December 8, 2020 - January 18, 2021
The current Capsule Collection interrogates the experience of living through the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, we have witnessed the birth of a new reality, with a new way of life, habits, thoughts, and desires. The pandemic has forced us to reconsider many aspects of our existence.
A lot has changed. But has the pandemic affected art?
At the heart of the Quarantine collection lies a desire to consider the topic of the pandemic through the personal experience of artists.
The collection includes 29 works created by 11 authors during the 2020 lockdown. Among the authors, there are familiar names of our resident artists, as well as names being presented to the public for the first time.
Liza Sivakova, Two, 2020
Each work is based on the artist's unique vision of what has happened in the world in 2020 and is fuelled by their unique emotional experiences of going through this difficult time:
It may be the tranquillity of working in the studio as a way of managing uncertainty and anxiety, as in the works of Valeria Privalikhina;
Nastya Kriulina, Masquerade, Yuriy Ushakov, Self-Portrait, Samir Rakhmanov, Yellow Interior. On Quarantine, Anton Levin, Insulation © 2020
Unusual and previously inconceivable things – such as self-isolation and social distancing – are now becoming leitmotifs in the visual arts.
Certainly, the pandemic is not over yet, but perhaps the art may help us learn some important lessons and draw preliminary conclusions from the quarantine era.
The works presented in this Capsule Collection express a very personal experience from this time by the represented artists.
Therefore, let us now consider what the artists have to say about their works.
Surprise turning into fear...
with a dash of madness
"I painted this work in just a few hours, sneaking into my studio in March 2020, when the first quarantine restrictions were just being introduced.
All establishments were closed, the city was very empty, there was not a single soul in the entire building in which my studio is situated. As I arrived at the studio I decided to express this emotion of bewilderment with what was happening since at the start of the quarantine everything was so new, so different, and it was not clear how long it might last.
Wearing masks seemed strange and temporary but unfortunately, a return to normal has taken much longer. The emotion embedded in this self-portrait is very telling: it reveals surprise turning into fear and with a dash of madness in response to the impossibility of what is happening." —YAROSLAVA TICHSHENKO
Quarantine Self-Portrait No.1, 2020
"Subsequently, during these several months of self-isolation, I made quite a number of self-portraits, in watercolour, oil, pencil. And they all were about emotions. Facial expressions and grimaces—it’s thanks to the quarantine that I started carefully studying them not only as a form but also investigating their psychological component." —YAROSLAVA TICHSHENKO
in their loneliness
Rosy Peony, 2020
"And then, there were flowers. Lonely—and beautiful in their loneliness. I depicted them against a black background because I didn't want to interfere with their beauty. My only task was to show that beauty, and a black background helped a lot in this."—YAROSLAVA TICHSHENKO
a source of anxiety...
"Masquerade was painted at the first peak of the pandemic. Everything became a source of anxiety. I could not watch the news or scroll the news feed—too much white noise.
I do not like to describe the meaning of my work. Everyone is welcome to impart their personal meaning into the paintings. How do I create? When an interesting idea strikes me, I just sit and work until I bring it to its peak. It's hard for me to say if my quarantine artworks are different from the usual ones, as it is natural for me to experiment." —NASTYA KRIULINA
confusion and apathy
The artworks from Quarantine are available for purchase exclusively at The Russian Ark. The Capsule Collection runs until January 18, 2021.
"I love doing self-portraits. I find my face quite simple, without any salient features which may otherwise get in the way of conveying pure emotions.
There are some primordial emotions that are familiar to everyone: like confusion or apathy.
I rarely think about the end result, not because I am afraid of disappointment, but rather because I try to put my best effort into the work without any preconceived expectations."—NASTYA KRIULINA
Loneliness, alienation and despair
Two (diptych), 2020
"The diptych Two is a personal work and probably more sentimental than my typical work.
I wanted to talk about that gnawing sensation when "two" are close physically but deep inside are very far from each other. Loneliness, lack of understanding, alienation, and despair are the feelings that I put into this work."—LIZA SIVAKOVA
Retreating into nature
Evening Harmony, 2020
"The opportunity to be alone with nature for such a long time made it possible to immerse myself in the dialogue with the light and colour vibrations like never before. When people are forced to keep their distance from each other, it seemed natural to me to retreat into nature and observe it closely."—NIKOL KLAMPERT
Truth of the moment
Evening Still Life, 2020
Window View #2, 2020
"I am always looking for the truth of the moment and its conventionality. When I interact with nature, I do not keep in mind any ready-made colour schemes and preconceived colour combinations for different weather or time of the day. On the contrary, similar to human interactions, I try to carefully notice some unique and inimitable features of the scenes I am depicting."—NIKOL KLAMPERT
Content without people
Griboyedov Canal, Linocut
Vital Roots, Linocut
"The city as a subject matter came to me during an early morning walk. When the streets are still empty of all activity, the city “shines” in a completely different way. Saint-Petersburg is a self-contained city with its own soul, so it is content without people on its streets.
