Let mе assure you, if you had attended Olga Rybnikova's "The link of times" exhibition, held from 5 to 15 October at the Moscow Union of Artists' exhibition hall (20 Kuznetsky Most St.), you would have forgotten all about autumn rainy weather, low spirits and the uneasy thoughts nestled in your heart... Moving from one canvas to another (the artist has displayed exactly a hundred of them), one enters a large, many-sided and colorful world created by Olga Rybnikova, a philosopher, a humanist and a magician.The Crimea, Egypt, Northern Russia, Turkmenistan, Moscow region, the capital's streets — that is the geographical range of the exhibition, and its title — "The link of times" defines also the historical and metaphysical aspect of the canvases.
The first impression, which, as we know, is the strongest one, is the pull of light flowing from the paintings and, perhaps, playing the main role in developing the theme and idea of almost every work.
The joyful stream of sunlight takes up the entire right part of the"Bride" watercolor, the figures of young women on the left are painted in deliberately soft strokes, they are almost unnotice-able: all the viewer's attention is attracted to the radiance. That is the shining of the young girl's soul, before her, the horizons of her new life are opening, the uniting with her loved one both in spirit and flesh, the miracle, the result of which will be their future child...
As if opposed to the jubilant "Bride" is another work, where an ancient woman is sitting by a hut as ancient as herself with her Murka -maybe the only living being sharing her loneliness. But that is not what the author is speaking about, recreating the texture of the old wooden porch which is breathing, shimmering with every shade of brown and silver. A silvery stroke has touched both the figures of the woman and of the sleeping cat. Yes, life has passed, but only the physical shell is worn out, the delicate spiritual fabric of existence is quivering and shining through every nuance and every detail of the painting.
It was no accident that Olga Rybnikova named her exhibition "The link of times" — this theme, in my opinion, predominates in her creative work, which I have been following for 17 years already, ever since the spring of 1996, when I first saw her works at the Cultural Center of the Egypt embassy in Moscow. Their themes were inspired by the author's visit to the country. Pyramids, sphinxes, hot sand — the East with no penumbra, no half-tints, air, breathing with heat and radiating it, flowing from sultriness. The almost tangible East. But Rybnikova is able to soften the desert landscape and fill it with cool (inherently Russian) gentleness: on the forefront of her "High Noon" painting she puts a vision — a reed-thin girl in white dress, with another mirage in front of her — a white camel."What is this medley?" the reader could, maybe, be indignant. But find an opportunity to see this work, and you will understand the skill of the artist, her faith in the viewer, to whom she gives the possibility to not only interpret her intention on his own, but also to understand, through sensation, with his own heart, the beauty and fragility of the world in every point of our planet...
I can share the several discoveries I have made in the Egyptian cycle... I will begin with the now well-known painting "Morning on the Nile". At first, you are captured by the intense color and light power of the canvas, the dynamics of the vertical and horizontal stroke. At the sensations level — a color extravaganza, its festivity and radiance. A river shimmering with various colors. But (unexpectedly!) silhouettes of houses, palaces, temples and minarets begin to emerge, reflecting repeatedly and like mirages, in the waters and the skies (even the serene white sail of a cog has its double above). Beauty, serenity and harmony are spread around. The city has not awakened yet, and is as pure as a child... And the first rays of sunlight bless it for the new day with purity, radiance and magnificence of creation.
A completely different face of the city Olga Rybnikova saw and captured in her painting "Cairo at Night". Dark red and anxious purple tones, yellow and ruby flashes going off into the night's darkness dominate the canvas.The prevalence of the sharp horizontal stroke creates the impression of a theatre decoration, of the dark narrow winding streets. The artist sets free her temperament; the pictorial surface is seething and boiling up. What happened? On the one hand, "Morning on the Nile", painted with a gentle brush of a kneeling Rybnikova, on the other — her "Cairo at Night". I believe it is not only the different hours of the day, but the inner sight of the artist allowing us to feel and understand, by means of art, how stuck the man is in his baser passions and vices, what damage the city inflicts on the soul, how it spoils illicitly the wonderful and rich world we were blessed with, how it defies the higher laws of existence, spiritual and material alike.
