The Russian landscapes, its natural and exotic beauty, make up many generations of Cubans’ visual assets in a shared history with that country member of the former Soviet Union. The famous Sputnik magazine helped foster such imaginary background in those that neither studied nor worked there.
Maybe the Russian photographer Gennady Smirnov ignores this. However, he goes beyond achieving it with solid technical and aesthetic abilities in his exhibition "Northern Russia". He fills the gap linked to nostalgia. More than that, he provides us with a one of kind, original, photographic artistic project for Holguin.
Smirnov turns to landscape photography to disclose images of a great historical value besides the architectural and natural beauty of this Russian area with distinctive features – very cold most of the year. The Northern Russia’s spiritual wealth, Smirnov in between, is very well depicted in the vernacular religious constructions photographed.
The catalogue of the exhibition makes reference to that architectural mythical hedonism that sticks out through the visual language where Gennady Smirnov photographs the harmony and magnificence of monasteries around which communities rise.
Smirnov, lens meddling, manages to assimilate the traditional northern attributes related with the secularization of spiritual asceticism. The photographer accomplish it by leaving out, almost in all pictures, the human factor; but when people’s presence is unavoidable, he makes use of general or joint planes where human beings play no leading role.
The Russian artist goes for horizontal formats, expected in landscape photography, to highlight spirituality above earthly thing. It paves the way for contemplative reading in the images showing quietness and peace.
Smirnov photographs always with standard angles to keep real proportions of the environment where straight lines towered over perpendicular ones that would add an unfortunate dynamics.
Smirnov avoids wide angles that would alter the perspective or the narrow ones what would compress the image planes. He stresses so a representation of the scene just the way it is to get across a more authentic realism to his photos, to bring down real beauty as close as possible to our visual experiences.
One can also see the artist's commitment with what he wants to achieve by coming back to the same places to photograph them in the different seasons of the year where light yields in to his interests as it can be seen in the series ‘Solovki’s Sunsets” and the “Sacred Lake.”
He composes other pictures backed on natural elements as frames to give depth of field where snow makes the image looked planed.
Smirnov takes also advantage of different symbols to reveal the essence of the Russian North. He sets his lens on worn-out walls alluding old times; on the sky, spirituality here, with more volume in the frame; on the purifying whiteness of the snow; on the crosses, on the book as a vehicle of transmission of ancestral traditions; on costumes for pilgrimages what seems to bring together the citizens from this beautiful Russian North. If winter locks them in their homes, summer fosters community life; however, pilgrimages (beliefs) get them united in one or the other season.
Despite everything some incoherence and gaps call our eye. I could bear out later, and as a way to apologize Smirnov, through an informative search, that the exhibition is originally made up of 50 images instead of the 22 that are exhibited in the Holguín Art Center’s Electa Arenal room.
It should also not be overlooked they are landscape photographies whose main function is to provide visual pleasure and not necessarily the construction of a certain message although Gennady Smirnov achieves both things through a very well in-advance conceived photographic technical-aesthetic language.The exhibit means a lot on the way to promote the presence of other Russian artistic projects in the city of Holguin and to make an approach to a millennial culture that will nourish the creative wealth of local artists.