Vladimir Shinkaryov. Sombre Pictures
Erarta Museum presented Vladimir Shinkaryov’s austere landscapes free from the advertisement-inspired joviality
Instantly recognisable pensive St. Petersburg shot through with wavering light
Subdued colours as a kind of a counter-trend manifesto
A legendary St. Petersburg based artist whose works are in the collections of the Tretyakov Gallery and the Russian Museum
Vladimir Shinkaryov is a true legend: this artist and writer was the mastermind behind, and one of the founders of, the famous Mitki art collective. He authored both the eponymously titled book full of Mitki’s catchy slang words and phrases and The End of Mitki, written twenty years later. In 2008, Shinkaryov embarked on a solo artistic journey. The group’s trademark good-natured slapstick mockery gave way to an ascetic and meditative painting style of a ‘marginalised St. Petersburg dweller with a religious mission,’ as the artist humbly described himself and his kindred spirits. For him, painting is an absolutely self-sufficient pursuit that bears no haste, and this might be the reason why Shinkaryov refrains from exhibiting his works too frequently and taking as much space in the art world as possible.
The unassuming title of this show, Sombre Pictures, begs to be contested: indeed, rather than being sombre, these views of the St. Petersburg backstreets, full of greyish light and familiar to most of us, appear subdued and pensive. The exhibition has no artificial concept – it is not a preconceived project, but a collection of works from the recent years, free from any flavour or colour enhancers and advertisement-inspired joviality. These are the pictures of a real world and a city filled with the characteristic St. Petersburg haze and shot through with wavering, nearly metaphysical light, sharing the mood of an indirect statement. Each of them summarises the artist’s past experience and knowledge of the world.
Shinkaryov describes the muted palette of his paintings as the colours of insurgency against the current trends. In the simplest of scenes he manages to capture something timeless, chthonic, mysterious, which turns his art into an almost esoteric practice. Transporting the viewer to some place like Tarkhovka near Sestroretsk, where, as in Osip Mandelstam’s poem, ‘a thin beam saws light thin in a damp forest,’ and ‘I carry sorrow, slow, like a gray bird in my heart,’ it allows one to escape the ‘matrix’ of the glittering world.