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Exhibition Opening Night: Walls: Contemporary Artists on Cultural Identity

Pushkin House, London, presents its spring exhibition


18 th March – 25 th April 2014

Opening night:

Tuesday 18 th March 6.30 – 8.30

Video-screening and panel discussion: Wednesday 23 rd April 6.30 – 9.00pm

Pushkin House, 5A Bloomsbury Square, London, WC1 2TA

Artists: Charbel Ackerman, Tatiana Baskakova, Olga Bojko, Daniel Bragin, Olga J ü rgenson, Maria Kapajeva, Elena Kovylina, Anna Kuznetsova, Fl á via M ü ller Medeiros, Ivgenia Naiman, Ellen Nolan, Yelena Popova, Veronica Smirnoff.

Curator: Elena Zaytseva

Photo: Flavia Muller Medeiros. Irka Irka (2013). This edition is published in the UK by Dent-De-Leone, designed by Åbäke. Photograph by Åbäke.

Photo: Flavia Muller Medeiros. Irka Irka (2013). This edition is published in the UK by Dent-De-Leone, designed by Åbäke. Photograph by Åbäke.

Thirteen highly-regarded contemporary artists working in Russia and UK explore the theme of cultural and national identity in this exhibition at Pushkin House, the oldest, independent Russian cultural centre in London.

The title of the exhibition brings a range of references to mind: from political - such as Berlin Wall - to architectural. Walls are traditionally a place for art – as they are at Pushkin House’s 18 th century Grade II-listed home in Bloomsbury, where all the rooms serve multiple uses such as panel discussions, language lessons, film screenings and more. So we revert to the tradition of showing art on walls, where it becomes a supplement to architecture – and clearly that presents a challenge, especially when contemporary art is shown.

The exhibition presents the works that interrogate dialectics of attitudes to identity, cultural differences and exchange. The video by Elena Kovylina , the leading performance artist working in Moscow, explores the post- Cold War condition of Russian culture that, according to her mind, carries post-colonial features. The work 'Irka' by conceptual artist Flavia Muller Medeiros investigates trauma of crossing Western borders for young Eastern Europeans. British artists such as photographer Ellen Nolan and painter Charbel Ackerman question identity as a personal feeling of being unique – as a controversial cause of alienation.

Olga Jurgenson
Porridge is Good During Hangover too. Dr Watson and Sir Henry are Questioning Barrymore. A Scene from The Hound of Baskervilles.
Detail 2012 From Porridge, Sir! series. Canvas, Oil 70x100cm

Is today's Russian art a part of international art world or is it still situated in its own set of traditions? Artists investigate this problem in many ways. Moscow-based artists Olga Bojko and Anna Kuznetsova attempt to reset iconic symbols of Russia in the context of the contemporary western culture. So does London-based artist Veronica Smirnoff , whose elaborated paintings combine medieval tempera technique she studied at Russian monastery (after she graduared from RCA) with features of traditional school of XX century. In contrast, installations by Daniel Bragin orpaintings by Yelena Popova look typically European, nothing in them suggests the artists' Russian roots.

The works by Russian-born artists, who studied art in the West and are now based in London show spectrum of attitudes towards national identity. Young artist and activist Tatiana Baskakova looks at today's landscape of the Russian city with the critical eyes of a politically-engaged western intellectual. Ivgenia Naiman's canvases refer to retrospective nostalgia as a reason for formal experimentation. Large monumental paintings by Olga J ü rgenson provide ironical narratives about Soviet-era clichés of 'Englishness’. Photo portraits by Maria Kapajeva unwittinglyaccentuates the model's national identity which is achieved by letting the model stage the scene according to his or her understanding of self.

The exhibition raises the question whether we should link artistic identity with nationality and how it can influent artist's practice. This controversial question will be debated on panel discussion on 23 rd April, moderated by Artistic Director of NN Contemporary Catherine Hemelryc . Prior to the discussion two films will be screened: ' Irka ' by Flavia Müller Medeiros and ' Caryatid ' by Elena Kovylina, each of them represent radically different attitude to the problem.

For more information and images please contact

Elena Zaytseva, Curator of Pushkin House

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