Griboyedov Canal was an experiment with colour. That summer, I had access to a printing workshop, and I was able to take my time to find harmony in a combination of pure colours. I wanted to abstract from any subject matter, and decompose the piece into a puzzle of beautiful masses of colour.
Vital Roots is a further development of the city theme, this time with the presence of a person."—VARVARA DROBINA
Songs of alienation and of closeness
"For the Self-Portrait, I looked for distinctive mannerisms and features, something unique to define the composition. I depicted myself as a hunchback, sprawled on a chair.
Recently, a friend of mine noticed that I often depict characters with their shoulders raised. An interesting observation – am I subconsciously assigning some personal characteristic to each individual, even when I am simply drawing someone's portrait or engaging in an academic study?
A complex asymmetrical silhouette and an unconventional pose – showing my back to the viewer – are part of the vocabulary with which I have tried to communicate alienation, which I have probably felt throughout my life. The meaning of my name may also be a factor."—VARVARA DROBINA
"In the black and white linocuts, the emphasis is on composition and taking a decorative approach.
For the work Kitchen, I drew my main inspiration from Vuillard and the Nabi group as a whole, with one pattern morphing into another toward an acute composition. I attempt to create an atmosphere to which many could relate: a late dinner, intimate conversation, doing homework, whatever it may be."—VARVARA DROBINA
Honest record of time and space
In My Studio, 2020
"All three paintings are fragments of one space—my studio, and together they form a small narrative about my self-isolation experience: coming to the studio, being alone with myself, surrounded by finished and unfinished paintings, objects and thoughts.
My studio is situated in the historical part of Saint-Petersburg, on the top floor of a 19th-century eclectic building. It has an old chimney, original mouldings and some fragments of the ceiling painting decor. I have long wanted for a chance to paint this space, and then one day I asked myself, why not today?
In this work, I wanted to convey the atmosphere, colour and lighting as accurately as possible; it was important for me to make an honest record of this time-space continuum. I also captured the figure of my boyfriend who was sitting on a couch waiting for me to finish the painting. I thought his presence enlivened the interior nicely."—VALERIA PRIVALIKHINA
"Recently, my interest in self-portrait as a genre has grown. I had studied self-portraits of different artists and found them absolutely fascinating. My own self-portrait is an image of me at work, among my familiar surroundings.
Since this experience, I have been more inclined to include my own image in future paintings. I have done sketches of my reflection in the mirror, but not finding them satisfactory, normally have not finished them. Now I look at this process differently: during the pandemic, there has not been much opportunity to paint anyone else from life, so the most obvious thing to do was self-portraits."—VALERIA PRIVALIKHINA
Self-Portrait in the Studio, 2020
"In this still life, I wanted to strike a balance between realistic and decorative elements. A glass table, my favourite album, and a milk jug with flowers—I painted them from life, trying to simplify the shape of each object, as if I only remember the impression that object produced on me.
A more decorative background added a flatter dimension which, together with the colour, united all the elements into one whole."—VALERIA PRIVALIKHINA
Still Life With Sorolla's Album, 2020
Moment in the eternity
Woman Combing Her Hair, 2020
"During the period of self-isolation, I often observed my girlfriend’s self-care rituals. This artwork was conceived unexpectedly: while working on one of my self-portraits, I saw her in the mirror, combing her hair against a yellow wall, and the idea for the future painting immediately popped up in my head. The next day I was already doing preparatory studies.
This work is an attempt to depict motion in the eternal, to make this motion endless, while at the same time to define it clearly, since nuances are lost in static poses. I constantly asked the model not to freeze for too long but to repeat that combing movement. Naturally, while working on this composition, I was connecting with the legacy of Degas, remembering how he managed to successfully achieve the same goal."—SAMIR RAKHMANOV
"During the pandemic-induced isolation, I started working on self-portraits more, since our reflection in the mirror is the most faithful model, the one which is always ready to pose. This self-portrait is one of many I made in March-April 2020.
