Russian painters' gentle meditation on life and death

CONTEMPORARY ART MARKET

Five brilliant young artists from St Petersburg, showing still life watercolours at the Colnaghi gallery in Bond Street, London, are a rare cross-cultural experience. They carry a trompe-l'oeil accuracy of rendering to extraordinary heights, but turn their studies of unremarkable objects into gentle meditations on life and death - an update of the memento mori still life tradition.

The St Petersburg Group were all born in the 1960s and studied in the graphic arts department of the St Petersburg Academy of Arts. They work in closely related styles.

Yuri Ivanchenko is possibly the most remarkable; all his paintings show objects arranged against a wall of old wooden planks. In one, the innards of an old clock are scattered on a ledge which also props a worm-eaten self-portrait of the artist and a dead butterfly. In another the thorny stem of a rose grows through a sheep's skull.

"I want to express in the combination of ordinary things, the hidden harmony of their timeless nature, the struggle between life and death, the eternity of the moment and the immediacy of eternity," he says.

Sergei Archipov describes his work, such as a dead crab strung up against a white wall, as "a meditation on the inner nature of reality". Valera Esaulenko, who has given a single dried rose on a ledge a personalised presence, believes an artist should represent what he sees after "filtering it through the emotions which make up his inner life". Prices run from pounds 1,500 to pounds 11,500, and the exhibition runs until 17 June.

Russia does not have an exclusive claim on contemporary still life painting as is underlined by Michael Leonard's oil study Onions, Leeks and Garlic (pounds 6,500) in the window of Thomas Gibson's gallery on the other side of Bond Street.

Leonard, a British artist who is 62 this year, works in a highly finished style, but blurs outlines as if his objects were seen through a light mist. He quotes Braque in defence of his disciplined approach: "I love the rule that governs emotion."

The Russian control of watercolour washes can be equally matched by the British. Simon Palmer, 39, whose landscape watercolours at the John Martin Gallery in Albemarle Street closed last week, combines formalised landscape in the manner of Paul Nash with mysterious human dramas that echo Stanley Spencer. The watercolours were a hit with the public; 30 of the 41 paintings on show found buyers at prices between pounds 1,200 and pounds 2,700.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave