Donetsk artist wins fans with ‘Soviet nos­tal­gia’

Kyiv Post - - Lifestyle - BY VIC­TO­RIA PE­TRENKO PE­[email protected] Kyiv Post staff writer Vic­to­ria Pe­trenko can be reached at pe­[email protected] com.

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)

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