This body of work draws on my experience of places and fascination with ancient cartography.
The urge to map is a basic human instinct. From childhood onwards, we process information spatially, which helps us make sense of one’s being in relation to the great wide world – this process of cognitive mapping defines who we are.
My impetus was to conjure the imaginary location of the mapmaker when he/she begins to map the world. The oxymoron of the world’s view, intimate and arcane, “the map that’s not a territory”.
Entirely imagined landscapes distort, embellish, and select from the world that has little to do with geography, instead focusing on the relationship between Place and Myth, familiar and peculiar.
Various motifs in my paintings allude to exploration and discovery, military conquest and imagined frontiers evident in maps, striving to understand the common link between things and places.
References range from medieval annals and schematic mappa mundi to video games and the dead eye of modern unmanned drones that scan topography to reach targets.
Maintaining a symbolic appearance squares well with the theme: the work is constructed with traditional elements – gesso and pigment ground from semi-precious stones, mixed with egg yolk and white wine to make the paints. The wooden boards I paint on are made of oak in Russian monasteries and blessed. This undoubtedly lends the work a religious undertone but at the same time heightens the focus on this conjunction of the old and new.
The anachronism of the egg tempera technique nods toward Byzantine representation and the Asian tradition, which dissolve realism by rendering its subjects as visions. Signifiers function as metaphors with predetermined meanings. I am fascinated by their pointed messages and modes of conceptualizing the landscape where Nature is seen through the prism of culture.
Borrowing from these historical languages engenders a different sensibility through the transformative process of painting.
b. 1979, Moscow, Russia
Lives and works in London. She gained a BA from the Slade School of Art and a post graduate diploma from the Royal Academy of Arts. Constantly reassembling and alluding to pre-renaissance and icon painting, folklore and Asian tradition, Smirnoff’s paintings offer ambiguous narratives through layers of pigment ground from semi-precious stones. She is fascinated by the idea of the “icon” and its close relation to “popular art” with a wide repertoire of signs: the flat moulding of figures, conventional space and the abstract effects of colours. Traditional medium of egg tempera helps maintain a symbolic appearance opening up a different sensibility through the use of historical languages, memory and imagination. Recent exhibitions include: Beyond The Shore, Galleria Riccardo Crespi, Milan (2013) • The Madding Spring, Gallery Vela, London (2012) • Opulent Vision, Ford Project Gallery, New York (2011) • John Moores Painting Prize 2010, Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool (2010) • Zhar, Galerie Stanislas Bourgain, Paris (2010) • Women to Watch: The Figure Re-Figured, Friends of National Museum of Women in the Arts, London (2009) • Invasion: Evasion, Baibakov art projects, Moscow (2008) • Morozka, Galleria Riccardo Crespi, Milan (2008) • Lenin Lovers, Curator Space Gallery, London (2006).