Sung by the French pop singer Françoise Hardy, set against a background of Parisian paintings by the Russian Impressionist Konstantin Korovin. It is fitting, isn’t it… paintings of Paris by a Russian artist accompanied by the singing of the one of the best French pop singers alive.
Wednesday, 14 November 2007
Old Church, New Church (Dmitri Belyukin, 1995)
The subject of this painting is an old church that obviously was desecrated during the period of the atheist repressions during the Soviet period. Most of the church fixtures are now gone, and it is obvious that many of the fresco icons were obliterated by the communists. Yet, the faith has come back to life. The past is not restored; there is much work to be done on the building. Nevertheless, one sees that people are worshipping, even though the building lacks much that is deemed necessary for Orthodox services.
This painting, as with the case with Mr Belyukin’s White Russia in Exile, is a metaphor, an allegory in paint. Note the minimalism and focus of the work (especially as compared with White Russia in Exile). The number of objects depicted is kept at the bare minimum needed to project the artist’s intent. This visual austerity draws in the watcher, and ruthlessly concentrates their attention. The most obvious figure is the young woman bowing in reverence before the icon of the Mother of God. This is a sign that the artist is aware that the current religious revival in Russia is a movement of the young, a movement of youth, not old age.
The most important message conveying by the painting is that the reconstruction of the faith is only in its in initial stages. Yes, the faith is being restored, yet, there is much left to be done. The bare sanctuary is a symbol of the barrenness of Russian society after 75 years of Soviet rule. It can be revived, but, only after much hard work and effort. All that exists now is the foundation for the edifice. A good start has been made, but, there is much more of the road left ahead.
The next twenty years are vital for Russia. It can either return to the old verities and live, or be destroyed by the implosion of its population due to the scourge of abortion brought in by the Soviets. Whither thou goest? Only the Russian people know…
A “romance” is a particular genre of Russian song. They were composed pieces by urban musicians in the style of folk singing, written mainly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact, most Russian “folk songs” known in the West are actually romances, not the naive product of rural people. These are still very popular in Russia today. Yes, they are sloppy, treacly, and horribly sentimental… that is how we Russians prefer them!
The singer is the baritone Dmitri Khvorostovsky, one of the greats of the contemporary opera world. He sings all over the world, and sings the Italian and German repertoire as well as the Russian. Mr Khvorostovsky not only has a stupendous voice… well, he is VERY handsome… ahh…
The artwork is by the great 19th century Russian landscape painter Isaak Levitan.
A Walk in the Winter
Bill Jones noted in a personal communication to me that he has a love of Russian Impressionism. He noted that he was “blown away” by an exhibition of Soviet Impressionistic works. Therefore, Bill, this work by Valery Badakva is dedicated to you (I do try to listen to my readers!). Parenthetically, my own favourite Russian artwork is A Girl with Peaches (1887) by Valentin Serov, one of the early Russian Impressionists. By the way, he was one of the greatest portraitists in the Russian milieu.