Art Roundup – April 2015

Happy All Fools’ Day, everyone.

Alexander Batykov

You may have seen that Google Maps has put the Pacman game at various locations on the map today. For example, check out the front lawn of the Taj Mahal. Are there similar Pacman games anywhere in Russia?

  1. In Tashkent’s House of Photography, an exhibition of the works of the graphic artist and portraitist Alexander Batykov (1939- ) started on 26 March 2015.
  2. In Paris, the Oneiro gallery holds an exhibition of the Kazakh artist Anna Sand. It runs till June 2015.
  3. Just like the Guggenheim, the State Museum of St Petersburg is opening overseas branches – one in Malaga, Spain, opened a few days ago.
  4. The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis has an exhibition of Romance in Soviet Art, running April 4 – September 30, 2015.
  5. Oh, and Tate Modern in London has a massive exhibition on Sonia Delaunay starting April 15. Did I mention this before? Whatevs… Huzzah!

Art Roundup – December 2014

Nearly the end of the year, folks, and time for yet another roundup of Russian and related art.

  1. In the Museum of Russian Icons, Moscow, there is an exhibition of the works of priestly artist and missionary Alexander Men’. It runs till December 16.
  2. At the Yasnaya Polyana Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy is an exhibition “The Unknown Mashkov“, which runs till December 9.
  3. In Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Oil Painting is an exhibition of the works from the Melnikov School in the Repin Academy of Fine Arts. Titled “The Distant Transparent“, this continues till December 15.
  4. Barcelona’s La Pedrera hosts an exhibition of the constructivist Lazar (El) Lissitzky. Titled “El Lissitzky. The Experience of Totality“, it ends Jan 18, 2015.
  5. Till December 7 at the Museum of Russian Art, Jersey City, NJ, is an exhibition of the Ukrainian circus artiste and artist Irene Koval.
  6. If you are interested in contemporary works of art from Central Asia, a good place to see what’s happening is the ENE Central Asian Art site. Ene means ‘mother’ in Turkmen and it is a Singapore-based organisation. Check out their gallery here.
  7. And there is an exhibition of Armenian dolls in Yerevan – traditional or French-inspired or Soviet-approved – you can find quite a collection. At the Yerevan Historical Museum, this runs to the end of the year.
  8. Georgian art flowered in the 1950s after the death of Stalin, and the works of Kalandadze, Nizharadze, Bandzeladze, Tsutskiridze and others can be seen at the Georgian National Museum‘s exhibition “Post-Stalin Liberalisation in Georgian Painting“, running in Tbilisi.
  9. If we do Armenian and Georgian, then surely we must do Azerbaijani as well – equal favour to these historic rivals, I say! Baku’s Museum of Modern Art has an exhibition titled “Stone”, featuring the sculptures of the Azerbaijani artist Huseyn Hagverdi.

And that’s it for the roundups of the year!

Art Roundup – May 2014

Have we got some fine events for your this month? Indeed, we have.

Animal No. 4, by Aryat Teregulov.

  1. London’s Erarta Gallery is holding an exhibition of contemporary works titled the Erarta May Fair. It runs till May 24, 2014, and includes works by Aleksandr Kosenkov, Anna Taguti, Aryat Teregulov, Danja Akulin, David Plaksin, Dmitry Shorin, Ekaterina Borodavchenko, Mikhail Lezin, Rinat Minnebaev, Valery Valran, Vyacheslav Mikhailov…
  2. I’m sorry to say I missed the Fabergé Eggs exhibition at Harrods. Instead, perhaps I should head to Tashkent where an exhibition titled The Spring of Land of Fire has opened at the Azerbaijan Cultural Center, showing works from Azerbaijani artists, such as Nazim Mammadov, Mammadhuseyn Huseynov, Hafiz Karimov, Ilaha Aliyeva, Humay Akhundova, Asif Jafarov and others.
  3. Latvian-born sculptor and artist Vija Celmins opens her first ever exhibition in Riga: ‘Double Reality‘ runs till June 22 at the Art Museum Riga Bourse.
  4. Mari Roosvalt and Mara Ljutjuk, Estonian artists, have an exhibition Traces of their works at the Estonian Embassy in Berlin. It runs till June 8.
  5. Terra is an exhibition of the works of the Karelian artist Sergei Kiselev. It runs till May 25 at the Museum of Fine Arts of the Republic of Karelia in Petrozavodsk.

Art Roundup – November 2013

It’s the Hindu festival of lights today, folks. Happy Diwali!

