Monday 8 October 2012

Born in the USSR, The Hive Gallery, Shrewsbury

Celebrating cultural diversity

Shrewsbury art exhibitions from Britain and Russia
By Gwen Cox

In January 2013, The Hive Art and Media Gallery in Shrewsbury will host an exhibition with the beguiling title ‘Born in the USSR’, curated by Svetlana Elantseva of the Art International Group. On show will be works of art created by a group of artists currently resident in Shropshire, but originally from countries which were previously part of the former Soviet Union. Svetlana Elantseva and Tanya Hart were born in Russia; Tanya Golovatyuk, Maria Golovatyuk, Larisa Butler and Lyuba Carpenter in Ukraine; Marina Hadorik in Estonia.

Some of these artists have formed a group which meets regularly in Shrewsbury to explore working with different media. Under the name of ‘Influenced by Colour’, they have now amassed a sizeable portfolio and have decided that it is time to share their talents, to give the public an opportunity to see their work. They are joined by Tanya Hart and Lyuba Carpenter who share their enthusiasm for art and design.

The artists’ experience of life in the USSR differs according to the length of time they lived there. All of them, however, are interested in how the combination of such different cultural conditioning affects the work that they produce. This forms the basis of the exhibition.

Tanya Golovatyuk notices how the brightness of Ukrainian art and craft influences her colour choices; those in Western European art are often more muted. She also likes to use Ukrainian iconography in her craft work: sunflowers, and ‘kalina’, the bright red berries which make delicious jam. She says, ‘Ukraine is my homeland, but, now that I have lived in England for 11 years, I am aware that influences on my art have become mixed. It is since I have been in England that I have begun to express myself through art; I have benefited here from the more accepting attitude to amateur work, and feel free now to experiment with different media and styles.’

Tanya’s daughter, Maria, has been in the UK since she was 7 years old, and has, consequently, felt far less influence from her Ukrainian roots. Her British education has led her to produce works more in the traditions of Western Europe, though she knows she has internalised a Ukrainian sensibility to bold colours and form through constant exposure to these at home.
Svetlana Elantseva feels the pull of her Russian home very strongly. For some time, she worked in Moscow producing propaganda art so typical of the former Soviet regime, and continues to derive inspiration from this and more ancient forms of Russian art.  ‘Throughout my life and travels, I always feel a connection to my home land. This informs the pattern of my life and my art, through which I pay homage to my heritage, my country and its ways of life.’

Lyuba Carpenter has created a highly successful fashion design business in Shrewsbury. Having learned her craft in the Soviet Union, she brings to her design the meticulous attention typical of Soviet workmanship. ‘USSR is and always will be the place where I am from and who I am, but UK is my second home now .I‘ve happily settled down here and I am grateful to this country for welcoming me, and for giving me an opportunity to develop my skill and creativity.’

Tanya Hart works with decoupage:  ‘The art and craft make me happier and work for me as an art therapy.’ Tanya works now with furniture design among other things, and incorporates the ideas and images of both her worlds into this. Larisa Butler also stresses how well painting and drawing help her to relax; she and Tanya work here as accountants.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The exhibition opens on 14th January and runs until 1st February. The Private View is from 18.00 to 21.00 on Friday 18th January, and will feature, as well as art, music and poetry with a strong Soviet flavour.

AIG is also holding a subsequent exhibition in February at the Hive Gallery, curated by Svetlana, this time involving international artists who are members of the group. Entitled ‘Conversation Pieces’, it is the result of a cultural exchange between Russian and British artists. Alexey Gilarov, Vasili Racov, Carla Boulton and Svetlana who are exhibiting new paintings and drawings, holding a ‘conversation’ through art which needs no translation.

Alexey and Vasili live in Moscow. They work on  monumental interior paintings on facades, on both public and private facilities, using mural, mosaic, fresco, stained-glass and graffito techniques. Svetlana  and Carla are Shropshire based artists who work in different media : drawing, painting, collages, ceramics , photographs and films.
The artists’ work is held in private collections in the USA, Canada, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy and Russia.

The artists inhabit different continents and speak different tongues; this exhibition allows them to have a dialogue using their artworks as a universal language. This promotion of cultural diversity, it is hoped, will celebrate all that is similar alongside all that is different. Their collaboration will continue with exhibitions in Moscow.