Maria Nikitina. Plastic
Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art presented an exhibition by the St. Petersburg based photographer Maria Nikitina who recreates iconic paintings amid the mad world of disposable items and plastic
Portraits giving centre stage to plastic bags, cotton buds, and disposable cups
Juxtaposition of the futile and immediate with the timeless pinnacles of the human spirit
Reflections on the state of environment – both urban and visual
Maria Nikitina’s photographic series was inspired by the current environmental agenda. The key image in each shot is one or another ecological scourge or threat; portraits give centre stage to plastic bags, cotton buds, and disposable cups, with iconic painting imagery merely playing a supporting role. ‘I wanted to address the issue from an aesthetic perspective, so that everyone looking at the picture would pause to think what they personally could do to reduce waste,’ says the artist.
Maria’s series started as a staged shoot assignment for her photography class. The very idea of such photo shoots harks back to glossy editorials. However, whereas in the past it was mainly actors and pop stars who posed for Renaissance-style portraits, the difficult times of the pandemic saw countless people in lockdown recreate famous paintings as part of the international online art challenge.
Maria Nikitina’s artworks are an invitation to ponder the ultimate destiny of the iconic artistic imagery: after all, we are currently witnessing timeless masterpieces being turned into trash mass culture. Why, for instance, does the image of a man screaming on the bridge keep popping up in various promotional campaigns? Why do serious and meaningful artworks appear on countless postcards, fridge magnets, and posters? The aggressive plastic in Nikitina’s pictures seems to pose a threat not just to urban landscapes, but to our overall visual environment. Maria juxtaposes the trashy and futile goings-on of the here and now with the pinnacles of the human spirit – the dramatic, at times even tragically sublime images. What makes the project most appealing is its creator’s firm belief in the power of the small deeds. One can’t help noticing that the sidekicks recruited by the artist on this quest are real superheroes.