And here’s a quick roundup of this month’s fun.

  1. At the New Hall Art Collection in Cambridge, England, there is an exhibition of Contemporary Russian Women Artists. It runs till November 30, 2013.
  2. In Dubai‘s Cuadro Fine Arts Gallery is an exploration of the condition of women, Out of Body, in the paintings and sculptures of Aidan Salakhova, an Uzbek/Azerbaijani artist. This runs till November 7, 2013.
  3. Boris Chetkov’s works are on display this month (November 22-24, 2013) as part of the Russian Art Week at the Westbury Hotel in London.
  4. Here’s advance warning of an exhibition of Viktor Popkov’s art at the Somerset House in London in May 2014. If you can’t wait that long, there’s a book about him Viktor Popkov: A Russian Painter of Genius recently published. Huzzah!
  5. And, if you really want to check out some of the finest lifetime collections of Russian art, you could do worse than to go to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and sate your senses at the Pushkin Gallery.

Art Roundup – July 2013

Summer again, folks – in the northern hemisphere at least. I wonder if any Russian art ever finds its way to the southern half of the planet? Hmm, needs a bit of investigating.

Intourist poster (Yerevan, 1930s)

Anyway, first off we have an exhibition of Soviet-era Intourist posters: SEE USSR, at the Grad Gallery, London, until August 31, 2013. Here’s an example of one from the 1930s (via Flickr). Very art deco, eh?

Next, we have an exhibition by famous artists of Azerbaijan and Moldova at the Niagara Art Gallery in Chişinău, Moldova. There was a press release two days ago, but I can’t find any links to the exhibition itself.

The Andriaki School of Watercolours in Moscow has an exhibition Pages from the History of the Romanovs running till July 21, 2013, presenting a unique collection of drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs and documents relating to the family history of the Russian imperial family.

In Astana, Kazakhstan, there is a brilliant exhibition of the works by the ‘First female artists of Kazakhstan’. It runs at the Museum of Modern Art from July 4 – September 30, 2013. Works by such artists as Aysha Galimbaeva, Gulfairus Ismailova, Elizaveta Govorova, Mariya Lizogub, Olga Kuzhelenko, Liya Kolotilina, Emiliya Babad and Zoya Beregovaya will be displayed.

On a slightly different note, there is a travelling exhibition of children’s art called Silk Road & Silk Town, a collaborative exhibition between China and Uzbekistan. If you’ve missed the displays at Jiaxing, don’t panic – you can still catch it at Hangzhou from July 26, 2013.

Contemporary Art of the Caucasus and Central Asia

Sotheby’s held an exhibition last month as part of their sale of art from Central Asia and Caucasus. I missed it completely and am rather miffed. There were some interesting works on display, some of which I append.

The Road's End, by Hakob Hakobyan. (1997).

The Road’s End, by Hakob Hakobyan. (1997).

Maneater of Kumaon, by Merab Abramishvili. (2005).

Maneater of Kumaon, by Merab Abramishvili. (2005).

Mirages of Communism #1, by Alimjan Jorobayev. (1994).

Mirages of Communism #1, by Alimjan Jorobayev. (1994).

Untitled (from Dreams series), by Jamol Usmanov. (2010).

Untitled (from Dreams series), by Jamol Usmanov. (2010).

The Aral Beach 2, by Almagul Menlibayeva. (2011).

The Aral Beach 2, by Almagul Menlibayeva. (2011).

D. D. Shostakovich, by Tair Salakhov. (1987).

D. D. Shostakovich, by Tair Salakhov. (1987).

Alexander Volkov

I popped over to Christie’s where Alexander Volkov’s art is being exhibited. Of Sand and Silk closed yesterday after a run of about three weeks. It’s stunningly vibrant, colourful and imaginative, and is – as far as I can make out – being exhibited outside the erstwhile Soviet Union for the first time.

Self Portrait. (1938).

Self-portrait. (1938).

There was nobody else viewing the paintings so I managed to stick around for quite a while without guilt or interruption. Luckily, too, Christie’s had no objections to my taking pictures of the works. I photographed a few which I present below.

Alexander Volkov (Александр Николаевич Волков) (1886 – 1957) was of Russian origin, but born and brought up in Uzbekistan, and combined in himself a simultaneous foreignness as well as nativeness. He studied in St Petersburg and Kiev, and created in his art a synthesis of modern European styles with Uzbek folk art.

