Russia, books and paintings

 There are moments in life when one reconnects with ones roots, when one reconnects with happy memories .... memories buried in a plethora of events and experiences. They seemed lost ..... for a long time ..... and yet ... here they are ... coming back to the surface fresh and real as if they were yesterday.  In my case the trigger  was a shop, Ruskii mir (The Russian world) in Goodge Street in Central London. (but about this a bit later) 

A few years ago, when I was still commuting to London, I tried to find this place....I went up and down that street a few times ... and nothing .... it was supposed to be there ... and yet it wasn't. So perhaps I was meant to find it today when I went to the Royal Academy of Art to submit a painting for consideration for the Summer Exhibition in June. 


The Silk Road being wrapped up for the road!

But let's start at the beginning - with making the application, our days of planning the adventure to London, with wrapping the painting in protective buffers the day before with love ... or maybe even further back .... when I took the decision to take part in this grand event ... me ..... an untrained artist, someone who nine years ago started to put a brush to paper for the first time with the first of many "Painting by Numbers".  

The fact that today I had the courage to submit my work is the result of a change of mentality, a change of attitude which was only made possible because  .... yes, I live in England and I have been lucky enough to be encouraged to continue painting by a few amazing souls ....and also because I've interacted with many lovely Americans and learned from them that there is nothing wrong in trying, that having confidence is one of our biggest assets and that the memories of a great day can stay forever. 


Books are my trusted companions! Perfect for train journeys!

The first memory for me of the trek to the RA will be to do with the books I took with me on the train .... Modigliani by Carol Mann ( I had only 15 more pages to finish at the end of the train journey. The book is so captivating that I couldn't put it down) and a Dali book that I looked forward to reading because I was fascinated to learn about the essence of surrealism and how Dali arrived at that stop in his artistic journey. 


Little did I know that the book on Dali was not meant for me - but claearly for an artist from Peru who I met while queuing at the Academy. I had made a  start on it on the train but the book failed to captivate me - so when Diego (he came from Lima especially to submit two paintings to this competition) told us that his chosen style is surrealism   ... I understood why I had to bring that book with me that day ...Diego was happy to have it.  

Seeing many other people carrying, with pride and love, their lovely paintings was so uplifting .. it made me smile and feel that ... we are special ... me, an artist (he he he me) and my biggest fan (my husband) prepared to be vulnerable ... and be judged  


Queuing happily at the Royal Academy of Arts

I was amazed at how smooth the whole process was ... how quick and professional ... 40 minutes after joining the queue we were already in "Bill's" a coffee shop/restaurant we are connected with emotionally - the first one started in Lewes a few years ago and now Bill's is a small but very successful chain of restaurants. 



And to end where I started ... a walk through Soho, one of my favourite areas in London, led us to that Russian bookshop/small groceries shop in Goodge Street - where you can buy red caviar, chocolates, delicious sour cream, pelemeni (delicious traditional dish) and many other things one usually sees on the shelves in Russia. Although it is tiny and downstairs, with no shop window, it was an absolute heaven for me ..... rows and rows of Russian books and magazines, DVD's, CD's ... bliss! Reading is the best way to keep alive a foreign language that one speaks..... and reading helps one to keep up to scratch especially when one doesn't need to use the language on a regular basis.

But the cherry on the cake for me was being able to buy and to eat "Plombir" the ice cream I used to eat when I was 5 and visiting my relatives in Puskin - a coquette town much appreciated by the Russian royalty not far from Sankt Peterburg . It felt as if I had travelled back in time .... seeing again my aunt, uncle, cousins .... the sun, the smells of piroski (a delicious traditional dish that my aunt was such a specialist in preparing) .......... Russia is still in my blood .. I was  reminded of this today! 


Pain and Flamenco

I'm sure that all of you know at least one person who has suffered(s) from depression. It is very interesting how when I grew up in Romania I had no clue about this word, it was really not part of our vocabulary. Instead, we had a milder word, melancholia, used perhaps more in Russia. If you've ever had the curiosity to read books by classic Russian writers such as Turgheniev or Chekov melancholia was very much a subject talked about in story lines. I seldom came across the concept in "working" classes, more often in priviledged circles. One of the main reasons was the desperate lack of purpose and the restrictions that women had to endure at the end of 1800 (being pretty, finding a suitable husband, having children and organising good parties).

Have a look at this short clip from one of my favourite Russian movies called "Cruel romance" ..... 



Women who did not engage in this limited number of activities ..... suffered from .......melancholia. In todays interpretation they were depressed, any form of passion was missing from their lives. The gypsy bands, very popular among the more wealthy Russians, were always the ones singing about the pain, healing the wounds that so many carried with them. 


Flamenco ..... this is what it does as well ....... it shouts about the pain, mine, yours, it brings it to the surface, it exudes from your chest and helps you breath more smoothly for a while.  What else? It reminds you that feeling alive is possible, it reminds you to express yourself, to check whose life you are living ....... yours or the life of others who thought they knew better for you? 


Depression in todays society is not an easy subject, the reasons are many .... but, by God, one reason is lack of purpose, lack of passion, lack of clarity about ones feelings .... and lack of curiosity. If you want to get better, ask yourself what are(were) you passionate about. Ask yourself what passion means for you ........and don't wait ... go for it .... reclaim the passion in your life! 

Listen and watch the video clips .... can you feel the pain and the passion my friends? And it really doesn't matter if you do not understand the words. You can still feel it!