This year I was invited by the Museum of Landscape in Plyos, Ivanovo Region, Russia to represent Italy in their annual regional painting exhibition and cultural exchange – зеленый шум or ‘Green Noise’.
In previous years they had hosted painters from other regions of Russia, and a few years ago began inviting international artists- 2011 was France, and 2012 was a group from Cyprus. Next year will be Holland or England I believe. We were each asked to donate an Italian painting to the permanent collection of the landscape museum, and they picked another painting from the body of work we did which will either remain part of the collection or be sold to raise funds. The show is up until October 20th.
Here’s my painting that’s now at the museum in Plyos- Market at San Lorenzo, 30x40cm 2011
Plyos was made famous by Isaak Levitan, and in turn he made much of his reputation on his Plyos series. I’d always been curious what Plyos was like, having admired Levitan for years, this trip was an amazing opportunity. It’s remained a destination town- Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev vacations there, and even though we were off-season we crossed paths with him on our first day.
Sixteen artists total, eight Italians and eight Russians- the artists representing Italy this year were Daniela Astone, Marc Dalessio, Ben Fenske, myself, Tim McGuire, Luciano Regoli, Serghiy Shtanko and Vitaliy Shtanko who was the organizer of the Italian painters. Our group was mostly culled from The Florence Academy of Art circle, and although I’m American I suppose living and working in Italy for over ten years is enough to represent the Italians.
The Russian group was Виктор Бутко (Viktor Butko), Ольга Карпачева (Olga Karpacheva), Василий Куракса (Vasiliy Kuraksa), Людмила Кузнецова (Lyudmila Kuznetsova), Григорий Новиков (Grigoriy Novikov), Юрий Орлов (Yuri Orlov), Ирина Рыбакова (Irina Rybakova) and Олег Журавлев (Oleg Zhuravlev), who curated the entire exhibit along with Irina Sorokina from the museum. *The links I’ve used here are the best I’ve come up with using my meager googling ability in Cyrillic- anyone who actually speaks Russian feel free to leave better links in the comments.
It was very interesting painting with the Russians- only really speaking through translators when they were available. Despite our best efforts, at times a lot seemed lost in translation. That said, we developed a good deal of camaraderie and understanding by watching each other work. Painting was definitely the common language on this trip.
Plyos Motif 20×24″
Before leaving, the forecast looked great- 60′s and partial sun. A Russian had told me that Plyos was famous for its beautiful blue skies. Instead, the weather was absolutely miserable. Rain, wind and low temperatures, there was only one day we didn’t paint in the rain, though that’s because we were walking around Moscow in the snow. Even the locals were shocked by the weather. Coming back to Boston in October felt like walking into a tropical climate.
Although the weather was difficult everyone got a lot of work done. Being in a large group of artists is good for your hardiness, and even the days I was pretty sick I was out painting.
Unfortunately I had very little computer access, photographing my work without the opportunity to check it on a bigger screen- as a result a lot of the images aren’t great. I’ll rephotograph everything when I get it back in November.
St. Varvara, Rain 20×24″
We went out painting at night as a group a bit. Always interesting, as no matter how good your lights are you really don’t get a sense of your color until you see the painting indoors. A lot of trying to remember how much of each color you mixed with, and keeping your mixing space organized. Even still, it’s usually a surprise to see your painting the next day.
Moonlight Volga 12×16″
Midnight on the Bridge 12×16″
Painting overcast effects all day every day is not something I’ve done much of- after a few days I started to really get into how much you could perceive color differences without light and shade. Autumnal colors can be pretty garish, and the steady purple-grey sky seemed to tone everything down a bit.
Golden Plyos Sketch 12×16″
Golden Plyos 24×30″
The architecture in the town was very interesting- a lot of traditional structures, and it seemed everything was under constant restoration.
Grey Day 24×30″
End of the Day 14×18″
Before Sunset 16×22″
Some days, with the wind, I could barely paint a straight line. I have a few things that will need to be fixed in the studio- color was good, but drawing was very difficult some days on top of the hill.
Rooftops in the Rain 14×18″
This is the second painting the museum took, which will either be sold or stay part of their collection:
Rooftops in the Rain 16×24″
Russia was an amazing experience- with all its difficulty, I never would have made it to Plyos without this trip. A privilege to see where Levitan worked, visit the Levitan House Museum and see a bit of provincial Russia.
Church of the Resurrection 24×30″
Apparently our paintings will be featured on a Russian Winter Olympics culture site at some point – I checked the site with Google translate and didn’t see us there. Maybe someone who speaks Russian will see it. They printed a catalogue as well- I have a proof, but the print quality isn’t great. I’ll post a PDF of the catalogue when I get the OK from the good people at зеленый шум in Plyos.