Veronica Smirnoff, 'The Madding Spring'
“Bombardment of images generates a cognitive reflection and a visual counterpoint, constantly interpreted and reinterpreted by denuding their original meaning. I look at a Chanel advert next to a sports page next to a traveller’s guide with bucolic views of the Alps.” Veronica Smirnoff
Veronica Smirnoff’s paintings use the traditional medium of egg tempera but their narrative focus is the conjunction of old and new, familiar and peculiar. Madding: a literary reference to Thomas Hardy’s novel – Far from the Madding Crowd where landscape evokes mood and context with a range of iconographical and contemporary references. Spring: echoes Arab Spring in a world made up so largely of compromise of fundamentals and certainties in a time of flux.
Redolent of pre 16th century Russian and Greek Icons and the Italian Renaissance works of Andrea Mantegna and Piero della Francesca, the paintings are constructed with traditional elements – the fragility of gesso and solidity of wood, with pigment ground from semi-precious stones, mixed with egg yolk and wine to make the paints. The wooden supporting boards are made of oak in Russian monasteries and blessed. Layer by layer, the surface is encrusted with texture and then sanded down to its sedimentary surface. Smirnoff is fascinated by the idea of the “Icon” as the object of worship and the close relation to “popular art” with a wide repertoire of signs: the flat moulding of figures, conventional space and the abstract effects of colours.
Her work is influenced by elements of the folk imagination, transformed into a universal concept. The images have partly drawn inspiration from the arbitrary amalgamation and narratives from recent geo-political photo-reportage at the frontline in Libya, sourced as cut-outs from media and fashion periodicals. Spring represents a rebirth; the most potent Christian festival of Easter partnered with universal rites of spring in multiple pagan and archaic belief systems, religious appreciation of the end of winter in folk art. These are the images of conflict in her work.
Veronica Smirnoff is a British artist of Russian origin, (born Moscow, Russia, 1979). She studied at the Slade School of Art and the Royal Academy of Arts and had her first solo show with Galleria Riccardo Crespi in Milan (2008). Smirnoff has exhibited in Moscow, Paris, Berlin, New York and London. She was selected for the John Moores Painting Prize UK, by Norman Rosenthal and Gary Hume (2010). She lives and works in London.
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