Thursday 19th . Last day to paint
can’t believe the way the time has flown in,
Slept like a log last night & feel groggy today as a result/ normally at home I suffer allergies all the time , aches and pains and IBS. I’ve still got the aches, feet ae killing me from starting painting all day and all the walking and heat, but in all other ways I feel healthier than I have done in a long time dispute the lack of sleep. With the food here there isn’t that stuffed bloated feeling after a meal. There is much less carb’s, maybe one small portion of rice, potatoes etc a day, much less bread, some pastries, pancakes, dairy is not so much in the form of milk or cheese but sour cream and curds ( or whatever the yogurty thing we drink in the morning is ). Will have to re think diet at home.
Trying to put my finger on how it is so different here in art, hard to get to the bottom of how their system works, how they are taught, attitudes, we are coming from such different angles its hard to find the right questions to ask. So I’ve found out that they study different disciplines, first the study drawing, which they translate as ‘graphics’ ( which lead to confusion ) this appears to be seen as a completely different thing to painting whereas of course we study drawing and painting. When I went to art college there was very little technical input as to how to weild a pencil or mix paint, very little skills based teaching , one lecture on colour theory, one lecture on composition and perspective then that was it mostly we were expected to dig into ourselves take something we saw with out eyes in front of us and reproduce, develop and push it into something else , not so much an impression, but starting from an impressionistic methodology then express the impressions in a developed or abstracted form? Its hard to define because this is just the way it is, but its clear here that something is very very different. One of the artists we were told is a master of composition and teaches this, we are asked who is our favourite 20th C artist, of course I don’t have one as I look back to archaeology, folk art, illustration, and the pre-Raphaelites as my influences. I’m not sure if illustration is seen as a different art form here, much of the work here is illustrative, interpreting ancient epics but still true to the original mythos without the need to distort and personalise that we seem expected to do. ( more on the theme later ). I get a sense that there is styles and people follow their master or teacher, an art student explained to me that they are free to choose their own path, but also that they copy old masters to learn. There is a daugher here with her father, he is a famous and respected artist, her work echos his, and the way she walks and listens to him seems to carry a great respect, rather than rebellion and seeking a different identity that you would expect. I wonder if women artists garner the same respect as men? There is a good mix here, the mens work is bigger and bolder, some of the womens is intricate and delicate. There are some very famous artists here I will have to look up when I get home, everyday they walk about everyone nodding approval at each others work, I think the Russian speakers maybe are getting quite in depth comments and critiques. I wonder how they find out work which is so different? There of course is the huge chip on shoulder which comes from never fitting in at home, from existing in too many genres, but I think Uk culture in general is one of criticising, jaded, cynical, having to categorise, specialise, everything has a price tag on it. Handicrafts are considered very low culture and of no value at home, only an elite of crafts makers ae slowing gathering recognition for their work, but only after it has been pushed to abstraction and concepts layered within it. At the moment here there is an exhibition of gem jewellery in the fine art gallery across the road. Its all art. One academy teacher bought in some of his students work, it was hand made books, incredible, everyone gathered inspecting them with great reverence, font and illustrations had been computer printed then the books were bound or created in various creative ways, illustrations from photos of quilling…imagine suggesting to a tutor at our colleges that you were quilling? One book was match boxes in lines, sewn into pages, each page had images, each box had more images, all very creative, without rules and definitions. They reminded me of some mini-comics, which again are seen as low culture. Ideas foe when I get home.
The lady next to me, Maria, or ‘Masha’ paints with pressed flowers, this isn’t a granny at a craft fair with decoupage hobby kit, but beautiful folk art which everyone ooo’s and aaahh’s at . So much respect from all the artists to each other, not a sense of hierarchy, status and value.
Now I must crack on with painting! More later.
What a bonkers day rollercoaster. The organisation of this whole symposium has bene incredible, smooth proffessional and we haven’t had to think for ourselves at all. Today however was a frenzy of activity and mixed communication. I thought I had until mid afternoon to finish the two paintings, there was an excursion for an hour in the afternoon but I thought I could do that and finish the paintings after, but it turns out they had to be in and delivered to the gallery for voting before the excursion.
Alex & Luda presented us all with beautiful books, cleverly chosen to be the perfect choice for all of us, such perceptive, wise and kind people! ( yes Alex I mean you ! ). My book is about the ) artist Vasnishav ( sp ? Who specialised particularily in epics and myths, its sort of pre-Raphelite, Arthur Rackham, John Duncan style but with a Russian twist and just the art book I would have chosen! Perfect, Oychin Spasiba!
