The World Through Women’s Eyes

In the very heart of Moscow one of the main boulevards – Tverskoi Boulevard is used as exhibition space. Every quarter or so the exhibition changes. This time it was an exhibition of contemporary photography – The World Through Women’s Eyes. All photographers showcased are women. It is rare, let’s be honest, considering that majority of photographers are men; but this is a step forward. 

There is a verity of themes: family, nature, architecture even cars. Each section out of ten consisted of 7 photographs by one artist. It is a shame that some descriptions were limited and did not give any background on a photographer. 

I liked some works, however, some did not look so professional to me. It looked like someone abused Instagram filters… 

The exhibition is placed in open air and absolutely free. It allows everyone who is passing by to stop for a minute and admire contemporary photographs. It is a good way to spread beauty and educate people.

Street Art in Moscow – level up

I love Street Art!

Street Art in Moscow is taken to a whole different level. It might be a debate in some countries if it is legal or not but in Moscow authorities have taken this matter in their own hands. Street Art in Moscow is created with cultural and educational purpose.

Aeroflot, the most successful Russian airline and a member of Skyteam Alliance, carried out a series of large scale artworks. Graffiti shows beautiful portraits of flight attendants with elements of famous Russian cities such as Kazan, Kaliningrad, St Petersburg and others. The images are beautiful, colourful and pleasant to look at but they also promote a number of cultures across Russia and promote tourism. Sure thing it is a marketing tool for the airline but it makes streets look better and more enjoyable place to walk.

Another thing that caught my eye was a development with tall buildings with animal paintings on the side – zebra, elephant and giraffe. Apparently it was there for 3 years already but I never saw it. It is very impressive – twenty-something-storey paintings especially when they are beautifully executed. It was idea of a construction company responsible for the project. But its not only to decorate streets but also to educate, each animal has a short description written on the eye level as well as a small map of natural habitat for these wild creatures.

There are also many ongoing competitions for best graffiti among young artists as the government is promoting culture and talents through creating a challenge for artist to create a themed graffiti, some are devoted to historic figures, some to going to space. It is lovely to see how the city is changing  and getting more and more colourful but it is also good to realise that pretty pictures have meaning. These collaboration of street artists and municipal authorities is a brilliant way to enhance creativity and decorate a city. Well done!

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The Art of Ballet

Russian Ballet is something out of this world. It is absolutely amazing. Last night I went to The Sleeping Beauty in Bolshoi Theatre and I am still under impression. 

Every detail was beautiful: costumes, decorations, movements, orchestra, hall – everything. Ballerinas looked weightless, elegant and fragile. They did not make a sound.. It is amazing how ballerinas’ movements can look so effortless considering how much hard work they put in every day. How many people were involved in production –  producers, choreographers, costume developers, lighting, sound, music and of course dancers themselves. It is a pure form of art.

It would not be so beautiful if it were not for the dancers. They dance so brilliantly due to everyday rehearsals and never ending learning process, tons of hard work through pain. Ballet is not only about choreography but also acting, it is an art of telling a story without words through movements and body language. 

Ballet is hard everywhere but Russian school is especially strict. For a ballet dancer performing on the Bolshoi’s Theatre stage is like winning a Nobel Prize every day. 

I also want to note orchestra and their attitude towards each other. I was sitting at the balcony so I had a good view on orchestra pit. Music was beautiful it goes even without saying. Pyotr Tchaikovsky is a treasure of Russian classic music. When the performance ended everyone in the orchestra shook hands of their neighbours and congratulated each other on great performance. It was very moving. 

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Truly amazing. Everything. If anyone has a chance of going to Bolshoi Theatre, make yourself a favour – do not miss it!

P.S. Photos are not great. To be honest it is not permitted to take photos but I could not resist.

Saint Affrique, France

Travelling in France is a great pleasure. You can choose your destination but you never know what to expect on the way – small towns, vineyards and villages. For our trip we decided to go to Saint-Affrique. We admired incredible views, picturesque sceneries and   a feeling of a an endless horizon. To be completely honest I chose this city purely by its name because I love a restaurant African Queen in Cote D’Azur on the seaside of Eze-sur-mere.

Saint-Affrique is a rather big city with its own infrastructure: there is a cinema, tourist centre, college, hospitals and everything else that attributes to a big city. Population is a little over 8,000 people and it spreads over more than 100 squared km.

The architecture is interesting, some buildings have blue elements (like balconies or window shutters) resembling sunny Nice whereas some buildings made from heavy stones resemble medieval times.

The bridge in the heart of the city was build before 1368 and is one of the few medieval bridges left in France.

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Artwise there were two interesting sculptures – Statue De La Liberte and a statue of a boy.

Replicas of Statue of Liberty are all over France, there are more than one in Paris, one in Nice, Bordeaux, Soulac-sur-Mer and other French cities. The statue in Saint-Affrique is not the exact replica of its American sister, but rather interesting interpretation made from metal wires.

