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Moscow-based artist Amanita opens exhibition at Dadiani Fine Art
Gorbachev, 2014, china ink, rapidograph and soft-ink pen on paper, 60x80cm.

LONDON.- Dadiani Fine Art presents an exhibition by the Moscow-based artist Amanita, entitled Russian Alphabet or ABC of the USSR and co-curated by Eleesa Dadiani and Sasha Markvo.

The show is comprised of two series that make up a major part of Amanita’s oeuvre, the Russian Alphabet and the Chiefs series. Each series reveals the artist’s highly idiosyncratic engagement with the world, which is simultaneously fantastical, surreal and darkly satirical. At first glance the drawings look like medieval illuminated manuscripts. This is no accident, for just as those artists inveigled hidden meanings into their work, so does Amanita. His images form a unique world – replete with elements of Soviet and post-Soviet cultures.

The Alphabet series consists of 29 sheets (33 being the number of letters in the Cyrillic alphabet, however some letters have been united in the same sheet) and presents a new version of the famous genre of ABC illustration. Amanita’s alphabet images are tightly connected with Russian-Soviet turning points in politics, science and culture.

The Chiefs series is a representation of key figures of Russian history, from Nicholas II, the last Tsar, to the current president and prime minister. The characters are accompanied by multi-layered symbolic images and ornaments. Each work gives a peculiar abstract of the chief's importance in history.

The exhibition will also mark the launch of Amanita’s first UK publication, The Russian Alphabet Colouring Book, in collaboration with FUEL Publishing. An introduction to the Russian alphabet, each drawing in the book depicts a word beginning with each letter from the Cyrillic alphabet, also shown in English, giving a light-hearted guide as to how the letters look and sound. The subjects of his illustrations are wide ranging – from political leaders: Lenin, Gorbachev; to inanimate objects: Tupolev aircraft, Sputnik; via Tsars, cosmonauts and Constructivism – these classic Soviet themes are interwoven from one page to the next, all rendered in an abundance of detail. His amazing and skillful images define a previously unimagined graphic landscape that takes the humble colouring book into a new dimension.

Says curator Sasha Markvo: ‘Amanita’s work is arresting, dramatic and witty. He is a chronicler of his times – able to look at Russia from many angles – how he thinks Russia is perceived and how Russia perceives itself. Amanita’s craftsmanship is faultless and it takes many weeks of extremely skillful and patient work to finish every graphic piece. There are no mistakes or inaccuracies in his works, as if he followed a very definite plan, which has been already shaped in his head. Civilization and barbarism, grace and crudity, fantastic and real are all interwoven here.’

Says the artist: ‘We all learned to read and write from the Alphabet. In the USSR we had a phenomenon: the ‘Soviet - English language,’ with its own special words. It's funny – it was as if an English speaker learned Russian from the ‘Soviet Alphabet.’ So I wanted to illustrate the USSR from A to Z, with all the history of the achievements that are associated with my country. Not without smiles and irony, of course.’

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