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Reviews of artworks
Prokhorova Tatyana
PhD in Art History, Associate Professor of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture Department of Novosibirsk State University of Architecture, Design and Arts

Ringing sun, which is warming soft green fresh grass, blossoming almonds, bird’s chirp ... the feeling of spring, youth and happiness bewitches a viewer, bursting from the one and a half meter frame, as is from a window, straight into the exhibition hall. The landscape is so bright, that you can feel its glow in the hall. The exhibition of young Novosibirsk painter Natalia Shalagina begins with such impressions. Following the "window" to Siberian winter, then autumn, summer, again winter. Landscapes gallery opens the exhibition, showing various methods of artwork. You can see there made from nature landscapes and written from memory ones, and as a result of compilations of plain air views. All landscapes are realistic and leave a sense of skill and great visual experience of the author.

The beauty and harmony of the world around us is the main theme of Natalia's artworks. They find a constant response from the viewer, tempted by the revolutionary-provocative ideas of modern art. Within the framework of two-year exhibition project “Love to small motherland”, Natalia Shalagina’s artworks have been seen by Novosibirsk city and region residents. And everywhere was success and sold out. The reason lies not only in the fact that such events rarely take place in regional cultural centers, although this is so. Real great artworks always contains “eternal themes”, therefore they are understandable and are very close not only to professionals, but also to “unprepared” viewer, who are unable and unwilling to look for topic of the day, hidden meanings or philosophical concepts in painter’s artworks.
The desire to find beauty and harmony in the surrounding reality presents in each artwork and was observed even in Natalia child's works. Her early works contained search for a variety of shades of the same color, extraordinary abilities in the drawing and composition ("Calf house", 1998).
Her education at Novosibirsk Art School made the foundation of the professional skills in academic painting and drawing methods, composition, and formed the system of the aesthetic ideas of the painter.

According to the best traditions of academic painting and with great love, was made a portrait of grandfather (“Grandfather”, 2007). High professional skills of this work put it among the best artworks of the painter. Lighted background and soft warm reflexes in the shaded foreground, skillful modeling of forms and volumes. Subtle psychology of the portrait is emphasized by old age posture, by hands gestures, soft modeling of old man facial expressions, with a thoughtful look away from viewer. Shamelessly enjoying the kindness of the owner, the cat lay down directly on the hand of the old man, with the help of which he relies on a low bench. On the background, you can see thrown bicycle that might suggest on bygone youth and transience of life.

Since 2008 till 2012 Natalia Shalagina made long lasting trips to the Black Sea seashore in Krasnodar region. The special period of Siberian painter’s creative work was productive. The richness of forms and colors of the southern nature captures and makes you to work hard and to look for new forms of expressiveness. In one of the first southern works, in a small etude “Peaches” (2008), a large stroke shows ripeness of fruits and unusual for Siberian eyes color combinations of the bright yellow sun on the blue leaves of a peach tree. The etude is made in fresh, rich and contrasting colors. It already shows typical for author painting manner, which is not presented in earlier works and is thoroughly developed in artworks of the southern period. A new stroke appears - geometric, large, which is not afraid to disrupt the aerial perspective. The painter skillfully uses this technique in the foreground, effectively shaping the masses of the forms, and removes the borders of the stroke on the background, which are giving the works the depth and air of space (“Evening on Taman”, 2009). “Portrait of grandmother” (2010) still reveals the traditional, modeling of the face, as is in the early portraits, but the new method of work is used in the secondary details - the greenery of plants that serve as a background of the portrait.

The picture “Winter Evening” (2009), so unlike the Siberian winter landscapes has these searches. In this etude of warm southern winter, written in the painter studio, the author is concerned not so much about the reliability of views, but about emotions they evoke. In the foreground stand not "similarity" to nature, but its inner essence and freshness of the impression. The etudes “Nice place”, “Southern Poplar” are the admiration of the Siberian artist by the colors of the southern nature. Here the author did not give details of the view, admiring by picturesque of nature. The theme of generalizations and broad brushstroke is being developed in other pictures of more decorative nature (“Peacocks”, “Dragonflies”), and in landscape sketches (“Evening on Taman”, “Sochi” (all of 2009)), achieving surprising sound in works of marine theme “Novorossiysk Bay”, “After fishing season”, “Big Utrish” (2010-2011).

The search for expressiveness in the laconicism of a broad stroke is also presents in the still-life artworks of the author. Thus, etude “Callisia fragrans” begins the development of this technique and in “Still Life with a Samovar” (both of 2011) it is used more boldly and reaches a certain ringing and height.

The ratios of large tonal spots are observed in the drawing series "Taman", made in the same period of time. The sketches of the series are distinguished by expressiveness achieved by a combination of two or three tones without careful line styling and tonal stretch marks, as well as decorativeness of folklore motifs and laconic stylization of forms.

Returning to Siberia, the painter returns to the old technique. A character stroke and bold color experiments remain in the southern pictures. The harsh northern nature, which requires more subtle colors, forces the painter to change the style of work again. Appear close shades of color, another stroke - methods, required by the image. The subtle lyricism and coloristic harmony of the work “My City” (2013) and even the bright work “Alone Autumn” reveal methods actively developed in the south, but they are written with more restraint, the coloring becomes thinner and more nuanced. This difference is evident when comparing the work "Midday" (2014) with summer etudes made in the south, for example, "Sochi" (2009). The works of 2014 “In the Park” and “Sunbeams”, based on the painter’s method of contrasting warm and cold colors are reflected summer-southern methods with its technique and stylistics.

Among the new artworks of the painter, the picture "Spring" (2015) - a creative artwork made in Novosibirsk on the basis of southern etudes stands away of the other. In the center of the composition is a spreading tree - a flowering almond. Two birds in their nest, a pair of bicycles under the tree, the trunk of which is symbolically divided into two parts, the female hat on one of the trunk are very eloquent. Spring and love are in the air, a world-forming merging of male and female sides that give life to new, singing the hymn to life.

Sympathizing to the academic school of painting, in her creative searches Natalia Shalagina bases on Russian painters at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as I.N. Kramskoy, I.I. Levitan, V.D. Polenov, A.Ya Golovin, K.I. Gorbatov. Orienting to the best achievements of the national realistic school, the painter is in constant creative search for new individual means of expression, tries various techniques, and finds new means of expression. In the various artworks of Natalia Shalagina, you can see both impressionistic freshness of impressions, and some features of social realism, and postmodern aesthetics, and features of modern photorealism. But, however, these searches do not lead the painter so far as to become the goal and meaning of creativity.
The artistic theme is beautiful world, the harmony between nature and human. Even her city landscapes are an idyllic utopia of cozy and clean streets, squares, harmonious beauty of wide avenues and architectural landscapes.

Saying about thematic and stylistic orientation of the painter, however, it is impossible to say unequivocally that the author is alien to the modern problems. Philosophical reflections of the painter resulted in a large-scale existential drama in the artwork " C`est la vie" (2015). By quoting works of art from the past to the present, the author paints an amazing picture of the history of mankind. In dialogue of cultures occurs the truth on the immutability for thousands of years of human virtues and vices. The life of the human soul and the opposition of its characters raise ontological questions of existence; reach the height of foresight of the world’s fate. No wonder the title of this work was a French proverb, which is pronounced, spreading the hands: "Nothing can be done; this is life»…

Natalia Shalagina is young painter, in a searching way. It would be untimely to evaluate her art works with definitions and classifications. Without a doubt, in the future she will expect wide creative road of hard work, insights and disappointments, creative developments and discoveries, the formation of the painter's style, those amazing facets of creativity, by which we always unmistakably know the real master...