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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Engraver Struggles to Capture Life Through Dying Art Form




Every silver lining has a cloud. Indeed, one has to pay for everything -- freedom is no exception.


Hardly had the Russian art world tossed off the obtrusive cliches of socialist realism's ubiquitous images when the problem of survival in the new economy began to threaten the existence of many branches of art. Engravings are one such branch.


"Not only is this technique time-consuming and painstaking, but it requires a lot of materials to work with, plus a printing press," said Yelena Chernyshova, a graphic artist. "In Soviet times I used to make about 12 linocuts a year. Now I can afford to make just one. This art is dying."


Chernyshova's solo show is currently running at the Moscow Artists' Union.


"This exhibition includes only my color prints, all of which have been selected by art critics from the Moscow Artists' Union," Chernyshova said.


A graduate of the Stroganov Art School, Chernyshova, 50, has participated in 80 exhibitions at home and abroad. This is her third solo show.


The exhibit includes several subjects, including "Russian Seasons in Paris," "Moments of Dancing," "Tverskaya Street," "Postcards," "Flowers" and "The Russian Ballet."


In past epochs, prints were valued far more than today, when a print may cost less than an ordinary plastic bag with a banal drawing. Many today do not appreciate the difference between a print and a color picture in a magazine.


Working with prints, Chernyshova has made real artistic discoveries. After 1985, when the artist was no longer limited by Soviet ideology, she turned to portraying the Russian Seasons in Paris -- a ballet company from the early part of the century. Her prints "Petrushka," "Faun" and "Cleopatra" give a generalized image of ballet, rather than a particular scene.


"Tango" and "Minuet," from Chernyshova's "Dance" series, contain interesting artistic ideas about human movement. Her prints portraying Moscow's Tverskaya Ulitsa are refined and artistic in the spirit of Rembrandt's etchings.


One of the most outstanding series included in the show is of the Troitse-Sergiyev Monastery, which comprises a whole separate album. The series presents the monastery's churches in chronological order of their construction. Each separate sheet is exquisitely framed by a raised relief. The artist presented a copy of the album, created in 1994, to Patriarch Alexy II.


Yelena Chernyshova's prints are on display through Sunday at the Moscow Artists' Union, 5 Starosadsky Pereulok, Tel. 928-9240, 925-6739. Open noon to 6 p.m., closed Monday and Tuesday. Metro: Kitai-Gorod.