Elegant, always recognisable, true Saint Petersburg style

Minsk hosts display of glass, enamel and ceramics by artists from northern Russian capital
By Viktor Mikhailov

The exhibition is being held as part of the Days of St. Petersburg Culture in the Republic of Belarus project, which aims to show audiences leading trends in contemporary decorative arts in St. Petersburg. The exhibition includes works from Yelaginoostrovsky Palace-Museum and workshops of contemporary artists.

In 2000, Yelaginoostrovsky Palace-Museum was given a collection of over 7,000 exhibits from the Leningrad Glass Art Factory. Since 2005, it has also been gathering contemporary ceramics and has become an open platform for contemporary exhibitions, international open air events and scientific and practical conferences on the study of our heritage — including current state issues and the preservation of the glass industry.

In 2010, Russia’s Museum of Glass Arts (the only one of its kind) opened in the greenhouse at Yelaginoostrovsky Palace and Park Estate, boasting well-equipped, modern rooms, a permanent exhibition and regular touring exhibitions — as part of the Masters of the 20th Century programme, for leading Russian and foreign artists.

Yelaginoostrovsky House-Museum has been holding its outside events for a decade already, in beautiful surroundings, featuring architectural masterpieces by Charles Rossi. Its Glass and Ceramics on the Grass has received international status, with various works becoming museum exhibits. Some are now on show in Minsk, at the National Art Museum of Belarus.

The exhibition consists of three parts: glass, ceramics and enamel. The works are varied, spanning several styles and generations of Leningrad and St. Petersburg Art School masters. Optical glass works by modern artists stand out, being beautiful in their exceptional transparency. Dense and heavy glass is more difficult to work with, as Galina Ivanova — a leading Russian artist — admits. Like a sculptor, she removes all that is unnecessary from a single solid block of glass, to form her creations, such as ‘Black Object’. Optical glass is also Olga Pobedova’s medium; her ‘Apple’ is on show, alongside Alexander Fokin’s ‘Landscape with a Fallen Tree’. Irina Ivanova hand engraves optical glass; her ‘Iguana’ is sure to delight visitors to the exhibition. Meanwhile, Vladimir Makovetsky is more experimental, with his ‘Hunt for the Unicorn’.

The late Alexander Ivanov, who was a leader of St. Petersburg glassmaking, liked to work on a grand scale, showing understanding of shape and composition, as we see from his ‘Shells’. Just as importantly, ‘Gulliver’s Medals’ by Pavel Yekushev and ‘The Walk’ by Natalia Malevskaya-Malevich exemplify the organic synthesis of glass and metal while Irina and Anatoly Pelipenko’s ‘Sea’ is more picturesque. The fusion of contrasting styles or media is a modern trend explored by Natalia Goncharova’s ‘Burnt Region’ and Irina Suvorova’s ‘Sphinx’.

Young artist-glaziers continue the traditions of the St. Petersburg Art School. The studio furnaces of St. Petersburg’s Art and Industry Academy (named after Baron Alexander von Stieglitz) are producing such graduation works as ‘Northern Venice’ by Nikolay Tretyakov, ‘Mandala’ by Yekaterina Mikhailenko and ‘Bowl’ by Anastasia Mikhailenko. These and ‘Seasons’ — a series of stained glass windows by Maria Usova — are on show in Minsk.

Ceramic works are represented at the exhibition by Olga Nekrasova-Karateeva, Nina Kochneva, Vasily Tsygankov, Tatiana Novoselova, Yelena Yurkovich and Yekaterina Sukhareva. Leading ceramics master Vladimir Gorislavtsev is a voice for St. Petersburg’s landscape genre, while Lev Solodkov likes to experiment with glazes and shape. Alexander Gladky offers a wealth of decoration, texture and colour while Vera Noskova’s ceramics are made with a range of clays, in various colours. 
Contemporary St. Petersburg enamel artists Alexey Mukushev, Eduard Fokin, Anvar Bagautdinov, Larisa Solomnikova, Ivan Dyakov and Svetlana Ponomarenko are using symbolism to express their ideas, synthesising the artistic techniques of the St. Petersburg school with those of global trends.

It’s clear that St. Petersburg’s Art School is both recognisable and unique, reflecting Western culture yet with its own characteristics and features. Whether working with glass, ceramics or enamel, artists are united by their desire to embody ideas with purity and skill, in true St. Petersburg style.
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