RUSSIAN ARTISTS & MISTERY OF WHITE NIGHTS
We’re heading to the New Holland Development, an island in the heart of St. Petersburg.The former Russian navy site is an incredible architectural space that was established by Peter the Great and only opened to the public in the last decade. Today it is being redeveloped as a kind of “city within a city,” with three activity zones, hubs for art, film and fashion, and food. According to the architects’ concept, New Holland will become a microcosm of a big city, a center for all types of culture and research, with a developed commercial infrastructure.
We are visiting during the White Nights and even at 10pm at night there is a stunning light over the island. As we wander around the site, we spot a painter and stroll over to take a look at his work. He is painting a view of St. Petersburg. We start chatting to him and find out his name is Semion. The light incidence in this painting is amazing,” says Maarten, “we do a lot of photography and that’s exactly the light we are always trying to capture.”
“The light of the midnight sun is very special,” he says. “Painters and photographers always look forward to this time of year because after sunset it is still light but the shadows disappear.”
We look around and notice that indeed, there are no shadows; our surroundings are bathed in a soft, diffuse light.
“The other thing that’s really important,” he continues, “is the quality of the paint. I use a paint that is very popular among Russian artists, it’s called Nevskaya Palitra – it has existed for more than half a century.”
“Where is it produced?” asks Maarten.
“Here in St. Petersburg!” says Semion. “You should go and see how they manufacture the paint, it’s a very interesting process.”
“That would be great! Do you know how we could arrange that?” asks Maarten.
“I know some people there including the general manager Tatiana, she’s a painter herself and has a real passion for these paints. She’d be able to tell you more than I can, and I’m sure she’d be able to give you a tour to show you how the paint is produced.”
Semion explains that like most factories in Russia, the Nevskaya Palitra factory was state-owned.
After the fall of the Soviet Union most factories were sold to private owners and never regained their former glory. “But thankfully this paint factory was; it is now in private ownership and truly embodies Russia’s colourful history,” says Semion. “And they are also very active in promoting art among the younger generations.”
“Really?” I ask. “That’s cool! What kind of activities do they organize?”
Well currently they have a competition for young talent from Austria, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Estonia and Kazakhstan, as well as charity activities in St. Petersburg.”
“You should definitely go and check it out,” Semion says.
“We sure will!” says Maarten.
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