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'Siberia's navigable rivers are more than long enough to encircle the globe'

Ice and Fire to link frozen Siberia with red-hot Oz

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26 November 2012


When Ice Meets Fire: stunning works of Siberian and Australian landscape painters brought together by artists from Britain, Australia and Russia. Painting by Kevin Wirri, courtesy Helen Womack

Both Siberia and Australia are vast and remote areas populated by hardy people, distant from the city ways of Moscow and St. Petersburg or Sydney and Melbourne.

Both have convict and pioneer histories. Both build their economies on mining and the export of natural resources, leading to environmental issues in society.

And both have Indigenous communities with age-old culture and wisdom.

When Fire meets Ice project

The Fire: Painting by Australian artist Mervyn Rubuntja, courtesy Helen Womack

My Australian friend, the violinist Dian Booth, and I were thinking about these differences and parallels when we came up with the idea of organising an exhibition of Indigenous art from Siberia and the Outback.

Initially we thought of collecting paintings that would compare and contrast the wild and beautiful landscapes of the northern and southern hemispheres.

'But why stop there?' said another friend, the American anthropologist Jessica Einhorn, an expert in the weaving crafts of North American Indians.

So what started as the Ice and Fire Project, linking Siberian and Australian landscape painters, might now widen to take in other art forms and Indigenous artists from Canada and the USA as well. 

When Fire meets Ice project

The Ice: breathtaking landscapes of Yakutia painted by Feodosia Ivanova, courtesy Helen Womack

We are open to suggestions because Ice and Fire is still just a work in progress.

Of course, one day we hope to hold a real exhibition but at the moment what we have is a virtual exhibition, featuring one artist from Yakutia and two painters from the red desert of Central Australia.

With British, Irish and Australian media colleagues, we made a short film, imagining what it would be like when Feodosia Ivanova, the painter from Yakutia, met Mervyn Rubuntja, one of the artists from the Outback town of Alice Springs.

In the film, they compare the creation myths of their peoples, speak of their ancestors and tell us what inspires their art. The film, receiving its premier here in The Siberian Times, is called When Mervyn Meets Feo. 

Feodosia was born in 1971 in the village of Uritskoe in Sakha or Yakutia.

Her distant ancestors were either Poles, exiled to Siberia after one of the Polish uprisings in Tsarist times, or Russian Old Believers, who intermarried with Buryats and Yakuts.

In an interview, she spoke movingly about how she felt cut off from urban culture in her childhood but had the compensation of seeing vivid dreams that suggested subjects for her painting. Eventually Feodosia did travel to see the concert halls, theatres and galleries of Moscow, St. Petersburg and the Baltic States but she found herself coming back to the wild nature of Siberia for inspiration.

When Fire meets Ice project

The Dreams of Yakuia,  by Feodosia Ivanova. Picture: Helen Womack

Feodosia acknowledges the influence of the great Russian painter, explorer and mystic Nikolai Roerich and has had exhibitions in the Roerich Museum in Moscow. She paints not only landscapes but the myths and legends of Siberia and also does beautiful silk prints.

Mervyn and his fellow Alice Springs artist, Kevin Wirri, are following in the footsteps of the great Aboriginal watercolourist, Albert Namatjira. They paint the red sand, distant blue hills and stately gum trees of the MacDonnell Ranges in the Northern Territory.

Mervyn also paints in the traditional dot style. For thousands of years, Aboriginal people used to draw in the sand to show each other the sources of water and food. The wind blew these maps away but when white people arrived, the Aboriginals were able to transfer their symbols to paper and now these dot paintings can fetch millions of dollars.

When Fire meets Ice project

'The wind blew the maps away but when white people arrived, the Aboriginals were able to transfer their symbols to paper and now these dot paintings can fetch millions of dollars'. Painting by Australian artist Mervyn Rubuntja, courtesy Helen Womack

Mervyn’s work has been shown in Sydney and Melbourne but he has not had any international exposure.

You can see the paintings and photos of the artists at our website: www.rusozartexchange.webs.com

Planning the exhibition made us think of music to go with it. Dian, a classically-trained violinist, who used to play at the ballet in Covent Garden, now specialises in spontaneously composing music in response to art works in galleries. She came to Moscow to “play” the paintings of Nikolai Roerich and this is where she met Feodosia. 

When Fire meets Ice project

'Feodosia acknowledges the influence of the great Russian painter, explorer and mystic Nikolai Roerich and has had exhibitions in the Roerich Museum in Moscow'. Painting by Feodosia Ivanova. Picture: Helen Womack

If we can get funding for air fares and reach the stage where we are able to hold a real exhibition, Dian has promised to play at the opening.

But we also want to involve Indigenous musicians, who might enrich the sound tapestry with didgeridoo, shamanic drums or throat singing.

Watch 'Mervyn Meets Feo' 

Comments (7)

what a great picture ? Suggestion-also provide column in which other can display their pictures.
Dhurandhar, India
17/08/2014 20:09
what a great project, why don't you try the likes of kickstarter etc?
Anon from Adelaide,
29/11/2012 00:48
lovely paintings
Ilona , Astana, Kazakhstan
27/11/2012 07:48
good project, well done
Tania , Chita
27/11/2012 01:59
these paintings are overwhelmingly beautiful - thank you for displaying them
Nick, uk
26/11/2012 22:55
thank you, they are delicious to look at
Lyudmila, Denmark
26/11/2012 22:22
wow the paintings!!
Tahira, US
26/11/2012 21:09

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