The Russian idea of a perfect peaceful life is often represented by a log-house within 100 km of the city, featuring a traditional brick stove, comfy chairs for the husband to read his books, cosy space for the kids to play and a lot of pirogi baked by the mom for the comfy settled husband and cosily playing kids. Yes, it is Asian mentality, and a Western feminist may lament the fate of “family’s favourite slave”, but, just like you have Muslim women who willingly cover themselves top to toe, Russian women are often happy to spend their weekend baking and cooking, and then feeding their relatives with PIROGI. For many, baking pirogi is a form of art, the way to self-realisation, and a form of motherly embrace without the pathos of actually embracing anyone.
This Russian dream is visualised (and materialised) in this sparkling painting by Alexandra Ovchinnikova (38). She does not show the woman here, but the results of her efforts are spectacular. I hope you had your meal, because, well, these pirogi make me hungry.
Alexandra’s style is very feminine. Well, she’s not afraid of pink, for one thing (though, perhaps, she should be a bit more wary of it), and she’s very particular about window curtains.
I like it. It is about the celebration of life. It is not something that sends your mind off on a journey of concern for the human condition or anything really serious. These pictures are not likely to make you go out and join a Feminist/Antiwar/Homophobic/Antihomophobic protest rally. By today’s standards, this is not the “museum kind of art”.
But it is the kind of art I like to have in my personal gallery.
A hundred years before, there was an artist in Russia who worked in a similar style, Aristarkh Lentulov. He was one of those naive lads who believed art could really change people and set them on the way towards common and shared happiness of a communist society. Most of those “believers” who had not reformed into adepts of social realism were executed by Stalin’s NKVD, but Lentulov had managed to live through the cleansing of the 1930s, while more or less sticking to his style.
To understand why I call this a “celebration of life”, look at the photograph of St.Basil at night:
And then at Lentulov’s view of it. He turned this cathedral into a flaming monument of joy, change, the multi-facetedness of Russian culture. Not just an architectural wonder of the mid 16th century.
For those of my readers who’ve been with me for some time: there’s a colour conflict in Lentulov’s painting of 1913, the last happy year in Russia before the WWI. Where is the contrapunto?