I have visited Tate Modern’s new exhibition spanning the career of Ilya Kabakov and his wife.

The chronologically displayed show did not disappoint. Beginning with the artist’s early works, created in secrecy during the communist regime in Russia, where only state sanctioned art was allowed, and continuing through nine magnificent rooms of multi-sensory excitement.

It was an exciting experience to finally see these installations in reality after poring over their printed versions for years, meticulously planned and lovingly executed life stories of fictional characters trying to escape life’s bureaucratic shackles.

Feeling quite at home in the eastern-block aesthetic (having spent my childhood in it), I found the works emotional and the presented realities tinted with a bittersweet nostalgia.  Room 8 , Labyrinth, My Mother’s Album, the only directly autobiographical piece, had an especially strong affect on me; with dark, endlessly winding corridors spotted with doors leading nowhere. The images and accompanying text around the walls, told the story of the artist’s mother in her own words, with photos from the family album. The story is of extreme hardship and isolation in an all-encompassing regime where every aspect of life is preordained.  The low level lighting (achieved by partially painted bare light-bulbs) and Russian romantic songs made the atmosphere heavy and claustrophobic.

Highly recommend the show for everyone, there is amazing craftsmanship, a multiplicity of approaches and wonderful works throughout from paintings, drawings, to installations and sculptural works.

Monika Tobel