Aysha Nagieva is a Moscow born artist currently living and working in London. Last year, she graduated from City & Guilds of London Art School with a First-Class BA in Fine Art. Over the course of her final year of study, she adopted the Nevalyashka Doll motif which is now so intrinsic to her practice. Nagieva uses the traditional Soviet doll as a symbol of her childhood, and as a tool through which to better conceptualise and understand her practice.

Profoundly auto biographical, the artist is most certainly present in her artworks. Nagieva’s painterly gesture and touch is apparent in the brushstroke detail, which can be investigated at proximity to the engulfing works. Yet at a distance, with the entire work in view, witness a sharp execution of the doll’s curved plastic body. One might come to learn as much about the artist as she is learning about herself through this impressive demonstration of paintings.

Nagieva’s work has been exhibited multiple times in London in recent years, and at the end of last year she took part in Four You Gallery’s online group show ‘In the Eye of the Beholder.’ In 2021, she was shortlisted for the ACS Studio Prize.

A Birthday Party

May 2022

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.