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The Arts

Natalya Slovinskaya: The Play of the Stars
By Sophie Larder
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A quote from Brodsky describing how the eternity of the constellations look down on us, the mortals, opens the introduction to Georgian artist Natalya Slovinskayas second exhibition at the ASTI Gallery on Tverskaya. Slovinskayas work has a childlike simplicity that reflects her own innate sense of innocence in the world, yet simultaneously offers the courage of youth and belief. She is unashamedly Christian in her ethos and her work is reminiscent of a childs first book of biblical stories. Noah watches benignly in bright hues as the animals go sedately two by two into the ark. The well known characters are almost El Greco-esque in form, with elongated limbs and curiously feminine faces. Childlike depictions of good and evil speak volumes; the black face of Judas Iscariot at the Last Supper and the symbolism of a single grape lying apart on the table leaves no doubt about his place at the centre of the betrayal of Christ.

The two portraits in the exhibition are unashamedly personal. Her adolescent son and daughter face each other across the room and as she describes them the glow of motherly love shines in her eyes. The two still lifes in the exhibition are comprised of beloved possessions; a vase brought back from Central Asia, a richly patterned wine red Georgian scarf. So Natalya seeks to tell us about her history, her nation, her life. Pride in her Georgian-ness is deeply evident when she tells me of the beauty of Tbilisi and the variety of the Georgian countryside from the mountains in the East to the warmth of bathing in the Black Sea in summer.

The simplicity of the landscapes tells of another aspect of Natalya. Her love of nature is well presented in the corner of the room dedicated purely to pastels of the Georgian countryside in full bloom. In one pastel a lone peasants horse wanders through the centre. A simple single moment of beauty caught in time and space. Natalya has an intrinsic ability to capture and record these moments of pure happiness.

Just as the outward realm of natures beauty is represented, so is the evidence of a rich inner life. Imagination rules as Natalyas painting Boats transports us with the richest tones of blue. Van Gogh waves to another era of tall ships with billowing sails setting off on voyages of discovery to new worlds. Elsewhere in the room, set intriguingly next to her biblical stories, is the eponymous Play of the Stars. As written in the introduction to her work, each person is born under his own sign of the Zodiac and indeed the childlike representations of the sweet and kind animals remind us of the intrinsic equality of humanity at birth.

The abiding sense that overwhelms the viewer is the cluster of basic human beliefs that are so lovingly recreated in Natalyas painting. Natalya speaks movingly and with a smile on her open face, of her need to paint the things that make people most happy in life. With one glance around the room we see imagination, nature, children, personal possessions, but above all religion. There is no disguise, falsehood or mystery in the pictures, but merely a refreshing childlike honesty. An artist who lays out her joy in life for all to see and says to the viewer this is me and my happiness be happy with me. In a world of cynics and critics she is truly an original.

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