The show is comprised of two series that make up a major part of Amanita’s oeuvre, the Russian Alphabet and the Chiefs series. Each series reveals the artist’s highly idiosyncratic engagement with the world, which is simultaneously fantastical, surreal and darkly satirical. At first glance the drawings look like medieval illuminated manuscripts. This is no accident, for just as those artists inveigled hidden meanings into their work, so does Amanita. His images form a unique world – replete with elements of Soviet and post-Soviet cultures.
The Alphabet series consists of 29 sheets (33 being the number of letters in the Cyrillic alphabet, however some letters have been united in the same sheet) and presents a new version of the famous genre of ABC illustration. Amanita’s alphabet images are tightly connected with Russian-Soviet turning points in politics, science and culture.
The Chiefs series is a representation of key figures of Russian history, from Nicholas II, the last Tsar, to the current president and prime minister. The characters are accompanied by multi-layered symbolic images and ornaments. Each work gives a peculiar abstract of the chief's importance in history.
The exhibition will also mark the launch of Amanita’s first UK publication, The Russian Alphabet Colouring Book, in collaboration with FUEL Publishing. An introduction to the Russian alphabet, each drawing in the book depicts a word beginning with each letter from the Cyrillic alphabet, also shown in English, giving a light-hearted guide as to how the letters look and sound. The subjects of his illustrations are wide ranging – from political leaders: Lenin, Gorbachev; to inanimate objects: Tupolev aircraft, Sputnik; via Tsars, cosmonauts and Constructivism – these classic Soviet themes are interwoven from one page to the next, all rendered in an abundance of detail. His amazing and skillful images define a previously unimagined graphic landscape that takes the humble colouring book into a new dimension.