I’ve been fascinated by Russia since I was very young, admired its tough and enduring culture, its strange isolation and the fact that it remains this unusual cypher between European and Middle Eastern, Asian cultural influences while retaining its own highly distinctive identity. When I started to read novels as a 17 year old, Dovsteovsky’s The Idiot spoke volumes about nihilism, hope, love and the Russophile in me has remained intact ever since.
Here is a very short list of 4 awesome Russian things, many are left out (sorry Russian Futurism, Tarkovsky, Mairastroika dolls, Yanka Dyagileva, Telnyashka’s and many others)
1. Of all the Russian greats, I think Chekov gets the shortest shift as a fiction writer, although his plays are everywhere, as are his quotations, he wrote the most acute, sometimes resigned, sometimes frantic short stories, and unlike Dostoyevsky who held a crazed belief in religious salvation or Tolstoy who saw a Utopian non-violent future Chekov had no belief in better things to come, possibly because he was the only one of these prominent figures who had worked his way up from nothing, his message is simply one of individual honesty, and personal morality, weighed heavily with despair.
2. Boris Mikhailov is somewhat of a cheat, he actually grew up in the Ukraine rather than Russia, but it was the USSR at the time so I’ll include him. Moonlighting in photography between factory shifts, he created first kaleidoscopic worlds of overlapping exposures, later progressively moving towards a striking social realism with his nude portraits of those left behind in the death of communism. Beautiful and underrated.
3. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky created a world in music as diverse and fascinating as the country he originated in, dramatic, exotic and wide ranging, his theme’s are almost universally memorable, they feel inborn, with only a few bars of Swan Lake or the Nutcracker required to stir the listeners recognition.
4. Gosha Rubchinskiy is the most recent inspiration in this list, a designer and photographer that attempts to capture and explore the essence of post Soviet Russia, with an eye on the suburban skate punks and bohemian metal heads as well as traditional symbolism (double headed eagles, wooden onion dome Church’s) rather than the gilded excess and tacky oligarchs that have recently defined the country to the western world.
*Cyrillic text is also awesome: great looking and alien, but unfortunately not Russian but rather Bulgarian, the creation of St. Cyril
10:32 am • 16 September 2012
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Arabian Dance
4:35 am • 16 September 2012 • 4 notes
Is there any better example of Russian’s complete disregard for foreign influence than the Aeroflot logo? a full 22 years after the end of the Soviet Union the Russian state airline still retains a flying hammer and sickle as it’s banner, amazing.
reminds me of this Simpsons vignette
…and an idea of what a rebranded Aeroflot could look like via. Cargo Collective
4:26 am • 15 September 2012 • 12 notes
Shallow success: two great things brought purely on looks>
1. two years ago, the publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson commissioned this incredible looking special edition of John Irving’s cult-classic novel the world according to garp, with its raw cardboard cover and baby bottle window opening to a bizarre collage of images reflecting the broad surreal scope of the book, not that I knew this when I brought it, I just loved the way it looked.
(thank god for that, look at the current edition in Irish bookstores)
2. around the same time I came across the beautifully packaged and mysteriously information free Numero Group label in a small record store in Vancouver, its covers often revealing nothing except the name of the record and a candid photograph of the musicians inside, among the mostly soulful selections was a record with three timeless looking young people on the cover in tinted blue: Antena - Camino Del Sol I brought it without hearing a note, and loved it, music that existed in the same universe as Joy Division and Serge gainsbourg, Kraftwerk and Astrid Gilberto, somewhere in Belgium in 1982.
3:48 pm • 13 September 2012
A Place to Gather : a great film commisioned by the Craft Council of Ireland to showcase Irish craftwork for London design week, quality.
2:58 pm • 13 September 2012 • 2 notes
Rejected bench designs
Last Christmas in the downtime between the gluttony, presents and booze me and my Girlfriend found time to build our own Enzo Mari ‘Sedia 1’ chair, it was great exercise in the basics of woodworking and logic (we had to eyeball the measurements) This year I set myself the more ambitious challenge of actually designing a bench to build over the Christmas break.
I put together two separate designs but failed to meet the approval of my honest Finn, so it looks like like neither will be tackled for the time being, despite this I got a first hand lesson in dealing with a demanding client, mortise & tendon joints and lateral force, and hopefully I’ll get back to these when I have my own space for them.
10:49 am • 10 September 2012 • 3 notes
This is a bit of a nebbish bitch, but after seeing the weirdly acclaimed Micheal Bastian’s latest collection, which looks exactly like something that the team at the Gap would come up with (and they are at the helm of a middle-market shopping mall behemoth whats Bastians excuse?) I was thinking that designers are as much defined by what they are not as what they are, which brings me to the point of this post: Christophe Lemaire.
Lemaire isn’t in the same household name league as most head designers for French luxury brands (as the design director of Hermes) but he’s passionate about consistency, and vocal about his distaste with fashion-as-novelty, the work he creates for Hermes is not much different from his own small line, and its most remarkable for its complete lack of American influence, in it I see Russian Cossacks, turn of the (19th) century bohemians, and pre-western Asian influences, by going back to these simpler tunic like garments he creates a modern, utilitarian but elegant look, season after season, a man who knows what he likes, and what he is and doesn’t need to read the trade papers for his next idea.
8:45 am • 10 September 2012 • 5 notes
While the subject matter of most pre-modern painters can be distinctly passé (Posh people reclining, posh people with children, posh people with dogs, in fields? all painted with the highest degree of sycophancy) I find more and more to appreciate in their classical mastery of colour and mood, with French artist James Tissot’s ‘Holiday (the Picnic)’ from 1876, seen above is a good example.
Tissot’s father was draper, working in the fashion industry and his mother a hat maker and this early exposure seems to have given him a strong appreciation for the folds and texture of cloth but also colour, specifically an autumn inspired range of yellows, deep browns and oranges and rich reds a trademark palette that marks his work as much as cornflower blues and golds of Van Gogh or the burgundy’s and forest greens of the renaissance
other examples 1. 2. 3.
7:17 am • 10 September 2012 • 6 notes
Every once in a while I come across a really aesthetic digital camera that makes me consider getting into that game, last time it was the new Olympus Pen, and now designer Marc Newson's Pentax K-01.
Like the Pen it’s a half-way point between an SLR & a point and shoot, with a good sensor, changable lens and manual focus without being the mega chunky beast that most DSLR’s are, and its look is very much in the vein of Newsons wooly futurism with bright tactile yellow grips and blocky adjustment dials. I’m a casual shooter at best, taking mostly landscape and portrait shots so its apparent poor action shooting (the only downside in reviews) would not bother me, and its strong low light shooting ability is a definate plus. Unfortunately like most digitals the colors are apparently very saturated so require post editing and it lacks the smoothness of color to JPEG that the Pen has.
Definately a contender.
2:52 am • 6 September 2012 • 7 notes
A beautiful short film about a 17th century Japanese farmhouse and the men who lived in it.
2:31 pm • 5 September 2012 • 7 notes