Donetsk artist wins fans with ‘Soviet nostalgia’
Anzhela Djerih’s works are not only viral online, they have become part of private collections around the world. Djeirih paints in a style often described as “Soviet nostalgia,” which features old-style buses, plump ladies and men who look like they came straight from 1970s cartoons.
“The Soviet theme warms me up, probably because it was quiet and comfortable, as in Papa Carlo’s room with a picture of a fireplace, “the artist admits.
Papa Carlo is the reference to the Soviet version of Pinnoccio’s dad, called Buratino. Even her references smack of nostalgia.
Djeirih was born in 1965 in Donetsk, but she had to flee her home city when the war started last year. She paints to escape reality.
“I painted in order to live happier in my imagined world. There you can travel where you wish, there are no barriers, or time, or space,” she says.
Djeirih is one of the estimated 1 million displaced people from the war. “You listen to the bombings and try to determine by the sound: is it still far or is it time to take off?” she remembers.
Her last piece painted in Donetsk was called “One soldier in a field.” She moved to Crimea and now feels guilty for leaving others behind when she fled. She also left many of her paintings, which fetch upwards of several hundred euros each.
“We could take nothing with us, except for two small works and a bag with belongings. If only to get to the train, if only the bomb would not hit us! What pictures!” she sighs.
She found some consolation in Soviet nostalgia themes in Crimea. Although there are plenty of sights and people who have inspired her new works, it was the sea that brought her there.
“In Yalta I can see the sea through the window, while in Donetsk there were slag heaps. Big cities depress and scare me,” she says.
Her works have become viral on the Internet. Fans pay from $600 to $2,160, and pictures are shipped anywhere. Djerih doesn’t like to talk how much she makes. She admits that her most treasured picture is “The Azov Sea.”
“The work is small, but I love it very much. It’s one happy day of my childhood there, when I run to the balcony, and see the sea. I decided to share this moment of happiness,” she says.
When buyers get a picture, they oftentimes get two. Djerih frequently paints on top of the old painting, preserving just a photographic image of the old one. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand whether the artist paints the old Soviet past or modern-day Ukraine.
One of her recent paintings of a bride with a cigarette leaning out of a window, with a Volga car in the background decorated with ribbons and wedding rings. “The bride does not have a real prototype, she is just an active woman in a search. An ordinary story. Her dream is to go far lands with the prince in a white Volga,” Djerih says.
Sometimes Djerih paints her friends. Now the war has scattered them, but they continue to communicate, support each other and look forward to meeting in a peaceful life.
A 2012 painting “Condensed Milk” by Donetsk artist Anzhela Djerih. (Courtesy)