A large tree has been felled and rebuilt, ‘growing’ up through the floors of Pushkin House, the independent home of Russian culture in London, in this site-specific installation by St Petersburg artist Vitaly Pushnitsky with video works by Olga Jurgenson.
The exhibition, curated by Elena Zaytseva, considers the life and work of Anna Akhmatova, one of the greatest Russian poets of the 20th Century, and her relations with two great British-based Russian émigré contemporaries, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin and the artist Boris Anrep, creator of the mosaics at the National Gallery and Westminster Cathedral. It was commissioned by Pushkin House and the Anna Akhmatova Museum in St Petersburg and based on their archives.
The exhibition is the start of a long-term series involving works by contemporary Russian artists which explore and rethink the archives of Russia memorial museums (‘house-museums’) dedicated to famous artists, writers and thinkers.
It includes a full-size free-standing sculpture of a tree, ‘growing through’ the three exhibition rooms on three levels of the building; a false wall with photographs and two large video projections, and will dominate Pushkin House for almost three months. If all previous art exhibitions were arranged around the other events in the cultural programme, now, for three months, the Russian cultural life of Pushkin House will carry on around the installation, giving a new perspective on the communication of ideas about Russia in London, and linking the archives of Pushkin House with the museum archives.
Vitaly Pushnitsky is an artist based in St Petersburg. He is internationally recognized as a painter, sculptor, and graphic artist and as an author of installations, art objects and multimedia projects. Pushnitsky has participated in the Venice Biennale (parallel programme), the Baltic Biennale and the Moscow Biennale, and has had numerous one-man shows in museums and galleries in Russia and around the world, including a large retrospective in 2012 at the Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art. He has been thrice nominated for the Kandinsky Prize in Russia (2010-12). His works are in various public collections including the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg, the Moscow Institute of Contemporary Art, the collection of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and many private collections.
Olga Jürgenson is a multidisciplinary artist who works in a range of different media including installation, video and painting. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg and has lived in the UK since 2002. She has participated in major international group exhibitions, including MANIFESTA 10, and the Liverpool and Moscow Biennales. In 2013 she had a solo exhibition at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Youth Centre). Works by Jürgenson are in the collections of the State Russian Museum, the National Centre for Contemporary Art (Russia), Oulu Art Museum (Finland), Cambridge University and other state and private collections worldwide.
Elena Zaytseva is a curator and historian of art based in London. She has worked at Pushkin House since 2012. The shows she has curated and co-curated here include: Walls: Contemporary Artists on Cultural Identity and Visions of Utopia: Soviet Posters of 1920s–1930s from the Marx Library. Before moving to London in 2008 she worked at the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow and also organised exhibitions in Moscow and London as an independent curator. She was the press officer for the first Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2005). She completed her PhD on the Moscow Conceptual School in 2008 at the Russian Academy of Art and is the author of a number of articles on contemporary and modern Russian art.
Hugo Sterk (exhibition constructor) is a set constructor specialising in art, design, development and fabrication services for installations and large scale sculptures. Since graduating in Fine Art from London Metropolitan University in 2006, he has also worked as a stage technician on immersive theatre productions in collaboration with Future Cinema, Shunt Lounge, Punchdrunk and MU Eindhoven. In 2014 he was nominated for the PLASA London Technical Theatre Awards. He is currently exploring new routes into graphic visualisation and 3D rendering tools for small architectural projects and digital design.