Yury Gusev. MSTA
Erarta Museum presented an exhibition by the renowned St. Petersburg based artist Yury Gusev. MSTA offers visions of the idyllic world of quiet escapes, self-discovery, and love
Life in the Promised Land of the Russian countryside
Stories of artist friends, exhibition openings, and unhindered creativity
Painter whose canvases reflect the great circle of life and the inner light of hope
Yury Gusev (1939–2018), the ‘intellectual romantic artist’ (as described by Anatoly Zaslavsky in his essay for Our Heritage art magazine), was definitely not a realistic illustrator concerned merely with the physical appearances of the world. His metaphoric paintings, just like the fragments of his philosophical and poetic texts, explore self-discovery, introspection, and the sense of one’s presence. Viewed together, the artist’s works make up a kind of a hagiographic story of a man inhabiting the Promised Land – for him, this was the vicinity of the Msta River, in the south of the Novgorod Region, at the foot of the Valdai Hills. Gusev discovered the place in the late 1960s, while still a student.
In the 1970s, he bought a house near the Msta, in which he spent every summer for a number of decades. For Yury Gusev, the Msta provided an escape from the ‘disciplinary space’ of civilization into the calmness of the natural world. Here in his Valdai Eden, the artist, naked as Adam, lies on the green hill next to his Eve who stares skyward; here they engage in conversations, frolic, and fly; even cows here can ride bikes.
It is hard to tell how this inner space, woven of dreams, reveries, and visual metaphors relates to the mundane geographical space. MSTA offers an immersion into the idyllic world of quiet respites, self-discovery, creativity, and love between two people already in their ripe age, at times painfully stumbling over reality. In one of the works, under the metaphysically white clouds, we see the artist amid a sudden epic fall from the bicycle right into the road dust – just like Icarus crashing down from the skies. This interrupted flight is full of irony, sadness, and realisation of one’s own finiteness: the Valdai Adam ponders his own frailty on the bank of the Msta.
The exhibition also tells a captivating story of fellow artists, exhibition openings, and creative expression. Over the many years Yury Gusev exhibited his art in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Monterrey, and Seattle and taught at the Theatre Academy. His drawing and painting classes were never boring, but still he was always longing for the summer to be able to return to the Msta. The relatively small but insightful exhibition at Erarta provides a glimpse into the imagery and the unique creative world of Yury Gusev, an artist of unparalleled profoundness whose paintings reflect the great cycle of life, the phantasmagoric reality, and the inner light of hope.