Marina Zhgivaleva, artist

Marina Zhgivaleva has been drawing since age three. When she was young, her pencils, colors and sheets of paper were her most beloved toys. She lived in a magic world all her own, one inhabited by fascinating creatures which she created in her drawings: animals, trees, plants, flowers, fruits, birds, people.

Now 26, Zhgivaleva uses her art to share with others her unique view of the world.

Born in the Volga river town of Rybinsk (Yaroslavl region), Zhgivaleva graduated simultaneously from high school and a secondary art school. She then went on to pursue her artistic education in the Higher Art School of Yaroslavl. After she received her diploma she joined the famous Yaroslavl Icon School, while starting a correspondence course at the Moscow State University of the Press.

Her foray into media studies is connected with the fact that her husband of seven years, Pyotr Grekov, founded a small advertising agency in Yaroslavl, where the couple now lives with their three-year old son Sasha.

Despite studies, work and the normal duties of life, Zhgivaleva says art is “the whole meaning of my life … It’s like magic! All I have to do is face the canvas alone and the real world surrounding me dissapears. I find myself in a different world. And my hands, as if obeying the rules of this new world, begin working on their own, attracting in the vortex of this new universe my imagination, my fantasy, my feelings and my emotions.”

Yaroslavl art scholars call Zhgivaleva’s style “non-figurative-art,” while others called her a “graphic artist.” The rank and file art lover recognizes in her castles a touch of Georges Bracques, while her highly expressive portraits remind one at times of Cezannes or perhaps Modigliani. What everyone is in agreement on, however, is that Zhgivaleva has great talent.

As any skilled artist, Zhgivaleva resists being pigeonholed by a convenient label or “school.”

“My paintings create the mood, and specific vision — of a phenomenon, a human figure, a state of nature — by a play of colors, harmony and contrast.” At this Zhgivaleva succeeds mightily. The cold, lugubrious tone of her canvas “Bad Mood” [left] makes one feels as bitter as the picture’s lemons. But on other canvases, Zhgivaleva offers up moods that are vivid, joyful, lyrical and even philosophical.

Zhgivaleva says she has lost track of the exact number of works she has created. And, even at her young age, she has already participated in dozens of regional and all-Russian exhibitions, where her work has been fêted with numerous diplomas and prizes.

In 1997 Zhgivaleva participated in an exhibition in Brussels of artists from Yaroslavl, called “Mots et Tableaux” (“Words and Canvasses”). She has even held seven personal exhibitions, including three in the US (at the Independent Place gallery in Seattle and Go Gallery in Portland). Her latest US exhibition has just ended, and was a second show at the Go Gallery. Many of her paintings have been purchased by the Yaroslavl Art Museum and by private collectors from Russia, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Belgium and the US.

But success has not jaded this mature young artist. Luckily, her painting style is far from set in stone and she looks forward to a continued evolution of her technique, perhaps even away from her current use of oil with mastik to oil with brush or even watercolor. Whatever her future course, her talent and passionate desire ensure that she will be one of Russia’s brightest interpreters of the new forms, proportions and tones of our rapidly changing world.

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