Born 1960 in Kharkov, Ukraine.
From 1969 through 1978 Sergey Bratkov attended the Repin Art College in Kharkov.
In 1983, he graduated from the department of Industrial Electronics at the Polytechnic Academy in Kharkiv to complete the typical Soviet education.
In 1987, Bratkov’s had his first solo shows in Kharkiv, Cheb, and Tel Aviv. In the following years, he enjoyed international recognition from his solo exhibitions at the Forum Stadtpark Graz, in Berlin, Nuremberg, Wisconsin, and Triest. He also took part in smaller and larger post-Soviet group exhibitions in Finland and New York, international art fairs, the Sao Paulo Biennale 2002, the Moscow Photobiennale and at the Venice Biennale, in 2003 at the Russian Pavilion while in 2007 at the Ukrainian one.
Sergey Bratkov’s work is heavily influenced by his Kharkiv origin. For many years he worked with Boris Mikhailov, a mature artist who developed his radical realist style with the underground Vremia group. During this time, Mikhailov learned to confront social taboos without trepidation. In Kharkiv, a large industrial town, misery and poverty are omnipresent: homeless children, prostitutes, frozen corpses, and drunks depress the already devastated landscape. In this setting, social realism is essential and the portrait, in its transcendent and stereotypical form, of special value. Whether portraying party members, workers, peasants, space travelers, scholars, or soldiers, every individual is presented as a hero. This crude standardization also characterizes National Socialist art.
Sergey Bratkov must be considered in the Soviet and post-Soviet context. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian and Ukranian photography reconstructed itself according to the Western tradition. It managed, however, to maintain a unique identity due to its original form and content.
The nineties witnessed a radical change in photographic tendencies. On one hand, there was a return to the Constructivism pioneered by Rodchenko; on the other, forms of staged photography emerged, including tableaux vivants, landscape, documentary, and action photography. Artists also experimented with photographic manipulation to create ironic and cynical images using Photoshop. In Moscow, many important artists launched a new era of photography with the Group AES, Efimov, Group Fenso, Infante father and son, Liberman, Kulik, and Mukhin, among others.
Prior to this revolution, there were signs of a bourgeoning avant-garde Russian and Ukranian photography. In the 1960’s, there was a special development in Ukraine’s Kharkiv. A group of photographers established themselves in the underground art world as pioneers of a radical realism. Members of the Vremia group not only transformed “permitted” subject matter such as architecture and labor, but also confronted taboo themes such as of male nudity. Bratkov’s, Michailov’s and Solonski’s resistant and progressive “Fast Reactoin Group” grew up out of this movement.
Sergey Bratkov has a rare talent for expressing serious ideas with easy humour and serving up ridicule with great ceremony. The pathos of his male subjects is offset by the absurdity of his view of them to begin with, and the madness of his characters is counterbalanced by the systematic way in which they are presented. The balance of brutality and tenderness, comedy and tragedy, is a characteristic feature by which the Kharkov school of photography may be recognised immediately in Bratkov’s pictures. His style as a photographer is predetermined by the archetypal figure of Southern Russian humour.
Since 2000 Sergey Bratkov lives and works in Moscow.
Sergey Bratkov’s artworks have been included in several important collections such as Gazprombank, Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, Antwerp; National Center for Contemporary Art, Moscow; MARTa Herford, Germany; PinchukArtCentre, Kiev, Tiroche DeLeon collection, among the others.