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Valery Valran’s Mysterious St. Petersburg at Erarta Gallery London

Picture of Ellen Von Weigand
Ellen Von Weigand
Updated: 13 December 2015
Erarta Gallery London presents Place: St. Petersburg, a solo exhibition of the work of Valery Valran during Russian Week, November 2013. Valran’s paintings show Russia’s cultural capital, the home of the Erarta Art Museum and the artist’s own place of residence since 1966, as a metropolitan archetype sprung from his imagination.
Valery Valran
Griboedov Canal Kryukok Canal St. Nikolas Cathedral | @ Valery Valran, courtesy of Erarta Galleries

Erarta Gallery London presents the work of Russian artist Valery Valran in conjunction with the winter edition of Russian Art Week 2013. The exhibition, titled Place: St. Petersburg (21 November 2013 – 14 January 2014), brings together works from the late 1980s onward, uniting Valran’s still lives, portraits, and eerily vacant landscapes in a celebration of his mysterious vision.

Erarta, with galleries in London, New York, Hong Kong and Zurich, as well as a museum in St. Petersburg, awards special attention to young, emerging and avant-garde artists, seeking to situate them within the international art scene. Twice a year Erarta London’s exhibition programme overlaps with Russian Week, which takes over the sale rooms and galleries of the city’s Mayfair district. During the event exhibitions of Russian contemporary art run alongside sales held by Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Bonhams and MacDougall’s auction houses.

Valery Valran
Fonktanka Chernyshov Bridge | © Valery Valgran, courtesy of Erarta Galleries

Valran’s St. Petersburg is pristinely structured. Palatial Neoclassical buildings are scattered evenly throughout his compositions, while spired Cathedrals pierce an otherwise level horizon. Nature is made orderly as trees dot the flat land around the buildings, and a network of canals intersect the city in a perfect cross. These, together with cleanly cut geometric patches of grass act as structuring components within these scenes, contradicting the very essence of nature. Further distance from reality is created through a near monochrome tonality, as blues, reds, yellows and greens appear faded, seemingly bleached by exposure to sunlight. The absence of movement is keenly felt, as the various squares, waterways and bridges sit vacant yet well maintained. The resulting paintings act as apparitions of an ideal St. Petersburg, untainted by man’s imperfections.

Likewise, Valran’s series of still life paintings are pure in form yet strangely illusory. Objects float in unearthly environments, unreliant on gravity and void of shadow. In one such painting titled Eggs on a Tabletop (1999), a tabletop without legs rests stably within a blackened space, eggs cast randomly atop the surface. In another example, Bottle, Egg, Apple, Skull (1987), the titular objects are suspended against a hazy sky. The artist’s highly direct visual language is repeatedly contrasted against a complete absence of context.

Valery Valran
Bottle, Egg, Apple, Skull | © Valery Valran, courtesy of Erarta Galleries

Born in the Ukhtinusky region of Russia in 1949, Valery Valran moved to St. Petersburg in 1966 to embark on his university education. Although he maintained a lifelong interest in the arts, he was reluctant to study the subject formally because of the tendency within the country to look down upon artists. He therefore pursued a path of mathematics, followed by philosophy, but became heavily involved in artistic circles around 1972. Since 1976, he has shown extensively within St. Petersburg and internationally, and has participated in over 100 exhibitions to date. His work is included in a number of public collections including the Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg, Erarta Museum and Galleries of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Modern Russian Art in Jersey City, USA among many others.

By Ellen Von Wiegand