About Irina Stolyarova
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About Irina Stolyarova

Irina Stolyarova is an art collector, nonconformist movement expert, art director of Flying in the Wake of Light collection. Her collection is focused on the work of Russian artists of several generations, living both in the home country and in the West; and the first émigrés generation associated with the School of Paris. Stolyarova’s collection, Flying in the Wake of Light, collected during the last decade, and not all the Russian artists included are products of Soviet soil. Many are émigrés or children of émigrés, like the formidable Pierre Dmitrienko (1925–1974), with a biographical

background that is more Montparnasse than Arbat. Yet the animating genius of the whole is nonetheless a distinctly Russian spirit that, as the Evangelist said, bloweth were it listeth, evidently, even in the desolation of the Soviet epoch. That cogency of purpose is what makes this private collection remarkable; indeed, this is what makes it a private art collection — in the same qualitative, if not quantitative, sense as those built by the Fricks and the Mellons of yesteryear — rather than a selection of pictures decorating the walls of a private house.

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Russian art critic Alexander Rappaport, who has contributed one of the essays to Flying in the Wake of Light, has this to say of the new role of collections such as Stolyarova’s: «I see at least three aspects that put a small private collection in an advantageous position vis-à-vis large scale projects and institutions. The first one concerns the new critical numbness in front of a work of art. In different instances the reasons for this silence could be different, but the silence itself seems very symptomatic. In the case of private collections such silence is incongruous, and here we have none of the deafening silence that accompinies portentous suggestiveness of major events. What we have instead are individual voices that we want to hear. The secons aspect is the convivial atmosphere that brings together people without any conceptual programme or ritual. Every painting is surrounded by others, they all seem to be close to each other in spirit, and the feeling is that people attracted to these paintings should also form a union of the likeminded, rather than remain an accidental crowd. Browsing through these paintings I recalled a chance encounter I had with the artist Leon Zak in the house of the famous St Petersburg organist Isiah Braudo, and endless conversations with the artist Eduard Steinberg, and friendly meetings with Francisco Infante… All these people suddenly surfaced in my memory as if they were all sitting around the table. A wonderful phenomenon, not unlike déjà vu. A third aspect is about the institulional future of these seemingly accidental collections, which are becoming an increasingly significant element of contemporary art life and increasingly significant counterbalance to major museums, galleries and festivals. In other words, I see them as sprouts of a new, relatively independent and elitist art milieu».

Note that to Rappaport, unbound by the Western ideology of political correctness, elitism» is more than simply a social tendency. It is a resurgent cultural trend that augurs manumission from the bondage of institutionalised art appreciation with its implied message of culture for the people.

J.E. Bowlt: «The painters represented in the collection of Irina Stoliarova document that alternative tradition, reminding us of the forthright vision, moral courage and artistic integrity of that counter-movement – and of the fact that, in order for any culture to withstand and survive the verdict of ages, it must retain intrinsic values which transcend the immediate social and political perimeters of its particular time and place. The spontaneity, artistry and mystery of this pictorial polyphony demonstrate that its creators possessed these constant values and that they did, indeed, move beyond their Soviet roots to become an organic part of the contemporary global process. In this respect, the Stoliarova collection is not merely a casual assemblage of various artifacts, but a single celebration of private initiative and the total freedom of aesthetic expression — “Freedom is freedom”, as the poet Vsevolod Nekrasov wrote.

A. Borovsky: «The Stolyarova’s collection has been focused on the work of Russian artists of several generations, living both in the home country and in the West; and the first émigrés generation associated with the School of Paris. The émigré artists in the collection include those who worked in the early post-war decades; many of them were then expressing their individuality in an entirely different way. Irina Stolyarova, however, and it is important to say, is completely indifferent to the political aspects of the artist’s residence. For her, an artist is ‘Russian’ in the broadest sense, to be viewed within a European cultural context. At least, in choosing her artists, she is referencing this European paradigm. I would further say that Irina Stolyarova is not concerned with a conceptual and even less so with a narrative content of a work. The primary object of her interest is painting as a material substance. She is in interested in painting as such, in its entire gamut: all the way from figurative representation to abstract. Her forte is navigating in this material substance of painting moving from “representational density” (the concept of art theorist Yury Tynyanov) to the free-spirited expressions of various forms of abstraction».

Irina, please tell me when and how you started to put together your collection?

I started collecting about twenty years ago. I think I ‘grew’ as a collector and connoisseur of art with my collection. I was initially keen on the so called ‘Little Dutch’ school, Russian painting seemed to me derivative…

photo by Sasha Gusov photo by Terry McGough photo by Sasha Gusov