small moscow paradise

Olga Muravina is an artist of a new type for Russia. She is known in Moscow as a high-class designer. Design is something relatively new for our region of the planet. Olga has enthusiastically mastered the craft of creating things for the modern urban environment, which combines high-tech and ecological consciousness. Her work appears in prestigious designer shows and is found in public spaces. These artifacts, as modern design should be, are very technological on the one hand, and on the other hand, imbued with a warm affinity for nature, landscape, flora and fauna.

Like many other designers today, Olga Muravina has found a private creative dimension in her favorite art form. She studied sculpture at the prestigious Surikov Institute in Moscow, and her mentor in plastics was Mikhail Pereyaslavets, a master of the classical type and an expert in the intricacies of bronze casting. The thorough training of an academic nature did not hinder, but helped Olga to develop her own personal style of sculpting and casting. This style could be called simple-minded or naive if it were not in its own way sophisticated in its treatment of material and understanding of elementary plastic forms.


Olga Muravina fixes in a solid and durable material, most often bronze, the private moments of individual private existence. One can without any stretch call her art feminine and maternal. The focus is on the child, a small child, scrutinized by the attentive and cheerful gaze of a loving older being.  At times he looks like an amusing Baroque-era “putto,” and at other times he is almost a beast, a cute pet that has only yet promised to become human. Even without that, though, he’s good enough on his own, as all the living creatures here are cute, friendly, and entertaining. All are siblings.

Muravina’s private dimension is teeming with all kinds of critters. First of all these pets, which are already so humanized that they acquired extremely personal expression on their faces, snouts and muzzles. We are talking primarily about dogs, which are often molded and cast by the artist. They are big and small, tired, elderly, puppy-like clumsy, smiling, brooding, and all sorts of other things. There are no vicious dogs in Muravina’s world. No vicious ones at all. Her fauna is not dangerous, not aggressive. Here man is a friend of animals, and animals are friends of man. Even if an exotic guest, such as an armored rhinoceros, occasionally appears among the inhabitants of Muravin’s ecosystem, it is not so much dangerous as surly.


Olga Muravina looks at animals not through the eyes of a professional biologist or ethologist, but through the eyes of an ordinary urban man of an advanced civilization in which wildlife has long ago become a component of folklore and mythology of a special type. This new mythology sees animals as funny, humanoid Winnie the Pooh and other cartoon characters, rather than mysterious and mystical creatures of ancient tales. The paradox is that the cat and the squirrel, the dog and the bird are cast in bronze, like monuments to great men or idols to the gods. Was it necessary to immortalize in such a manner, for example, a fat cat transformed into the image of a weighty sausage on legs, that is, the desired object, which perhaps hovers in the mind of a furry lover of eating? Thank God, there is not a single hungry, thin, dull and deprived one among our brethren imprinted in bronze. And if a fattened squirrel is so bloated with nuts that it doesn’t even want to move, it’s more pleasing to the eye than offensive to the moral sense.


If the rigid consistency of metal begins boring the viewer, we should switch to drawings. Olga Muravina’s graphic sketches are quite practical, for she checks the compositions and volumes of future sculptures in linear sketches and light shading. And at the same time her graphic art is truly graphic, that is, it serves to simplify being. Space reigns in these sheets. Lapidary lines and few spots of color hint at the appearance of a bear or a boar, a dog or a boy in the pulsating environment of nature.

Cats and bears, dogs and squirrels, and all others are gathered into a single family under the direction of the Moscow artist, and they resemble the inhabitants of the original Paradise, in which there was yet no evil and death, and the lamb reclined beside the lion. And since the main inhabitant of this paradise is a human child, well-fed and nimble, curious and open to experience, we are willing to believe that this is how the simple-hearted original Adam, friend of the dog and fellow squirrel, and a close relative of the bear was created.


The Small Moscow Paradise was not created by a man’s hand, but by motherly, “maternal” efforts. We would like to believe, at least for a moment, that the themes, forms, and meaning of the Muravinian fauna predict some future time, when the Great Goddess will replace the former demiurgeons. She will be able (we dream) not only to give birth to a bunch of diverse offspring, not only to nourish them, give them peace and will, but also to do something more: avoid the temptations of the evil spirit, avoid disasters and tragedies, and leave her descendants a bright and cozy home for life on the planet.


                                                                                                                                                                   Alexander Yakimovich, Doctor of Art History, Academician of the Russian Academy of Arts, Vice-President of the Russian Association of Art Historians, Editor-in-Chief of “Sobranie” magazine