The second sculpture, the statue of the boy and it is also made from metal, it is constructed from many pieces of metal things such as wheels, screws, locks etc.

The stature is a rather bold statement, a quote form Victor Hugo:

“I am not one who believes that we can remove the suffering in this world; the sufferance is a divine law, but I am among those who think and affirm that we can destroy misery. Note well, I do not say decrease engine, impair, restrict, confine, I say destroy.

Destroy the misery!

Yes, this is possible.

The legislature and the rulers must be constantly; because, in such matters, as long as possible is not done, the task is not completed”

Apparently there is an elephant made in the same style unfortunately we have not seen it.

Different cafés and shops are decorated with an exterior artwork. It is a beautiful contrast between graffiti decorations and old, even historic, buildings. We also glanced a piece of street art, it is a shame that we did not see more.

It is a very nice city to walk around, explore history and enjoy your day!

Bonus fact: in the end on 20th century there was a prize for French painters, the most talented painters were honored to spend one month in St Affrique in a famous hotel and paint in one of the most beautiful region of France.

Way into the mountains in France

I love travelling through small towns and villages that are not out there in the open but hidden from everybody. I have recently been in a small town called Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert which is home to less than 300 people. It is not far from Lodeve and Montpellier in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France.

There are many shops with local handcrafted items such as staffed toys, clothes, jewellery and a lot of wine of course. One of many shops is a gallery of contemporary art with paintings by Armelle Bastide d’Izard. She is a french artist with a local media exposure and a list of exhibitions. Her exhibitions were mostly local but Armelle also exhibited in large cities such as Montpellier and art capital of France – in Paris.

Her artworks are bright and colourful, full of life. Some paintings are figurative, depicting surroundings – street views, landscapes, and some are abstract. The weather was nice during our visit and sun filled the room, which made the paint even more vibrant. The artist was there herself and I assumed that she worked on the top floor as some works were shown in the process as in the artist studio.

Kenwood House

Kenwood house is a great place to go on a sunny day with your family. It is located on the edge of Hempstead Heath, huge park. The house was built in the early 17th century which was later transformed into neo-classical villa by Robert Adam. In 1986 the house was taken over by English Heritage and now it is a home for the 1st Earl of Iveagh’s.

Kenwood house is surrounded by large territory with parks and lakes. From outside the house does not look so impressive however inside it hosts great old masters paintings collection, jewellery and a lot of decorative arts. 

There are some great artworks by a verity of artists such as Rembrandt, Turner, Gainsborough and Vermeer. There are also different genres: landscapes, portraits, still lives – something for every taste. 

You might have seen the Rembrandt self portrait in National Gallery last year, it was on loan for the Rembrandt exhibition. 

This villa is great place to go with kinds, the entrance is free and it has a separate play room for children and interactive quests for visitors. Over the Easter break there was a quest with hidden clues over the house, some rooms had riddles and hints for clues in that room. Each clue was an answer of the crossword puzzle. Children were very excited and families were having great time! This is a very good way to make experience more exciting and engaging for kids. 

It might not be the most spectacular estate but it is definitely worth checking out. By the way, you can bring your dogy with you.

“The Last Supper”

I have always admired Leonardo’s work, but my recent visit to Milan and seeing this piece with my own eyes made me want to discover more about it. I have chosen this painting because of its significance in art and its history. “The Last supper” is truly remarkable piece of art for many reasons: its subject matter, technique, color and value behind it. 

Composition

Composition in this picture is complicated and sublime. There are 13 people in the picture having supper. There is clearly the center figure – Jesus in the very middle of the painting. Jesus is the key figure not only in the theme, but also composition-wise. He is sitting in the middle of the table with 6 people by each side. Leonardo da Vinci divided the whole crowd in the small groups of three. This is the first thing that grabs attention.

There are many vertical and horizontal lines that hold composition. I have attempted to outline the most important ones. I have found 8 horizontal lines and 22 vertical ones.

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The long table consists from 3 lines: the bottom line and 2 lines of the surface. The next line is line of heads. It also happens to be Jesus eye line and the line of the horizon, which we can see from the windows in the back of the picture. The frames of the windows also create another line. The ceiling creates the top two lines and the final horizontal line is created by the fretwork.

Vertical lines are more regular and rhythmic, because panels on the walls and windows at the back mostly create them. We can also see how vertical lines of the wall panels are supported by tables’ legs and people’s feet.

All the figures are placed in the lower half of the painting, creating the illusion of high ceilings and large size of the room. 

Space

Space wise the painting is very complex and a lot of different techniques are used to create the illusion of three-dimensional picture.

First of all there are a lot of perspective lines that are going to the vanishing point. On the picture below it can be seen that all the perspectives are going to the center of the painting, which is the Jesus figure, his head if more specific.

