In: russian art

The Mark – Olga Volgina
August 24, 2021

One of Olga Volgina’s more recent works that she’s shared on social media (as she’s a prolific artist) is a work that resonates in both an immediate and historical manner. Any (well made and meaningful) rendering of children has this power. Volgina’s children evoke a multiplicity of intersecting references: Goya’s portrait of Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zúñiga, who looks doll – like and innocent until a closer examination reveals several cats waiting to devour his pet bird, to the child’s indifference, is one. Delving even deeper into the worn faces and unflinching gaze of the children, I’m also reminded of Robertson Davies’ book World of Wonders. In response to one character relating his harsh yet essential childhood experiences, another defers that though he has experience “exploring evil” through his films, the evil of children is something that requires courage he lacks….

Volgina’s children must also bring to mind Ignorance and Want, from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and in that instance offer a more disturbing consideration of how a child is perhaps a larger reflection (or repository) for the world in which they live. Volgina commented that when this work – titled The Mark – was finished, “now I look at them and they look at me”, but what they see, or what they think, is opaque to us. We can guess; but the children in The Mark are silent and staring, offering no answers. Perhaps they’re indifferent to us, perhaps demanding, or perhaps simply exhausted and bruised. 

Volgina lives and works in St. Petersburg, Russia. Her digital portraits, as she describes them, are both a bit unsettling and insightful. This brings to mind how sitting for some artists requires a degree of courage (never mind being nude but what of the deeper self that the artist might excavate and present for the world to see?).

See more of Olga Volgina’s work on Instagram, FB and at Etsy, where she and her twin sister, Liza Volgina, have a variety of engaging works on display. ~ Bart Gazzola

Read More
trunkdrunk
July 31, 2021

Perhaps you’re familiar with the story of Pagliacci, the clown consumed by sadness he hides to make the audiences laugh. I will admit it will always be tied, for me, with Alan Moore’s Watchmen. In that graphic novel, Rorschach offers something of a lonely graveside eulogy for the character The Comedian (who ‘evolves’ from a snide position of ‘Once you realize what a joke everything is, being the Comedian is the only thing that makes sense’ to a weeping lament of “I mean, what’s so funny? What’s so goddamned funny?”). Rorshach recites a ‘joke’ about Pagliacci’s visit to a doctor, decrying his despair, only to be told by the well meaning doctor to visit the ‘famous clown’ to be cheered up. Pagliacci bursts into tears, revealing to the well meaning but unaware doctor that he is, in fact, the clown, and an empty shell who can’t even help himself… 

The self described ‘comedian’ trunkdrunk occupies that same space. His Instagram page offers only that “I don’t even ask for happiness, just a little less pain.” An article on his work has the following spare and succinct comment: “trunkdrunk takes photos in Russia’s saddest places. As this was not sad enough, he takes pictures in full head overhead elephant mask. Images are captured in different places of Russia; mostly in gloomy and depressing surroundings.”

More of trunkdrunk’s images can be found on Instagram often accompanied by long swathes of text in Russian, that meld dourness, humour and memory. This image was originally posted to his IG account in October, 2016, with the following reminiscence: “Indian tea, the same – with an elephant. I remember him from my Soviet childhood. when my mother poured this Indo-Georgian mixture into a glass from a cardboard box, and then poured boiling water – the smell was stunning throughout the apartment!”

A previous Curator’s Pick of mine was a wonderful image by Alexey Titarenko: this could be said to have documented the fall of the Soviet Empire, in real time, with very real people as the unwilling players. Looking at trunkdrunk’s world, nearly forty years later, offers a new chapter to Russia history, perhaps attempting to laugh as one has no other choice, except to cry. ~ Bart Gazzola

Read More
Amber Lee WIlliams – Femina Bulla Est #9
August 18, 2021

The work of Amber Lee Williams, an artist from the Niagara Region of Southern Ontario, almost always concerns itself with motherhood and children, exploring the concepts of life within, the constancy of change, attachment and removal, and notions of femininity.

Femina Bulla Est (Woman is a Bubble), is a sequence of macro photographs of pink bubblegum. Amber deftly takes the binary state of man’s being, as depicted by the soap bubble in Dutch Renaissance Vanitas paintings (homo bulla est) and turns it on its ear… where man is either strong or broken, women have a strength and flexibility that allows them to persevere.

“I thought I would begin by simply blowing soap bubbles, photographing them, and seeing what happened. I asked (my daughter) if she wanted to help me blow bubbles and she thought I meant bubblegum bubbles. As soon as she mentioned the bubblegum it was a total lightbulb moment, and I have to give her credit for the idea.”

Femina Bulla Est #9 is incredibly organic, suggesting a beating heart, or the crepe-like tissue of placenta. Partially inflated, one gathers that there is life within, flush with blood and good health. One could also perceive the darker top section as a scab, protecting the soft tissue below as it heals from a trauma.

“The original bubble in Vanitas paintings suddenly pops and life ends, but in my version the bubble inflates and deflates again and again. The bubble is both fragile and resilient. Beyond the more obvious, and my personal connections to motherhood (carrying a child within my body, that body stretching…), I also think of the inflated and deflated, not just as physical states but also states of mind and related to mental health.”

You can seem more of Amber’s work at https://amberleeart.com, and on Instagram @amberlee.art. ~ Mark Walton

Read More