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Contemporary art from St. Petersburg in Turku 0

Through August 17, the Marina Gisich Gallery and the Waino Aaltonen Museum of Art (Turku) are presenting the project "Crystallizations. Contemporary art from St. Petersburg". 

The project presents an attempt to follow the trends and tendencies which exist today in the artistic processes of St. Petersburg.

The selection of artworks includes famous lightboxes by Marina Alexeeva, installations by Peter Belyi and Vladimir Kustov, legendary movies by Evgeny Yufit, “Human project” by Kerim Ragimov, large-scale canvases by Dmitry Gretsky, structural geometry by Anna Zholud and Nadya Zubareva, protest painting by Igor Pestov, Vitaly Pushnitsky’s neoclassical studies, textile objects by Tanya Akhmetgalieva, bromoil works by Gregory Maiofis, and graphic expressionism by Kirill Chelushkin, as well as symptomatic meditative paintings by Anna and Aleksey Gan.

The exhibition features pieces from the collections of the Cultural Foundation “Ekaterina” (Moscow), the Vladimir Smirnov and Konstantin Sorokin Foundation (Moscow) and from several large, private collections.

Crystallization is known as the transition of a substance from one state to another, from liquid to solid, when certain conditions cause the formation of crystals. As a metaphor, the title of the exhibition focuses thoughts on the crystallization of artistic processes that have taken shape over the last twenty years in the work of artists who mostly live and work in St. Petersburg.

This exhibition is the first large-scale overview of Russian contemporary art in Finland for a number of years, and so it offers a unique opportunity for Finnish people to become acquainted with artistic developments in Russia.

We believe that this event is quite significant and that it warranted the solicitation of additional information, which led us to ask Galina Leontieva, the coordinator of "Crystallizations" project, the following questions:

The press release states that “many of the artists represented at the exhibition started their work during Perestroika, which led to radical changes in politics, economics, and aesthetics. The time of change has come to an end, and now it’s time to verify and define the current situation within the art scene.” How would you describe the common sentiment of this art scene? What were the biggest surprises and discoveries?

The artists whose works are being displayed in the exhibition represent, for the most part, the generation born in the 1960s; so, their careers have been actively developing over the last 20 years. The only exceptions are Evgeny Yufit and Vladimir Kustov ("Necrorealism" artistic division), who started a little bit earlier, at the beginning of 1980s, and who, along with Timur Nivikov and the new Academy, were the pioneering independent art initiatives in St. Petersburg. The last 20 years were a big issue for the Russian art scene – from both sides: in terms of artistic and curatorial research, and then the market side of it. Saint Petersburg, from this point of view, is an interesting region; it was a revelation at the end of the 80's – with its famous Leningrad Rock Club, the "New artists" group, the "Necrorealism" art group, and the first independent film studio, Mzhalalafilm, which was established by E. Yufit.

Up until that time, the art process had been boiling and molding, step by step, the tendencies in art and the main institutions of the art community – the critics, galleries, museums and foundations. 

The 14 artists whose works are on display now in Turku are, for the most part, established figures on the Russian contemporary art stage at the moment; they were born in and work in St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg has its finger on the pulse of what is going on at the moment.

The exhibition is not a common mold indicating all of the processes of the city; it is not a general profile. It is, in some way, the personal view of the invited curator, Marina Gisich, but it does feature the main names and touches upon the important trends.

How were the artworks and artists for this exhibition selected?

The choice of artists was made in tandem by Marina Gisich, the invited curator; and Susanna Hujala, the curator from the Waino Aaltonen Museum of Art.

These are the artists that the Marina Gisich Gallery has been working with for the last 15 years (since 1999). 

This exhibition is the first large-scale overview of Russian contemporary art in Finland for a number of years, and so it offers a unique opportunity for people to acquaint themselves with artistic developments in Russia.

Why do you think it is essential to talk about Russian contemporary art today?

Here I would like to quote my colleague, Joanna Kurth, the chief curator of the Waino Aaltonen Museum of Art: “When starting this project, we did not foresee that pending our exhibition's opening, Russia would become a newsworthy issue for political reasons. We are now waiting to see how the audience here in Finland receives the exhibition, and if the current political climate affects how the artworks are being understood. For us at the Museum Centre of Turku, this project has been a rewarding experience. We believe that cultural exchange is important in all circumstances, and that it is the basis for broadening our understanding of each other.” 

From our point of view, it's interesting that, at the moment, St. Petersburg is again at the intersection of social and artistic investigations; while the European Biennale of Contemporary Art - Manifesta 10 displays European art icons in the heart of the city, in the conservative buildings of the Hermitage, contemporary art from St. Petersburg is being put on display in a Western European museum.

What sort of audience are you expecting to come to this exhibition?

Turku is a huge transport hub in Finland, especially in the summer season. So, the audience we expect consists of people from Finland and Sweden; there are also many Russians who live in or own property in Finland. 

We also see the exhibition as part of a tour for art connoisseurs and collectors traveling from other countries to Manifesta (in St. Petersburg), through Scandinavia.