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The panels on the walls and the ceiling are most obvious lines that create the feeling of space. The less obvious lines are the arms of Jesus and combination of figures. It is shown on the picture by lines on the lower half of the painting. This technique is pointing out that vanishing point, the center of attention is Jesus. This is fascinating, because by painting his face at the vanishing point Leonardo implies the importance of the figure not only on the painting but also in subject matter.

Secondly, the illusion of space is created by shadows and colors. We can see that there are shadows on the wall and under the table, which adds to the effect. Moreover, the light is coming from the back windows, highlighting Jesus and the darkness of back wall.

Finally, usage of contrast colors on the figures and the walls creates space. Colors that fetch out each other, make the foreground come forward whereas background stays further away.

Form

Leonardo was the first artist that implemented “chiaroscuro” (tonal move from dark to light in a graduated way) and “sfumato” (blurring of edges of shadows). We can see both techniques used in this painting: blurred shadows of the background landscape and gradually blended tone from dark to light on the walls.

Figures appearing to be three-dimensional because of their forms, they are directed towards each other, each of them has its own position, which makes them interacting with each other at different angles.

Colour

Colours in the painting are chosen carefully. Jesus wears blue and red cloths; blue signifies the sky and the purity, the truth, whereas red signifies fire, danger and also passionate heart. This combination of colors may correspond to the holly spirit of Jesus and the danger that about to come. All the colours except the clothes are calming and create peaceful atmosphere. Unfortunately, the colours are not bright as they used to be due to poor conditions. 

Subject matter

Finally, the subject matter is thrilling and interesting. The plot is taken from a Bible and represents the reaction of 12 apostles when Jesus told them that one them would betray him. The subject is appealing to many people and shows the sort of breaking point of religious history. All the apostles are reacting in different ways; the sort of chaos and tension is clearly represented. However, Christ is sitting in the middle with his eyes down and looking calm and divine. This illustration is not typical for the last supper, because the space and the figures are interacting with each other. For example Andrea del Castagno’s Last Supper (1447) Judas is the only one is sitting on the opposite side of the table from Christ. Leonardo made the painting simpler and “close to the point”, because there is no unnecessary details on the background. The table in the painting is separating the viewer and the spiritual world where apostles live.

Conclusion

That piece of art has a lot to offer, starting with fundamental things like structure, ending with small details and symbols that appear in the painting. But even after short exam of the picture it can be said, that it absolutely perfectly represents the holiness of Jesus Christ, where the window is like a halo. He is painted in a way that it brings calmness and peace in the air. To achieve this, the master who painted it must be a true genius, which Leonardo da Vinci definitely is.

Paris – the city of artists

Cite Internationale des Arts is an international art foundation in Paris in “the Marais” district, which welcomes artists from all over the globe. The foundation provides 284 studios for painters, sculptors, musicians, photographers and dancers. In order to be selected, each artist has to submit a project, and a comity decides if the artist gets the place. The prices are affordable and all studios are designed for working and living. The most exciting thing is to live in Paris and explore museums, galleries and foundations.

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During studios’ open day group of Sotheby’s Institute students visited Russian painter Alexei Lantsev, who was staying in the studio with his wife, who is also a painter, for the second time. We were discussing art, Russian art market, drinking wine and eating cheese.

Alexei Lantsev is working in different styles, he creates figurative art as well as abstractions.  Russian public is not quite ready for contemporary art, and Alexei is trying to build that bridge between figurative and abstract art. In Paris he was working on recreating famous traditional paintings in “modern” way using primary colours.

The artist told us what is different about working in Paris comparing to working in Moscow: nothing distracts him and he can be consumed in painting process all day long, whereas, in Moscow there is always something stands on the way like “grocery shopping or celebrating grandmothers birthday” added the artist. He also said that when you live in the city you don’t appreciate the museums and never have time for visiting it. However, in Paris, you appreciate museums more, Alexei went to Louvre 3 times one week. The artist also said that everything about Paris is inspiring, even aimlessly wondering in the streets.

As Vincent van Gogh once wrote to his brother Theo: “There is but one Paris and however hard living may be here, and if it became worse and harder even – the French air clears up the brain and does good – a world of good”. I guess there is something inspiring about Paris, that attracts artist from all over the world.

Spice signs up a little

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Road signs are not that boring any more. Street artists play with “No entry” road sigh by adding elements to the white rectangle and twisting the meaning completely. The first artist who has been “adjusting” the signs across Europe was Clet Abraham, born in France, but lived in Italy for over 20 years.

I found these signs across Europe in London, Paris, Rome and Amsterdam. I keep discovering them in narrow streets, large roads, in the centre of the city and in suburbs. Some graffiti became more common, so I was lucky to hunt some rare ones.

Different interpretations keep popping up here and there and it might be Abraham’s followers of the artist himself, I guess we will never know. Graffiti are after all created under the dome of night..