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TOLYA, the Plumber

2004 – 2005

The choice of material for Kadyrova’s first tile sculpture was partially motivated by the name of the exhibition for which it was originally created. Despite the fact that the show “Tile. Plumbing,” planned for the Guelman Gallery in Kyiv in 2004, never occurred, Kadyrova discovered an artistic material that would later become iconic for her oeuvre. Domestic tile, with its ready-made color, acts as a kind of prototype of color in painting and allows the artist paradoxically to combine the media of sculpture and painting. 


In her first figurative sculpture, Kadyrova metaphorically turns the material inside out, transforming the subject of the sculpture into its form: the plumber is made of the same material from which he would make his living. Thus, this first tile work surpasses a merely formal artistic quest, becoming a meaningful commentary on labor relations in contemporary society. We are our work. Work as a necessary measure for 

maintaining financial stability and not a process of internal self-realization consumes our life with the speed of proliferating cancer cells. We think through our work, we are made of our work and are completely transformed into what should be only a means, but not the point of our existence. 


Tile also introduces a historical narrative into the current discussion of the labor problem. Kadyrova’s Plumber looks like a three-dimensional reincarnation of the numerous Soviet-era tile mosaics depicting joyful workers and peasants optimistically stretching out their hands and tools toward the bright future. The flat, two-dimensional utopian ideology of the USSR is transformed into three-dimensional post-Soviet reality: the tile Plumber unassumingly huddles in a corner of the gallery, with his hand in his pocket, dejectedly staring at his tool case on the floor. 

© Тексты о работах: Олена Червонык, Виталий Атанасов

© Дизайн: Денис Рубан 

© Переводы: Лариса Бабий,

Екатерина Кочеткова, Марьяна Матвейчук,

Куролай Абдухаликова

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