portraits subtly depict violence; a rough aesthetic we, in the Western society, are not used to.
All in all, a body of work that says a lot about Dou himself, and the society that we find ourselves in today. Many photographers and artists despise his work because it doesn't quite fall into either category; but his aim is to manipulate, defeating the rational by deformation, but keeping an element of realism. Portraying the fine line between beauty and death.
Interested in Dou's work? Don't miss out on his current exhibition in Paris, for more information visit our online event here.
Written by May Putman Cramer