Drawing it at night, under artificial lighting, I set myself a challenge of compositionally linking the hand with the head, while harmonizing and generalizing everything. The goal was for the two elements not to interfere with each other while preserving the dominance of the portrait."—SAMIR RAKHMANOV
"As the name implies, this study was painted in quarantine in April 2020. My girlfriend and I did not have clear schedules in our daily routine, but somehow, at some point, we just quietly started to each work on our own projects in a small room... This study was created on one of those days."—SAMIR RAKHMANOV
Drawing inspiration from his immediate surroundings, the artist raises a simple interior scene to the level of true art. With its original cropping, pale light streaming through the window and an undefined seated figure, the scene contains a deeper sense of mystery, revealing Samir’s quiet virtuosity and a refined sense of colour and composition.
Yellow Interior. On Quarantine, 2020
Love and gratitude
"The Self-Portrait was painted during the stay at home quarantine measures that were put in place in Saint-Petersburg in spring 2020. At first, I did not find that the masked self-portraits that became fashionable among artists evoked any response in me. Then, I saw a series of portraits by our professor, Yuri Vitalievich Kalyuta, that were dedicated to quarantine. I saw that this topic could also be approached artistically and with beauty. I decided to try it myself. I had much free time, as I could not go to my workshop at the Saint Petersburg Art Academy building, where I was working on my graduation project. I took a mirror, found a room with suitable light – in the kitchen, as it happens – tied on a bandanna and swiftly painted this self-portrait. That’s how I opened this genre for myself.
I found it unexpectedly difficult to work outside of a bright and spacious professional workshop and to find a place where I could fit in a mirror, a palette, a canvas, and myself and that had appropriate light. I also found that making yourself your own model is fascinating. The main difference that this portrait has from the remainder of my work is probably that it was painted with side lighting. This allowed me to focus on reproducing the form and sculpting its volume. At our Academy workshop, with its frontal lighting and open space in which one can observe both the model and the canvas, I often focused on resolving more decorative problems."—YURIY USHAKOV
"I also painted portraits of my friends, including that of Nastya and Sergei, who, like me were graduation-year art students. It was the time when it was no longer necessary to self-isolate at home, but the Art Academy was still closed. The guys had been assigned a workshop that was still open, outside the Art Academy building. They let me in, allowed me to paint alongside them, and even agreed to pose for me. I am very grateful to them for that.
I had to determine how I should paint them. For both, a suitable spot in the studio had to be found, an organic environment that would highlight their personality. It was important that a rhythmical, harmonious, and visually engaging background be employed. Ultimately, Nastya was painted sitting on a windowsill, backlit. In the distance were geometrical silhouettes of tree branches and a window casement. The light behind her outlined her profile, highlighting her collarbones and continuing along her arm. This, combined with the dark mass of her black dress, helped showcase the aristocratic side of her nature.
I painted Sergey in a corner of the studio, against a background of the portraits of miners that he had painted as part of the work for his graduation project. This produced a harmonious environment to bring out elements of his aesthetics and values in the portrait.
These portraits of my friends were created with love and gratitude. Because I knew that my subjects were taking time away from their own graduation projects, I completed them in a short period of time. The challenge here was to keep moving and not get bogged down, to avoid mistakes. Of course, I did make mistakes, and I was bogged down. Persevering in spite of this was an enjoyable challenge. I am satisfied with the freshness of the final works."—YURIY USHAKOV
Alone... with oneself
Pauline at the Mirror, 2020
"The painting Pauline at the Mirror is not typical for me, since I usually prefer depicting only one figure on a canvas. I don’t know exactly why that happened, but this time round I depicted two figures, moreover two figures being the same person! When the work was completed, I realized it characterizes the time of self-isolation quite well: many of us were left alone with ourselves."—ANDREW PIANKOVSKI
Time for experimentation
Graphite Self-Portrait, 2020
Self-Portrait in Quarantine, 2020
Still Life, 2020
"When working on self-portraits, I try to study nature, experiment with combinations of different parameters – relating to the interpretation of shapes and tonal values, with the sequence of steps and methods of work."—EUGENY MEDVEDEV
Isolation as part of human existence
"Recently, I have been trying to reduce the importance of the subject matter in my painting, strictly conceived, by placing the how and not the what at the center of my creations. In other words, I want the drama to be created by painterly means, rather than by the subject matter.
In this work, the object and space tend to be reduced to a state of abstraction, where isolation is discussed as a concept, not as a specific situation. This work is not as much about self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak as about isolation as part of the human experience."—ANTON LEVIN
The artworks from Quarantine are available for purchase exclusively at The Russian Ark. The Capsule Collection runs until January 18, 2021.