A Birthday Party
Some of the works in ‘A Birthday Party’ symbolise defining memories from Moscow born artist Aysha Nagieva’s childhood, and others are associated with significant moments of the artists more recent experiences in adulthood. The playful title was chosen as May is the month in which Nagieva was born, and it also alludes to a particular artwork that greatly inspired the paintings in this exhibition. Martin Creed’s ‘Half the Air in a Given Space,’ is a series of installations of inflated celebration balloons which fill (as the title suggests) half the space of the room in which the work exists. Nagieva was particularly drawn to the Denmark instalment; the baby pink, sickly sweet balloons are wistfully nostalgic yet hold a more threatening undertone which impends an overwhelming suffocation. Exhilaration and disorientation; allure and bounciness.
Whilst it is easy to be charmed by Nagieva’s doll’s bug eyes and plump rosy cheeks, there is a subtle suggestion of something more sinister. The dark voids in which they hover eliminate the cheering warmth that these children’s toys represent off canvas, allowing an uncanniness to subsist. Amy Bessone’s paintings of porcelain statuettes hold a similar peril, yet the noticeable element of the ‘handmade’ is redemptive. Bessone’s and Nagieva’s paintings are almost too kitschy to communicate with a severe, unyielding expression. Nagieva admires the “fluidity and [the] certain degree of effortlessness” Bessone achieves in painting the shiny porcelain.
Studying and living in the UK, Nagieva has noticed that “shiny” things do not appeal to the public here quite like it does in Russia. Nagieva has remarked that the attraction to shiny and gold things is embedded into many Russian cultures, and used in ornate religious memorabilia, the Christmas lights of Moscow, as well as bright, bold soviet propaganda as examples of this allure. The way that Nagieva accurately uses paint to create brightness and sometimes blinding sheen is reminiscent of this fascination with shimmer.
The large works in this exhibition are made up of acrylics and oils, Nagieva uses paint mediums to accommodate extensive layer building. Her smaller works are often just oil, yet she also uses watercolours freehand. Her comfort and ease with using these differing paint types evidences her dexterity and practical skills. In many ways, oil is the antithesis watercolour. To indicate light and the doll’s plastic form Nagieva will use an abundance of oil paint, or by contrast, no watercolour at all. Highlights on her paper works will likely be empty space, the artist uses the whiteness of the paper to achieve dynamism of form.