The European Biennial of Contemporary Art

28 June 31 October 2014

St. Petersburg, Russia The State Hermitage Museum

Alexander Dashevsky

Technique: Painting 
Venue: House of War Veterans №1 in Pavlovsk

There are many examples of people in their old age becoming artists without any special education. Continuing their careers no longer provides incentive, their ambitions have changed, someone else's judgement is not such an issue, a pension provides them with a minimum livelihood and free time and they have a need to share their admiration of the world bursting out from inside of them. Out of these feelings often come direct, vivid and ‘archetypal’ images of the world.

The veterans (aged from 85 - 92 years old) slowly opened up to new experiences. At first, as strangers to it, they were frightened of the associated professional mediums, the oil paints of old masters. They were wary to fall short of the high cultural standards. Gradually, however, the viscous mass of color, crawling out of the tubes, did its job and what a brilliant job that was. Almost all the pictures depicted the archaic three-part model of the world. The heavenly - sky, the clouds, the sun, the earth – animals, houses, flowers, water, the underground. In one the centers of the picture was the tree of the world that connects all three worlds together, in another there was swans on the water; satellites of a Neolithic goddess. 

It subsequently emerged that many of the participants of the workshop had in fact a long history in dealing with contemporary art. Ninel Alexandrovna Kislitsina makes sculpture and socio-critical graphics (e.g., drawings and collages "Democracy in Russia is perceived as permissiveness," "Depardieu Deportation", "Moscow says – the rest of Russia works"). Galina Volkova Arsentevna - sews provocative pictures of her and her friends in eccentric outfits. Evgenia Petrovna Stepanova - reproduces the potted history of art in busy scenes made of straw. Elvira A. Egorova - makes whimsical collages with homemade dolls. Although during their tour of the General Staff Building they seemed initially conservative, they were in fact inspired and openly responsive to contemporary art.

We would like to thank Anastasia Butinyova from the 'Babushkina Radost' project for helping us to organize such an event, to all the veterans who agreed to take part in the workshop and to the organization 'Zhivopisny tsekh' for providing us with easels.