Tamara Chudinovskaya Natalia Zemlyanaya’s creation of the world

…those strange beings we call colours, alive in themselves, autonomous,

endowed with all the qualities needed for their future autonomous life and ready at

any moment to submit to a new combination, to intermingle with one another and

create an infinity of new worlds…

—Wassily Kandinsky

The artistic biography of Natalia Zemlyanaya clearly bears witness to her complete disinterest in a realist method of painting. Her teachers were adherents of the second wave of avant-garde, who took the system of colour and form as a language of expression, allowing them to transform the visible and to depict the invisible. Among them were such varied personages as Children’s Art School teacher Sergei Daniel, and the Vera Mukhina Higher School of Art and Industrial Design (now the Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design, St Petersburg) instructors
Valentina Povarova, Lyudmila Ku-tsenko, Alexander Zaitsev, and Stanislav
Povarova and Kutsenko, who exhibited in the Russian Museum in the early 2000s, had studied in the classical academic manner, but their inspiration for individual creativity came while in the circle of Pavel Kondratyev, Vladimir Sterligov and his wife Tatyana Glebova, and Evgenia Magaril, who had all been students of
artists of the first wave of avant-garde – Kazimir Malevich, Mikhail Matiushin, and Pavel Filonov. The art of Alexander Zaitsev and Stanislav Mosevich developed in a similar manner and was connected with the so-called “Hermitage School” of Grigory Dlugach, who was heavily influenced by Pavel Filonov and Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin.

On this line of succession, Natalia Zemlyanaya comes in at the fourth generation of artists working in this new image-based language spawned by the first avant-garde artists.

It’s likely that Natalia Zemlyanaya would wholeheartedly agree with Tatyana Glebova’s assertion that she listens only to her inner voice, which dictates “what colour to use where”. 1 At the same time, Zemlyanaya’s method of intuitive “colour painting” is based on a deep knowledge of the laws of colour, whose secrets have
been explored for centuries by world-class minds the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and Johann Goethe.
The work of Natalia Zemlyanaya, as a contemporary artist with pronounced abstract thinking, has absorbed all the artistic developments of the 20th century. The artist is fluent in the language of colour and form, which allows her to give body even to rather complicated abstract ideas (The Creation of the World, Angel) and impressions from nature (Blooming Bushes, Autumn Lines).

Combining multiple plastic layers with minimalist elements, in her art she also calls upon the archetypical images of the square, circle, oval, and labyrinth, and blends lines and waves going in different directions, using colour to create gesture within the spatial movement of shapes. Simple Shapes, Lines, Structures, Squares, Circles, Labyrinths, Angels, Birds, Flowers, Portraits – these are the relatively provisional names of series on which Zemlyanaya has worked since the mid-1980s, having experienced the complete loss of many of these in the “wild” 1990s, when an entire exhibition was stolen from a gallery at 10 Pushkinskaya Street.

Natalia Zemlyanaya’s image-based language can be compared to poetry that is built on intuitive cognition of the world, on internal melodic attunement. If we examine her paintings Yellow Rose and White Rose, we find their common structural roots with The Creation of the World. And Rose with its spiral-like mobility and refined harmony of colour acts as a fractal metaphor for a grandiose ultimate beginning. One that “rhymes” with the macrocosm and microcosm.

With its plastic and colour relationships and complexly structured space, the artist’s creative concept does not ask questions, but instead draws the viewer into its world, proposing that it be read as poetry – in the mind’s eye, or heard as music – as an internal whisper. The music manifests in the rhythmic alternation of the graphic elements, the colour accents and splashes, and even the titles of certain works (Music, Swing Rhombus, Blue Pause). No wonder research has been done into the correlation of letters to colours and sounds. Of a metaphysical nature, they urge us to see the world as one vast entity, the parts of which are all interconnected. This problem – or more precisely, this idea – was one of the fixtures of the art of the first avant-gardists.

It’s no coincidence that, for some artists who followed a path of abstract or semi-abstract art, one of the principal characteristics of their picture surfaces was their total population with graphic elements, as if fragments selected from some bigger space.
The object of their artistic manifestations was nothing less than the idea of materiality itself, endless in its sweep, elusive in its fluidity, from which everything is created.

The world of Zemlyanaya’s art is never complete, whether that comes through in the viewer’s contemplation of the names Bowl and White Birds, or in the artist’s constant return to her works, adding details, or even completely repainting them. “The artist always paints his internal state; it is never stagnant, and changes all the time…

When the artist artificially forces himself to depict a unity of time and space, even then he cannot defy or avoid the ephemerality of his internal life, and that life is reflected in the work.” 2 Thus the inner life flows into materiality, and material (or, taking from philosopher Jacques Derrida, we can label this phenomenon “the text”) flows into the internal life and reflects in the artist’s work as a captured moment of revelation.


1The Colour Music of Tatyana Glebova. For the 115th Anniversary of the Artist’s Birth.
Museum of Organic Culture, Kolomna, 2015, p. 102.2Ibid, p. 47.