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About This Project

Winter as the State of  Soul Venice Biennale 51

The Group show of Contemporary Russian Artists  at Palazzo Ca’Mocenigo Gambara, Accademia 1056, Venezia

Petr Axenoff,  Galina Mazurskaya, Veronika Ponomareva, Velena VeretelNikova, Semeon Agrokin

The word “winter” conjures up many thoughts. We associate winter with social stagnation and political deadlock. Hope rises in spring, but the advent of a tyrant is usually regarded as the coming of an ice age, merciless rule and freezing jails.

So it was that William Shakespeare depicted the fate of the ruler turned tyrant in the tragedy “Richard III”.

History repeats itself: every now and then idols supplant tyrants. Artists will always seek to distance themselves from reality in the quest for creative freedom or, at the very least, the illusion of such freedom.

It is in this context that we address the theme of Winter, a time in nature with special associations for the inhabitants of northern countries. For Russia, winter symbolises not just an historical or political enclosure, but also a reclusive time forpeople, best understood as a condition of the soul.                                                

The artists in this exhibition speak of Winter, but this doesn’t mean that they necessarily picture winter landscapes or the myths and legends of the North at this time of year. In the works shown here, Winter is a metaphor for tranquillity, renunciation and self-immersion, moods which infuse the works of many Russian artists.

All the participants in this exhibition are alike in that they consciously adopt a political and ideological stance. Their work is presented in the context of certain historical and political events.

But what the artists are really trying to do is to induce a state of introspection, self analysis and self absorption in their audience.

Russia is a country where winter lasts too long and introspection is boundless. In classical Russian literature and music, Winter frequently is used to epitomise introspection.  Strangely, this repertoire at the same time elicits a boiling process.

As Pushkin said, “ice and fire” are the nation’s poetical ideology, symbols of winter mythology.  The very fact that Pushkin was killed in a winter duel, his blood flowing onto snow, resonates with a key aspect of Russian cultural mythology.
As a spiritual condition, Winter offers a means to distance oneself from events and withdraw into a state of tranquil dissent. Winter implies a passive form of individual resistance.

By challenging the inhuman realities and the trite thinking so often present in the media and establishment, the artist can recover an awareness of his own feelings and of life pulsing around him.  Each of the artists shown here has his own Winter.  

For Petr Axenoff it is a “nuclear winter” where a part of the old world, the world of the beautiful dame, disintegrates. If the mythical Death of God took place in flames, in the world fire, then the prospect of the notorious nuclear winter forces us to think about the last reincarnation of the mythical Snow Queen, goddess of the North. The luxury cold of glamour is a coolness that moves towards absolute zero freezing the dead planet in ice.

*La Cadutta del Dei –Film by Federico Felini

    In Veronica Ponomareva’s work “Love Time” we see the sudden freezing phenomenon of the microscopic world in the human physiology. Her style is the unusual kaleidoscope of micro world . With ease and elegance Veronica plays from a standpoint of conformity. The absence of any second agenda or outlook combined with the rhythmic repetition of simple objects endows her work with new resonance and creating an illusion of a frozen time.

Semeon Agroskin, is artist working in a classical manner, provides a more realistic and traditional view of Winter. There is a sense of damaged life in Agroskin’s motifs and themes that recalls the work of  Theodor Adorno. In these dusky, melancholic canvasses, the experienced and understanding viewer will experience the intense pleasure and rare happiness of recognition. The defeat of man was the theme of classical paintings of Winter. However, the pictorial language describing this defeat is in wonderful tones rich and flexible. The language of Agroskin the artist is the language of the victor.  

Semeon is not seeking justification or higher form of legitimacy. He presents himself with the classical task of classical art. Reveal fragments of the damaged life and talk about the defeat of man in the powerful, sovereign language of the victor paintings with and watercolour half tones and many layered and decisive blow of the al la prima”.