despite this pressure to paint I wanted to catch a chap who was rumoured to be leaving today as there were only flights once a were to his state, so I nabbed Anna translator & headed to look for him, as usual the studios were deserted I don’t know where everyone went & how they finished their work as I was glued to the easel a week! The gentleman I was looking for wasn’t about but we found Bulat so I sat with him for a chat. Bulat Gilvanov is a young artist who’s work I’d seen on the Yelabuga website before we came so I was keen to see the exhibition. I think it was the first day here we were shown it and I was blown away, one painting had me struggling to hide tears. There was an army of 40 Women who faught together as all the men had been lost, he is painting one by one these women with great historical accuracy using local artifacts from the museum. He is also a musician, a tartar. At the conference/ discussion/ press conference held earlier in the weke he had asked me about fantasy art and celtic traditions, I had rambled on can’t remember what ( will try to wrote more about this event later ) but I didn’t really understand the question and what he meant by fantasy art. So we had a good chat today, although it is always really formal going through a translator, it seems things are not so different in many ways. I felt if I painted a historically accurate cuchuillin or such, no matter how well or big the canvas, it would not be considered fine art, it would be illustration or fantasy art which is considered popular low-brow culture, he is keen to get the details correct to capture and bring to life the past rather than fantasy work. He then showed me photos of some previous GIANT canvas paintings one of which is in the national tartarstan museum, unbelievable, completely indescribable! Like a renaissance battle scene- without shonky perspective, painted by a Glasgow colourist, impeccable composition, colour palette, accuracy, style, detail stunning, he showed me details like his own musical instrument ( traditional Tartar string mandolin type thing ) the horse bits- wow ! Emotional again, even paintings he did as a 19 year old were incredible pre-raphealite ( but not ) makes my work feel very vey small. However he says he still has to do commercial work, its rare to get the opportunity to paint what he wants, its hard sometimes to get the materials. If I win the lottery I think I’ll open a gallery of Russian artists, these artists deserve to be seen! So I explained how his work had moved me and how the image of a warrior woman on the steppes, like he paints, is what I dream about being when life gets hard- He told me that he feels the same about history and culture but he day dreams about being William Wallace in the Scottish hills! The grass is always greener in mysterious far away lands. But actually I think it not just be a delusion, if you leave your own place you leave normal expectations and constraints, plus as a ‘foreigner’ you gain more quodos, respect, peoples curiosity, you can be who you want, and your exoticness gives you freedom, and of course to impose UK values upon it, its good PR , a good USP. ( urg, how disgusting such thinking seems from here ). So fired up from speaking to Bulat it was back to work – and quickly quickly ! Time running out fast. Quick lunch back we go, and OH no time was nearly up ! Goal post kept moving…
Sinod who has been a chatterbox and socialising the whole time went completely into the zone in the last 30 minutes he was painting with two brushes dancing singling in a complete trance like a madman oblivious to the cameras and everyone laughing, some cookie! They’ll not forget him in Yelabuga in a hurry! This performance took the attention off me for a bit as I was by now in a panic trying to finish, no time to appraise the work think about what I was doing take breath or anything, it was getting very stressful! I am not particularly happy with the results, its just such unfamiliar work, I think the drawing stands on its own feet but the paintings are neither one thing nor the other. They are certainly different from the Russians work, strangely enough people often ask me and Lynn whos picture is who’s as if they look the same, whereas to us they are a completely different style, just like I guess we don’t think we look like brits, but of course we do in a
wider context. So stress mounting painting furiously with people saying oh you can finish later, its time to go, you mist finish now, etc, I realised I’d have to try & skip the excursion and just finish the things with the bare minimum, no time to appraise. Frazzled I finished, deserted studios, headed down town to catch up with others, I got rather lost in translation! Ah I wish I had a list and photographs of everyone to remember their names, I can’t put the sound, the faces , the Cyrillic and English spelling together at all. A wonderful egentleman who is a museum designer, painter , mural painter, ceramicist showed me where everyone was eventually. The ever patient and graceful Olga had come out to greet me.
Folks were by now at the police/ military training college, the others more relaxed and full of laughter but I was still fried after so much painting! A very interesting visit – I hope to write more of the history & museums later. Then collect last work, take to exhibition hall, and we had forms to vote on a scale of 1 – 10 about everyones work. And how well they had interpreted the theme ..ARGH!!! This was horrible A) I couldn’t read the names on back of paintings and translate back into English b) I had to ask for help so everyone would see what I had voted c) to vote at all ! D) that they wee voting my work which looks so incongruous & crass. Over Supper Olga explained that normal this is done by a jury of judges, but as an experiment and to demonstrate to artists how difficult it is to judge art they wanted us to do the first round. I am not sure if all our pieces will be selected. Eeek. Also at supper we were joined by the afore mentioned respected artist, who with Olga’s help reassured us that he feels the same and is also unable to relax until after the grand opening tomorrow. It was very helpful to hear this from such an amazing artist, he said he would be winding down by doing some more art, which was genius! Normally when a project is finished I get a great sense of relief and clarity like coming out from under water, but this process has left me hungry to do more art but at a slower pace. The others drank beer & larked about back in the studios as we tidied up our spaces, eventually I just sat quietly with Masha ( who gazes at one in a disconcerting fashion but is so lovely I try not to get too embarrassed ).
Winding down by writing, but do need to get washed and make effort to socialise despite being in quiet peace seeking mood. How many artists to change a light bulb? Don’t know but 30 together is one crazy lot of emotions!