We were invited to Wesfarmers' private viewing, and it was great food, a nice warm speech by the CEO, Mr Richard Goyder. There was a pair of musicians playing Katchachurian and Russian dances on violin and accordian.
Later a dance group of beautiful Russian community members singing, in costume, accompanied by a fellow with a balalaika (which means "belly scratcher"!) All very colourful and exciting. The instruments the singers had were interesting too, spoons that had been decorated with Russian folk art and another percussive instrument that was a hand held bunch of small pieces of wood bound together that could be clacked together a bit like a multiple castanet.
This all gave us a very Russian flavour to the exhibit. I would suggest seeing Part 1, upstairs first. The short form is that in the bad old days, the Russian Artists were dictated to by the Imperial Academy, and they were give sanctioned subjects from mythology and so forth, but they were usually poor people. They wanted to paint the Russia they knew, the stories, the landscape, the people.
So they tried this on the Academy, which wasn't impressed. So 15 brave artists resigned, and went to do their own thing, and formed their own group, The Wanderers, who went out into the wide world of Russia. We get to see their vision of Mother Russia upstairs at the art gallery. I've got a soft spot for Ivan Shishkin, with his wonderful pen and ink (I'm going to grow up to be like him one day) forest scenes, and his beautiful painting of oak trees and that lovely "Winter" painting which is almost photographic. Then you see Ivan Kramski shows you his portrait of Ivan Shishkin, and the realisation comes upon you.
These were all contemporaries, sharing lives and ideas, and the dynamic of it all is obvious, portraits of actors, artists, writers and poets. It's really impressive, and mix in with this the compositions of peasants struggling with their difficult lives, sharp in their commentary. You really get a sense of the times. Revolutions are the locomotives of change, and you're just about run over by this one!
The hand outs and the AV presentations are well worth a look.
Downstairs we were treated to a dramatic presentation by a "Russian Peasant Worker" who riveted us with his memories of the slaughter of 1905, and proudly described several paintings. He indicated a glass case and declaimed proudly "And see, even our common humble household tools are in a glass case, being looked at by people on the other side of the world!"
Downstairs was the miscellany of the Russian movement, "World Of Art" The avant guarde artist Natalia Gonchorova's Cubist influenced "Hoar Frost" is a truly beautiful piece. There's too much to talk about, there are artists who are interested in Russian folk tales and art, Art Nouveau, Symbolism there are are costumes from linchpin dramatic performances. But it's all part of one great tapestry, it's great to see it all together as a great interweaving, and perhaps their influences and compliments to each other. From a Faberge' egg to a humble birch bark bucket, Russia speaks to us through her artists.
There's a lot of work here, and we are seeing national treasures from Russia - highly advanced forays into art for all time, it is a very rewarding exhibit.
It isn't a glitter and paint show like a Faberge' Egg, although there's one there to look at if you like, but the bones and souls and intellect of the dynamic Russian art scene in a time of huge change.
Highly accessable for everyone and highly recommended.
10 out of 10 and being an honoured guest at Finis the Falcon's palace.
For more information visit the WA Museum page here. 9 July - 23 October 2005 Special Exhibitions Gallery and Wesfarmers Gallery
Adults - $15.00 Concessions - $12.00 Children - $6.00 Family (2+3) - $35.00 Seniors weekday - $10.00