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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Images of Home at the Workshop

Annabel Keatley stands with a group of attentive young Russians in front of a tub of murky water containing shredded scraps of refuse. She takes a small screen, dips it in the water, then takes it out and presses it onto a sheet to her left. After she removes the screen, there is a layer of rough, mealy matter; when it dries, it will be a piece of recycled paper.


Keatley, a 26-year-old painter from London, is one of three Englishwomen who have come to Moscow to conduct a three week art workshop with a group of 35 Russians from all walks of life. By using photography, drama and plastic arts, the participants are trying to define their idea of "home" with art. The workshop will culminate on Saturday and Sunday with a "living exhibition".


The project - sponsored by the Prince's Trust, a well-known British charity organization - was organized by Keatley along with theater worker Sara Robinson and photographer Lizzie Coombes. In the workshop, each has a Russian twin of sorts: Robinson's is Julia Smelyansky, also a theater worker; Coombes works with photographer Anton Tamarin; and Keatley is teamed with Roza Gimatdinova, a puppeteer.


The Russians taking part in the workshop are a varied bunch, to say the least: There are artists, a plumber, journalists and a geologist, among others. The six instructors have been guiding the participants in their artwork and inventing new ways to illustrate the idea of home.


Keatley and the other organizers decided that home would be a perfect theme for the workshop because it is simple and universal.


"The idea of home throws everything into question", Keatley explains. "Here it is particularly interesting because of all the changes that have taken place. For some people here, home is very difficult".


As Keatley demonstrates how to make paper, a ghetto blaster plays "I Wanna Be Loved By You". The mood in the room is relaxed but busy. People stand on tables to hang abstract, colorful recycled paper columns, called tower blocks, from the ceiling. At the tables that spread out from the paper-making area, people work on their cardboard renditions of home. They use paints, photos, recycled paper and other odds and ends to decorate them.


Lena Kadykina, an artist in her early 20s, sits at a small desk cluttered with magazine clippings and paint brushes. In the middle of this is a small cardboard box on plastic wheels. This is Lena's home.


"This is my home because I like to travel", Kadykina explains. "All my life I have lived in different places, Spain, Holland, Germany and the Crimea".


One participant's home has signs on the roof that read "Quiet Please" and "Please Come to Dinner in Evening Clothes". Another describes his home as "prison for a butterfly".


Keatley and Robinson say that the product of the workshop does not matter as much as the process. Learning to work with a diverse group of people, communicating with art, not words, is most important to them.


"The aim is simple", Robinson says. "We wanted to get a group of people with varying backgrounds together, go a little crazy, and see what comes of it".


None of them is exactly sure what the "living exhibition" will be like, although they are planning a drama presentation to accompany the artwork.


Everyone, though, agrees that a shortage of time has been the biggest problem. The workshop has met every night from 6 P. M. to 9 P. M. for the past three weeks, and yet they all wish they had more time to work together.


"It's awful to think it's going to end", Keatley says.