“Verkhniy Island”. Exhibition of photographs by Elena Agafonova
16 January 2015 —  9 February 2015
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“Verkhniy Island”, an exhibition of photographs by Elena Agafonova opened at Erarta from January 16


The definition of the word “island” is very simple: “a tract of land completely surrounded by water”. If you are born in St. Petersburg, the island life seems so natural that doesn’t require any explanations. So there is no coincidence that Elena Agafonova’s (Bakhareva) exhibition is inspired with her island life, but on a different island, Verkhniy Island in Pskovskoe Lake.

The artist’s vision was formed in European and regular-shaped space of St. Petersburg islands. It made her be able to reveal both traditional and spiritual atmosphere of Talab archipelago, the ancient islands mentioned long ago in chronicles of IV-V centuries A.C., four centuries before the state of Russia was founded. The legendary trade route “from the Varangians to the Greeks” laid right between the islands, hosting a lot of ships from Scandinavian drakkars to Slavs’ and Huns’s boats. In XV century orthodox monks founded here Peter and Paul Convent which was later repeatedly attacked by Swedes, Poles, and Lithuanians. During the Soviet time the monastery was abandoned and now it’s being restored mostly by pilgrims. Verkhniy Island is quite small in size: one and a half kilometers long and one kilometer wide. However, this does not prevent it from being a unique natural reserve of interesting flora and fauna, sand dunes and pine forests. 

Elena Agafonova: “What does this island mean to me? For me, it is a miniature of Russia. A place of recognition with forests, steppes and deserts ... a little piece of land surrounded by Lake Peipus, with a difficult fate and rich history of spiritual life. What do I feel and what happens on the island? I meet there myself, which is not easy! Not everyone is able to stay on the island. The island is jealous, it never accepts you immediately, but after having accepted, it won’t let you go. Imagine, once I touched the ground of the island and felt a response!”.

In a book, dedicated to St. Petersburg photographers, Nal Podolsky writes about Elena: "All her artistic powers are concentrated to create new  energy ... Her main sources of energy are composition, light, dynamics, energy of the model and activation of the image by her own biological energy”.

This (irrepressible?) creative energy, multiplied by the energy of the island, allows us to rise above the mercantile everyday life and to see the divine side of this harmonious place.

In a sense, each of us is an island. And Elena’s photographs serve as an unconditional tuning fork, allowing us to relate our inner world with the outside life on the way of approaching the harmony.

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