The title of the exhibition references ‘the two subjects preoccupying the artist in his early work: Central Asia’s landscape and the life of a city whose prosperity was closely linked to the production of vibrantly-coloured silk. ‘Sand’ and ‘silk’ also allude to the visceral nature of Volkov’s paintings, in which he often mixed sand into the pigment to create texture, juxtaposing the grain with multiple delicate layers of diluted paints and varnish to create very fine gradations of colour.’ [1]

Volkov’s early work was strongly influenced by Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910), a symbolist painter from Russia. Vrubel insisted that art is inseparable from everyday life, a message that Volkov took back with him to Uzbekistan after studying Vrubel’s frescoes at the Church of St Cyril in Kiev: he closely referenced Vrubel’s art but admitted his own experience and reality in Uzbekistan in his work.

The latter part of the exhibition dealt with Volkov’s Cubo-Futurist period – his compositions are divided into triangles. ‘The resulting highly dynamic works capture not only the movement, but also the sound of a passing caravan, the hub of the bazaar or the rhythm of dance.’ [1] Here are his almost ethnographic studies of the daily life and rapidly changing conditions of the Uzbeks.

Mountain rivers. (1914-15).

Mountain rivers. (1914-15).

Nude (Golden). (1915).

Nude (Golden). (1915).

Volkov rarely painted directly from nature. Instead, he would walk to the mountains (sometimes walking as far as 90 km to see a sunrise) or to the oldest part of a town and then rush home to paint while still under the impression of beauty of the sights he had seen‘. [2]

In the Chimgan Mountains. (1915).

In the Chimgan Mountains. (1915).

Repose. (1917).

Repose. (1917).

At the teahouse (During a journey). (1917).

At the teahouse (During a journey). (1917).

Untitled. (1917).

Untitled. (1917).

Sheikhantaur. (1917).

Sheikhantaur. (1917).

Bathers. (c. 1917).

Bathers. (c. 1917).

Family. (c. 1918).

Family. (c. 1918).

Below are two paintings from the series Eastern Primitive, which unites a highly diverse body of work in oil, tempera and watercolour and was regarded by the artist as one of the greatest achievements of his artistic career. The simplified compositions, strong outlines and approach to space testify to the artist’s fervid interest in Oriental miniature painting and Byzantine art. [3]

Road. (1918).

Road. (1918).

An Eastern school. (1918).

An Eastern School. (1918).

In 1911, an American journalist, William Eleroy Curtis, observed (of the people in Central Asia): ‘Everybody wears a coat like a rainbow. The poor make them of cotton prints and the rich of silk and brocades… No matter how humble or hungry a man may be, and even if he have but a single garment, that is made of the most brilliantly coloured material he can find.’ [4]

Figures at a mosque. (1918).

Figures at a mosque. (1918).

At the time Volkov worked, women in Central Asia were in purdah, excluded from social life, their windows shielded, and in the household itself, secluded to a separate area. So ‘women rarely appear in Volkov’s early works, mirroring their absence from everyday life in Turkestan. There are, however, numerous compositions depicting nude female figures bathing, most likely Volkov’s fantasy vision of life inside a harem, which the artist likely never saw in reality.’ [5]

Women. (c. 1919-20).

Women. (c.1919-20).

Coquette. (1920).

Coquette. (1920).

Fatigue. (c. 1920).

Fatigue. (c.1920).

Caravans were a recurring theme in Volkov’s work alongside chaikhanas (Central Asian teahouses), musicians and beauties.‘ [6] Below, you can see how the triangles depict the noise of a caravan passing before the viewer, all discord and moving shapes.

Caravan. (1920).

Caravan. (1920).

Women. (1921).

Women. (1921).

Below, the painter addresses a Biblical subject while incorporating elements of Central Asia’s ancient pagan mythology. Bare-breasted women dressed in bright colours, for example, are more likely to be ancient goddesses of fertility than pious Marys at Christ’s tomb… [a combination of] a sense of tragedy and joy of life, monumentality and intimacy. [7]

Pietà (The Lamentation). (1921).

Pietà (The Lamentation). (1921).

References

[1] From the exhibition notes – Biography

[2] From the exhibition notes – Moonlit mausoleums, 1915.

[3] From the exhibition notes – An Eastern school, from the series Eastern Primitive.

[4] From the exhibition notes – Figures at a mosque, 1918.

[5] From the exhibition notes – Women, circa 1919-20.

[6] From the exhibition notes – Caravan, 1920.

[7] From the exhibition notes – Pieta (The Lamentation), 1921.