Maria Snigirevskaya
Birds of the World

19 July 2023 — 08 October 2023
  • Maria Snigirevskaya. Birds of the World

Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art presented an exhibition by Maria Snigirevskaya – the St. Petersburg based artist who has been perceiving life via moods and imagery since early childhood

  • Nearly 30 paintings acting as the natural continuation of the artist’s photographic practice

  • Minimalist still lifes inhabited by eye-catching tropical birds, insects, and even fish

  • An artist whose works are housed in the State Russian Museum, ROSPHOTO State Museum and Exhibition Centre, Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Brunswick (New Jersey, USA), and other collections


Maria Snigirevskaya was born and raised on the Vasilievsky Island amid the nurturing environment of her creative family – mother (artist Natalia Zhilina), stepfather (legendary photographer Boris Smelov), and older brother (founding member of the Mitki artist collective Dmitry Shagin). The apartment in which Maria currently resides used to be the meeting place for the local creative intellectuals, including members of the so-called Mendicant Painters Order: Alexander Arefyev, Vladimir Shagin, Richard Vasmi, and Sholom Schwartz. Viewing art as a calling and despising material wealth, these freedom-loving spirits were at odds with the official state ideology of the time. Maria grew up in the atmosphere of clandestine home exhibitions and animated discussions of art, literature, and philosophy. Since childhood years she would perceive life through the prism of painting, via its moods and imagery.

Although the Birds of the World exhibition at Erarta Museum showcases Snigirevskaya’s paintings, she is primarily known as an art photographer. Maria took up photography in her teenage years, under the tutelage of Boris Smelov, and it was the latter’s passion for the city that informed her artistic vision. Central to Maria’s snapshots are the light and shadows on the walls, roofs, and archways of the historical part of Vasilievsky Island – and of course its residents.

Snigirevskaya’s second big fascination after the cityscape is the still life, also fostered by Smelov: for their photography lessons, he would arrange compositions using antique jugs, vials, shells, and other curiosities. Maria started painting in 2014, adopting the medium as the natural continuation of her photographic practice. Her first subject was the city, next came the still lifes, which eventually began to feature birds. Birds are widely perceived as the symbol of ethereal beauty, the embodiment of dreams and freedom. Right in downtown St. Petersburg attentive observers may spot not just the commonly found species, but also birds of prey, yellow wagtails, and chaffinches. They all – alongside more exotic birds – make an appearance in Maria Snigirevskaya’s paintings. Bright and vivid, they are starkly contrasted against the abstract light-coloured backgrounds. This, too, is no mere coincidence: the artist recalls that every year she and her stepfather tried to photograph the freshly fallen first snow: pristinely white, it provided the perfect backdrop to the beautiful city vistas.

Maria Snigirevskaya’s exhibition was programmed through the feedback form on the museum’s website. Erarta offers the artists working in various genres and media an opportunity to reach out to their viewers, introducing its visitors to highly original artworks.

about the artist
Maria Snigirevskaya was born in 1967 in Leningrad. Having studied photography since 1980 under the instruction of Boris Smelov, she additionally took up painting in 2004. Snigirevskaya’s artworks were acquired for the collections of the State Russian Museum and ROSPHOTO State Museum and Exhibition Centre in St. Petersburg, Museum of Organic Culture in Kolomna, Tsarskoselskaya Kollektsiya State Museum of Art in Pushkin, and Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Brunswick (New Jersey, USA).

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