“Servants of Chronos” (2006)

This series consists of 27 works, photo print, canvas, 100 x 70 cm


Eugen Zelman (Kiev, Ukraine) is a photographer, graphic artist and painter who works with the theme of masculinity and male eroticism. He investigates the special nature of nude sculpture by applying classical as well as modern technology.

Eugen Zelman’s photo project “The servants of Chronos” (2006) – is a visual exploration of the relationship between body and time, which is created by combining photography, collage and painting. It references both the Classical mythological tradition (ancient visualisation) and the Symbolism and Surrealism of the early twentieth century.  The design uses an aging patina effect, and the artist has chosen to print on canvas. Together these create a retro effect, emphasising the artist’s subtly ambiguous and multi layered viewpoint, and inviting us to make the journey back in time. Interesting rhythmic effects create a contrast between the geometric shapes that are present in the frame (a cube covered with newsprint, a conical peaked hat, a round clock face) and the naked heroes’ plastically bending bodies.

The name “The servants of Chronos” is ambiguous and mysterious.

The Greek god Chronos represents the movement of time, and the unity of stasis and dynamism which is one of the foundations of life. However, the ancient Greeks saw in Cronus (or Kronos) a cruel and powerful God, ruthless with his enemies and rivals. The story in which Cronus devours his children, fearing that they might deprive him of power, is widely known; it reminds us that time is relentless and ruthless, like sand flowing out through our fingers, beyond our power to slow down. But did Chronos have servants? Ancient myths are silent about it, leaving the mystery unsolved. Maybe we are all servants – or slaves – of time?

Like the photos of Surrealist artists who worked in the mid 1920’s (Man Ray, Raoul Ubaque), Eugen Zelman’s works are rich in symbolism. The image of the clock recurs from photo to photo, often with a distorted dial plate: each shows a different time. Another recurrent symbol – scattered newspapers in different languages, symbolises the vanity and eclectic nature of modern life. However, their headlines are unreadable, they are scattered in a heap on the floor, their messages in the world of “Servants of Cronus” do not have the slightest importance. Thus, the artist manages to create a timeless space – a space in which the passage of time is slowed down, or is not there at all, the subtle space of eroticism in which “nobody watches the clock.” The heroes are naked, deprived of clothes and therefore of cultural codes, allowing us to find ourselves in a space where time seems to have been forgotten. Nothing matters – neither the stars, symbolizing the night, nor the maple leaf, symbolising autumn, which together form the background against which the models are photographed. They are all emphasised graphically, “pictorially” – they are just a backdrop, decoration, an aesthetic frame for the characters.

The heroes of Eugene Zelman’s Project are slender young men with attractive erotic bodies, but their images and poses are not defiant. They seem to emerge from the dream-space, subtle and elusive, like shadows at dawn. The perfect curves of their bodies remind us of the Classical Antique canon; their nakedness also refers to the first pornographic photography and erotic silent films created at the dawn of photography and cinema.

Of particular interest is a visual language, through which the artist explores and describes the masculinity of his characters. One glance at the work is enough to understand that these young men have nothing in common with the traditional strong male body that is associated with aggression and belligerence. They look unselfconscious, and resigned with deep dark shadows around their eyes … Chronos’s Servants by Eugen Zelman are like the silent-sad clown Pierrot, frozen in anticipation.

But what are they waiting for? Where should they direct their gaze? Perhaps they have had a moment to look into the abyss of time?

The artist leaves his viewers puzzled, providing the space for their own thoughts and fantasies.