Empathy and participation in the artistic process — that is the present the viewer gets from Olga Rybnikova: in almost all her works we have something to think out, to guess the artist's intention.The mysteries are especially numerous in the"Pereslavl-Zalessky" cycle."Autumn. Trubezh river": a small riverside grove, the dim light of a fading day. But in the waters of Trubezh — a reflection of something bright, luminiferous, beautiful. Why, that is a church! It didn't appear on the canvas, but there is its reflection in the waters of Trubezh. Or rather, the reflection of its cupolas illuminated by the setting sun.That is the magical nature effect that the artist has witnessed, raising it up to the level of a philosophical generalization: the higher the spirit, the more sun and light it gets.
One of Olga Rybnikova's latest works, "Nostalgia for Ferapontov", amazes with its beauty and monumentality. The artist has seen the majestic 600 year old monastery reflected in the waters of a river, shining in the morning sunlight. We pay almost no attention to the contrast between the gloomy stocky huts standing at some distance, and this architectural masterpiece. But why does the anxiety appear when looking at the heavy walls of the monastery, as if they are getting loose, as if the foundation, their base, is cleaving. We all know that many of the Russian monuments of the past are under the threat of destruction, that a lot of old architectural masterpieces of our country are in a disastrous situation. Wasn't it this that Olga Rybnikova noticed with her keen eye? When I asked her,"Why are the walls and counterforts unsteady on this painting — is destruction awaiting the monastery?" Olga answered: "Do you see — there are angels below, in the reflection in the river... If God grants it, Ferapontov will be saved..."There it is: the freshness of the ingenuous poetic and religious feeling...
"Jacob's Ladder" is, in my opinion, the most significant work of the exhibition. And only an apple tree and a ladder leaned on it are on the canvas. And something else, unclear in the left corner — smaller ladders, or maybe parts of a chain-link fencing. And that's all... But that's just the skill of Olga Rybnikova: the entire canvas is filled... The apple tree has opened widely the arms of its spreading branches, its leafage and fruit twinkle with golden light... There is something else in this painting, something unseen but divined, exalted and ennobling, unclear, suddenly becoming unveiled for a careful observer... Here it is — the true Russian impressionism!
There is a legend in the Holy Scripture of a Jacob's ladder, which is the human soul's path to perfection... Millimeter after millimeter, step by step, overcoming obstacles and difficulties on the way, we should aspire to climb it — one wrong step, and one should begin this long and painful journey from the start. The age-old theme of life, death, and the Fall is resolved by Olga Rybnikova in a light and comforting for us, sinners, manner...
In her "The link of times" watercolor Olga Rybnikova pictures en clair the very summits of the creation's spiritual life in a philosophically and cosmically large scale manner. The central figure, the Blessed Virgin Mary, is reaching over the entire world, with her brilliant cape and with the host of angels she carefully shelters the branches of a Japanese sakura, the Egyptian pyramids, and the butterflies alike. Everything is suffused with her divine soft shimmering light, with her motherly call: "Take care of your Earth, my children... Take care of everything you've been creating for centuries... Take care of every breathing thing... Take care of your immortal souls..." While looking at the painting, one is unwittingly reminded of the words of the great Wassily Kandinsky: "Flashes like lightning, explosions like the fireworks'"Bouquet", bursting high in the sky and scattering colorful stars around it. These flashes in their blinding light are tearing new perspectives, new truths out of darkness..." Olga Rybnikova's "The link of times" exhibition became the flash that teared new perspectives, new truths out of darkness with its blinding light. A lot of people attended the exhibition on the opening day; there were a lot of flowers and encomiums from the most venerable painters of the modern day. They spoke very precisely and sincerely about the painter's talent, her incredible working capacity, about her multi-thematic and multi-genre paintings, about the spiritual mission of her work, about the mysterious light filling her canvases. The vernissage's atmosphere was also filled with light, it was flowing not only from the displayed paintings, but also from us, viewers,— on these canvases. It could be called the light of gratitude and admiration.
Olga Rybnikova can also be admired as an organizer: holding an exhibition is hard work in its most literal sense.To arrange, transport, bring up the Exhibition Hall's perpendicular staircase, and place in the seven halls more than a hundred paintings is an inconceivable work. And the most part of it rests on the shoulders of the artist himself. In this case — on the fragile female shoulders. We can only congratulate Olga, she managed this task brilliantly, too, creating the special design of the exhibition, placing her works in organic harmony. Olga Rybnikova has given the Muscovites a true gift this autumn. Thank you!
By Asiya Hayretdinova