Galerie Jan Dhaese, Ghent
Max Razdow’s “Metropolis Drawings” collect the history and geography of a city in becoming, rendered from the bones of abstraction with mixed mediums, pen and ink. The works become a corollary for present and future states, ranging from the mural scale Metropolis to dozens of small ink drawings, sketches and notes. The drawings trace the wax and wane of a fictive city in ages from its founding forward, building a world reverberating through time and unfolding itself to meet monads of urgency and grace. Characters, creatures and spatial components of the Metropolis have narrative qualities, using epic, fantasy laden textual elements to collect an unfixed tale. Considering these as singular and obtuse works is an important antidote to the idea that these are simply fantasy illustrations. They are mutable elements that are activated by storytelling (even generative of it). Razdow’s works linger as poetic attributions to an untold story — one bridging metaphysical, mystical and experiential qualities that are reflective of the world we know.
In the Metropolis, we are met with ritual geographies, elemental forges, miscast rulers, dueling pantheons of ulterior worlds, heroes (human, bestial and divine), and maps attempting to trace their interplay. The epic origination stories, rebellions and turmoil hinted at in the works reveal Razdow’s way of engaging with both classic myths and contemporary realities. Aspects include the rise of emptiness and control in some ages of the Metropolis, and we can glimpse hope in the mirror of individuals seeking liminal, supernatural forces and creatures evolved from enraptured nature. A confluence of radical empathy and resolve emerge as themes for protagonists: a centaur woman born from a dolphin to work subversive magic and wield power. Despite the rhythm of the Metropolis’ rises and falls, its geography remains a mutable monument. Its walls shift with time but stand on strong foundations: a memorial engine of the archetypal past setting possibilities for future ages.