Nicolas Ceccaldi, Camouflage Chameleon, 11–30.3.21

Su-27 Guzzler, 2021, plastic, acrylic paint

Guzzler presents a sculpture exhibition by Nicolas Ceccaldi (b. 1983) consisting of a miniature reproduction of the Su-27. Engineered by Sukhoi in the Soviet Union as a rival to the American F-15 and F-16, the Su-27 first flew in 1977 and after successive rounds of improvements, entered service in 1985. After the fall of the Berlin wall, Russia continued its development, with a number of export successes. Despite a tragic record of deadly crashes, the Su-27 continues to impress crowds at air shows notably with the spectacular Cobra manoeuvre*.

The model in this exhibition is built from a plastic kit as realistically as possible, rendering in accurate detail the original aircraft design, with the exception of a “fantasy” paint template which differs from all other existing variations of the Su-27. In its composition, the camouflage pattern of a Japanese version of the F-15 provides a general script which is complicated by painterly improvisation. However, the truly distinctive feature is the unorthodox use of fluorescent green and yellow. These bright colours enhance the aircraft with a youthful and vivid appearance, in contrast to the way it would normally look in operation. Were it to be used in reality on a full-scale jet fighter, this colour template would be nonsensical, contradicting the fundamental purpose of camouflage.

Military camouflage and high-visibility colours are antithetical concepts with opposite aims and effects. In combination, they cancel each other resulting in a standstill, suspended at arm’s-length from any possible action. Once again, Art eludes the worldly chain of cause and effect and proves itself antithetical in nature to the pressures of functionality.

*In aerobatics, the Cobra manoeuvre is a demanding manoeuvre in which an airplane flying at a moderate speed suddenly raises the nose to the vertical position, momentarily stalling the plane and making it a full-body air brake, before dropping it back to normal, during which the aircraft does not change effective altitude.