What I like though, is that these studios are really alive, you can immediately see that they are being used on a daily basis, inhabited by creative people; the rooms amess with papers, brushes, frames and canvases, floors stained by paint, finished and unfinished works standing and leaning everywhere, where there is space. All this scattered around perhaps a small corner with an armchair dedicated to reading or having a cup of tea from a stakan and that is all. The art has overshadowed everything else in its importance.
You can see these people live for their art.
There are no distractions from their focus, mental or spatial. This is their passion, this is their studio.
It's kinda amazing, in a world constantly aiming to distract you.
Seeing such a dedication of these artists to their work, it it is then easy to start thinking about the value of artist's time. An artist spends their time working on an exhibition, on a show, on new paintings or sculptures or drawings or graphics, whichever, for days and months, in and out of standard working hours, creating, framing, packaging, communicating with the curators and organisors, travelling and delivering the work, at the same time as aiming to have a private life, or, in majority of cases, also a 'real' job. And then how do you estimate the value of this kind of production, created in this kind of situation?
You could theoretically use the hard currency of counting the labour hours -- but not really. What artist labour esentially comes down to is estimating the final product: the artwork. Both from the side of an artist, a self-estimation, and from the side of the commissioner: the art-market value, both inevitably and painfully intertwined. Here, in Murmansk, it is as everywhere else, a combination of skills, luck, hard-work, who you know, the name you have made in the artworld, and also, as already mentioned and specific to the Russian context, whether or not you belong to the official society; all this predetermines your artistic value, in this intense context, your value as a private/professional individual.
Yet no one complains tonight, not to a foreigner, at least. When I ask, people do talk of things being tough, admit that the contemporary art in rural Russia is cut off from the world, the funding is poor; but they don't complain about their lives; they comment on the larger situation. I enquire of performance art and it's absence, we speak of religion, the communication is easier after the drinks, I understand Russian now, everyone's English gets smoother, Dmitrij gets drunk and tells us a long-winded story about taking two hitchhikers from Murmansk to a music festival; no-one knows what the story is about but we all enjoy it. Veronika makes him drink tea and eat fish in tomato sauce and bread, the ultimate cure.
And then you go outside and there is this.