I haven’t blogged or talked much about a proposed Russia trip this July in case i jinxed it.
I was invited to go to Yekaterinburg in January to exhibit, but didn’t get any sort of documentation or confirmation in writing in time to apply for a visa, so that fell through… but some of my work made it anyway in print form via siberia!
This was for a Robert Burns / Vysotsky festival which is held there each year.
This says ~
” Vicky Stonebridge , shotlandskyi artist author of the paintings on the theme songs of Vladimir Vysotsky awarded for the wonderful and emotional series of artwork and promotion creative work Vladimir Vysotsky in Scotland”
or something similiar.
Here is also a photie of my prints on display at the concert hall. Photo thanks to Tommy Beavitt who there was singing Burns & Vysotsky at the festival.
So that trip fell through, but i wasn’t too downhearted as there was an invitation in July to look forward to.
The July invitation is to participate in a project
“International Art Festival Silver Water Project “Alp-Bi Boygala” Gallery “Khazina”, The Kremlin, The Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan city, July 5, 2012″
Kazan is the capital of Islam in the Russian federation, its is a fairy tale style beautiful city where all of Russian History seems to have passed through . The project, as far as i understand, is to interpret, translate and produce artwork around the ancient Bulghar poem “”Шан кызы” or ” Shan Kyzy”, it was written in 882Ad by the poet Dastan and Chronicles the creation myths, folk tales and history of the Bulgar peoples, in an ancient epic style. I have got the first 12 chapters of 47 to work from, and that comes to 56 pages !
I have been busy with many other projects, work and deadlines, so had left June free to crack on with these paintings. By the end of May i started mailing to push for documents so i could apply for my russian visa. It had been very difficult working through only google translate which can easily put things all wrong! eg there is no time / there is only a little time ? the choice is yours, a lot of guess work required.
Then i found out that the dates had changed, that artists were expected to pay not only their own flights, but also accommodation? The projects funding had gone the way funding seems to go here, and not come through so the project had shrunk. I’d applied three times to the visual artists fund for artists working in the highlands to give me a little travel money to go to this, three times i’ve been refused. Its difficult not to be angry and bitter when it comes to art funding, where does it go ? who gets it? what long lasting cultural effects are their work having ? answers on a post card, as its not any of the busy, active artists i know across the area. So having worked my rear off this last few months – against the backdrop of everyone complaining i work too hard, i had finally scraped enough cash for the flights and cleared the back log of bills & overdraft, if not debts. Now to find some more for accommodation ? …oh no and a car bill??
I had been advised to apply for a tourist visa, which required a letter from the russian accommodation provider one is booked with. so i’ve been trying to get information about how where, when and how to book in Kazan to get this, to get the application together to travel to the consulate in Edinburgh to apply before booking flights. The organizers had written to the Ministry of culture for something, every day i’m waiting waiting stuck to the stupid computer waiting for e-mails. Then i had a couple of ill days, then my car ran away to the garage for what stretched to three days, the bill is going to cost a flight to Moscow, so imagine what fun, stuck at computer, stuck not able to get out and about to keep up with normal work, stuck not knowing what will or won’t happen. Being a shut in is a rapidly shrinking cycle of unsocialised negativity! Everyone hates me i think i’ll go and eat worms, let me tell you!
I’ve now been told that i should apply for a humanitarian visa, which needs a letter from the ministry ( waiting waiting ) rather than accomodation provider, but i also need a letter from my employer vouching for who is financially responsible – OR i could go as self employed but that needs bank statements from the last 3 months showing i have got enough for £100 per day of the trip… something i’ve never had in my life !
But I started working on the Epic poem on the off chance that it comes together ( waiting waiting days ticking by ) .
It took two days and a night to work through a bad internet translation, google translate and desperately searching russian wiki for crumbs of information. It seems this poem has been a bit of a forgotten gem, it keys into scandinavian, greek, celtic and biblical myths, but in some ways seems very alien. I stumbled into some real nutty website and forums arguing that it was an apocryphal fake and not true to Islam, an insult to orthodox Christianity or the work of a zionist conspiracy or … yes it seems the trolling doesn’t just confine itself to the west.
The story is full of Alps – which is the name of the Divas, Deities? elemental beings, gods, immortal ones ..or in some translations demons . These Alps can be light beings or dark beings, some are really evil, some can be a little of both or fall from grace, become cursed or have their souls stolen. There is a High God, sometimes referred to as Allah, sometimes Tangra, he is a supreme god of thunder, also Tengri the blue sky god of the Mongolians. Under him came the sun and the moon, their children and then it gets complicated! a Lot of the Alps have animal form, people came from an Otter, serpent, lion, snow leopard, falcon etc. I will have to do myself a big flow chart to keep me right about who is who, as their names can change, for example on going into the underworld. There are some real baddies, raping, skinning, werewolves, soul stealers, people are captured, violated and have their souls stolen by one Alp who seems to be a ‘Satan’ and his helper Alp Shurale. He fell from grace after giving humans beauty, but tried to give them souls which he could then own upon death but needed help from the higher gods and lost his claim, so he then set out to destroy humans. He seems to be depicted in Russian folk lore as a Pan like forest being, stupid and malicious with a single horn on his head, just going on the poem alone he comes out far more sinister than this ! The people with no souls become ЙОРЕГАХ Yeoreg / Jeoregs, they sound a bit like zombies, but are also described as werewolves, i can’t help but think of Golems.
Anyway, that’s just a taster, as I said i’m still digesting 56 pages of this !
So i started painting the character the project is names after Alp Bi Boygala, She is the daughter of a might river goddess, and takes the form of a massive fish. I am restricted by the size i can paint by what is possible to transport, i am of course also pyschologically held back by not knowing if i will get there or no, and if not me, could the art ? ( the russian postal service is notoriously bad ) .
Alp Bi Boygala has been blinded by her jealous mother and deafened by having her ears plugged with stones, she searches the world blindly for the immortal Hero- Poet Boyan-Imen who is her true love, to cut a long story short, she is caught in a net but can’t see or hear that its her man, thrashes about and creates lake Boygal ( baikal ?? ) , then she gives birth… but that gets even stranger!
so here is how this picture is going, 50 x 30 cm on paper
I’ve worked out that if i don’t have all the documents by Tuesday it will be too late, so i will give up and get on with alternative planning. If i do, i will be rushing off to the consulate in Edinburgh with a credit card and high state of stress in hand, running in circles going ARRGHHHH!, painting and packing for the next 2 weeks. I LOVE adventures, but I HATE being stuck, waiting, liminal.
Tune in for the next thrilling episode of ‘Artist goes slowly bonkers ‘.
Update > 21st June.
deadline for getting to the edinburgh consulate with a visa application came and went. Still no documents. I told my hosts i couldn’t make it. I have been told that a letter will arrive in the embassy in London next monday. It takes 15 days for visa applications to go through via London, the trip is in 12 days now. My hosts say it should take 2 or 3 days. I have no dog sitter, 4 other jobs and no spare cash at the moment so can’t dash about the country chasing elusive documents. Its all very stressful, i don’t want to turn my back on something that is possible, but at the moment i just don’t understand how it could be possible in less that two weeks to organise and prepare. Prehaps things are done differently in Russia, this is twice now that this has happened, what cultural or linguistic differences are causing confusion? I am reconciled to not going now and would like to get on with some alternative plans, but more e-mails with lots of positive words and reference numbers etc keep coming from Russia which just throws me again. Prehaps faith and positivity pays off better in other countries ? here i have learnt that planning and ticking the right boxes at the right time is what is required to achieve things. Computer says No. Not possible, нельзя, Nyet.