|My doors on display around the House of Kolor banner at the top of our spray booth|
I think it's about time I tell what's been going on in Taz world. I have had a very interesting few months. Maybe I am dependent on the weather, or maybe just plain lazy but the beginning of this year wasn't a very productive time for me. I blame it on the fact that we've had no spring this year. The summer in the UK has started towards the second half of June. Well, for me personally things started happening in May. After my exhibition in March/April in Halifax I sat down and made a list of events I'd like to participate in and started acting on it. This journal will tell about one of those things.
Those of you who read my journals for a while will remember my article on the Russian artist Mikhail Chemiakin The Beautiful, the ugly and the frightening I have a lot of respect for Chemiakin and I have always looked up to him and his life as a source of inspiration and motivation to carry on painting. Last year I entered a competition where the winning works were to be displayed as part of the exhibition "Children in Art" at the Chemiakin Foundation in St.Petersburg, Russia. It was a happy surprise to receive an email from the Foundation in late April saying that my painting had been selected for the exhibition.
Mikhail Chemiakin is known in the art world for his unique approach to the history of art, a method which he calls 'metaphysical synthesism". I have already written about it in the previous Chemiakin article. The basic principle is that rather than studying the style of cubism, Chemiakin studies how the shape of a cube was used in art during all its history. He has many subjects, such as a hand in art, a head, a scream, a cut. One of my favourite is a nose in art. And there is a lot to say about the subject and how it was explored by different people in different times. One of those subjects of Chemiakin's study is called "Children in art" and it looks at how artists portrayed children, what were they trying to tell and how. The academic part of the exhibition includes examples by the old masters, by artists like Pieter Bruegel. And then there is a number of selected works from modern artists; here is where my work comes in. By the way, this is the painting in question.
So, the email I got from Chemiakin Foundation read something like "Dear Taz, we are pleased to inform you that your painting has been selected ... Can you please bring it to the Foundation in the next five days?" Erm.. "bring" to St.Petersburg, Russia? Well this was one place I really wanted my work to be displayed at so I arranged a three-day delivery to St.Petersburg and the painting did get to Russia in three days, to the customs. And there it stayed. For more than two months.
Russian bureaucracy is know around the world. Such places as India, Pakistan, Mexico are famous for it but whatever you do, don't ever ever try to deal with Russian officials unless you absolutely have to. You will curse the day you've decided to even address them. As far as I understand, the customs decided to class my painting as a valued work of art and demanded an authorisation from the Russian Ministry of Culture. Apart from two exhibition curators there was a broker company resident at the customs involved. Only two months later did they allow my painting to be imported into Russia! Luckily, the exhibition is still on and my work is now on display. If you are in St.Petersburg you are welcome to visit it at Ulitsa Sadovaya, 11.
It was a lot of effort,it took a lot of patience and it was stressful. At one point it was suggested that I should write a letter to the customs recalling my parcel but I said no. Then I was told that if it were a lot of effort importing the painting, the exporting part would be a lot more complicated. So, I decided not to get the painting back. And even after these decisions it took six weeks.
You know, I remembered a story how Chemiakin himself did a series of illustrations for the Dostoevsky Museum in Moscow back in the 1970's. When the museum realised they were not in the style of the officially-approved Socialist Realism they didn't want them. Chemiakin offered to donate it as a present and they still refused. Now, I don't know if Mikhail Chemiakin himself is aware of the situation with my painting but it reminded me of that story and I thought the Foundation employees should know how I feel. And I told them:
"I was born in St.Petersburg and I consider it a huge privilege that my work is displayed there, at the Chemiakin Foundation. So, temporary hindrances like the customs etc. are something to be dealt with and that's all."
What do I feel at the end of it? I am not sure. I mean when I heard that the painting was on the wall of the Foundation, I was relieved. At one point I had to write an explanation to the customs detailing the cost of production (as in so much for paint, so much for the canvas etc.). The customs issued a bill to the Foundation for storage, which I think the Foundation wants me to pay. The sum isn't serious but I have mixed feelings about the result of it all. I know that in the foreseeable future I will not be sending any of my works to Russia.
The key word for the last couple of months for me was "to persevere". Incidentally, the above was not the only event where I could now say 'mission accomplished'. My DA friend asked me to help he find a specific watercolour paper in Russia and negotiate a purchase. A simple transaction took 26 emails and almost two months to complete. Two days ago has received her tonnes of paper and is happy. So, what I've learnt in these last two months is to persevere and well... don't deal with Russian officials