"Roots" by Gelya Pisareva:
A premonition of spring engulfs the viewer in the chamber space of the new gallery of Frol Burimsky - the first exhibition was held here in October of the last quarantine year. In February, the third project was launched, dedicated to the work of the famous St. Petersburg sculptor and painter Gelya Pisareva. The exhibition is called "Roots.” It is about the origins of art and human life itself, about tradition in the modern world, which can be understood as a support and reference point for an urban person living in the pragmatic framework of a metropolis.
Frol chooses only a few dozen paintings, graphics and wooden objects from the workshop in the famous "Artists' Village" among numerous works, which are united by cross-cutting themes.
In the "red corner" (so is called the most precious place of traditional Russian wooden house – a corner where icons were kept) of the exhibition there is a display of washing. The same, manual one, which has already been forgotten where modern automatic machines have reached. But the wonders of civilization are still not present everywhere. Laundry, which hurts your back and makes your hands hurt from cold water during the spring—yet at the same time it becomes surprisingly easy on your soul when the aroma of fresh linen taken from the clothes on the street and brought into the house mixes with the aroma of apples, herbs and wildflowers in a simple glass vase on a wooden windowsill. Sunlight is refracted through a vase, as if through an objective lens, like in Arseniy Tarkovsky’s poem:
Simple things - a basin, a jug, when
stood between us, as if on guard,
layered and dark water.
These words are suddenly about the materiality, objectivity and symbolism of Gelya Pisareva's painting, the sculptor's painting with its sense of monumentality and proportionality, strength, lightness and color in Cezanne's way. In her paintings, the sheets on the ropes become either rough whitewashed walls of ancient Pskov churches or traditional Russian stoves, sails or waters. While the figures become either ancient goddesses of the Stone Age—or old Pomor punk dolls, which were carved according to a vow, with a certain number blows of a knife or ax.
There is an association that is born from the overlapping poems of Tarkovsky the elder, the "Mirror" of Tarkovsky the younger and the female figures of Gelya Pisareva:
The linen squeezes out. Window -
Wide open into the street, and a dress
Does not matter,
Let them see this crucifix too.
However, in the artist's painting and sculpture, the difficult female labor of washing turns into something else. This is a transformation—or the creation of a new world, in which reality is connected with the divine principle. Fluttering like angel wings, sheets in a carved wooden sculpture of Gelya, scrolls of the apostles, suspiciously similar to baby swaddling clothes, angels with buckets, a wooden Mary with a snow-white cover in her hands, Saint Paraskevi (Pyatnica) - the patroness of women's crafts and at the same time a poplar in a red kerchief - where do they come from? “I've been walking around and sketching all my life. All these lakes, Shuvalovo, Ozerki. All these old women, women who wash, live, dig, do, all this is here, I am not inventing anything, it all exists,” the author replies.
Gelya Pisareva finds inspiration in the traditional Bogorodskaya swing carving, in carved and painted sculpture from churches or chapels of the North, from Novgorod to Perm. She cuts and writes how she breathes, how she lives. At eighty-seven, she cannot help but work in her workshop, continuing her tireless work every day, which is at the same time similar to the daily routine work of the housewife and mother. Next to her in the studio is her daughter, a fabric artist. And the grandson, in family terms, "grew up in our canvases and sawdust."
Canvases and sawdust. An artist's workshop is like a theater, behind the scenes of which are man-made items from the collection brought from travels and donated by friends. Clay and wooden toys, birch bark tues, old lanterns, samovars - the objective world that preserves the memory of generations slowly grows in the works of Gelya Pisareva.
The key themes in the artist's painting are family, home, native land, women and children. In the village, at the dacha, or in the workshop, in the "Artist's Village.” For Frol Burimsky, this is a contact with the past of both his own family and of Gelya’s family. The roots of both are in the Pskov land and in Leningrad / Petersburg.
The story of life and destiny dispenses with a tragic or gloomy intonation, as it sometimes happens in the works of artists of a severe style. The point is, apparently, in a special color combination. The color in Gelya's painting, sometimes transparent and joyful, sometimes rich and decorative, sometimes dense and dramatic, awakens many memories. “This is the purity and beauty of the house, earth, sky, sun and everything in the world”, - the master simply and clearly comments.
White apple blossom on a white night, dreams under an open window, behind which the nightingales sing. Light and rustles on a green summer day outside the veranda windows of an old house. Piercing willow-tea and mysterious lupine, which are poured into the silent sea on the places where strong peasant houses once stood. Half a century ago, large families lived in them, and then village life disappeared, sank into oblivion, as if it never existed. Collectivization, war, then the policy of destroying "unpromising" villages. And here is only Ivan-tea and lupine in the
dying twilight of the July night. The women in Gelya Pisareva's paintings cut off these flowers in armfuls, as they reaped rye or barley a long time ago—looking at them thoughtfully: they have something to remember, something to sing about.
Colored seasons follow each other, the harvest comes after haymaking. Even if the 21st century is in the yard, the bread and salt of the earth are eternal.
The modern viewer has something to think about when entering the space and time of painting and sculpture by Gelya Pisareva. And there is a reason to stay in them.
Elizaveta Sheveleva, art critic, art historian
Translated by Reynolds Tilbrook
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