The World Literature exhibition of paintings by Vladimir Shinkarev reflects within a Russian context on the changes in the relationship between writing and painting, the verbal and the visual, that have taken place from classical to contemporary times.

World Literature, Shinkarev’s redeployment of the verbal/visual relationship, arose and developed out of his initial inception of “Mitki” during the 1980s. The Mitki group embraced not only painters but writers, musicians, actors and filmmakers and the activities of the group were as diverse as its members. The Mitki man and his culture had an instant “non-official” appeal and popularity. Along with art exhibitions, theatrical performances and films, the Mitki produced ironic and humorous broadsheets concerned with the Mitki man and his culture. Seemingly subversive and even simplistic in content and format, the Mitki prints and books had deep roots in Russia’s cultural traditions, continuing as they did the format structure of icon painting and that of the popular print or Lubok. Most importantly they continued rather than broke with the fundamental tradition of Russian culture, namely, that of adhering to the conviction that art was not an isolated activity but a formulation pictorially of belief, be it religious, philosophical or ideological.

Shinkarev, with his sixteen canvases World Literature, has also created his own personal pictorial language response, but with a profound difference. World Literature, his painterly take on the world as text, is concerned with works, which, though richly embedded in the reality of their own time of creation, yet have a relevance that transcends their own time. They enable us to move between past, present and future through reflection on the universal themes and issues they depict that connect us one to another.

All of these works are concerned in one way or another with the journey from life to death, and with the material and spiritual paths traversed. Sieges past and present, sexual strife, the futile and tragic course of war, loneliness and alienation, the ritual associated with nature’s cycle and the religion of suffering are among realities explored. Shinkarev’s transmutations are neither illustrative nor interpretive but pictorial articulations of fundamental issues of life. They have become once again for us all an intellectual and spiritual relevant reality.

Text by Annela Twitchen