07.08.2015 – 30.08.2015
Triumph Gallery, Moscow
For several years now, Elena Trailina has been using the gold leaf puncturing technique. She resumed, consciously and thoughtfully, a practice that belonged to the Russian tradition of religious icons: the decoration of the gold leaf, obtained through the ancient "puncturing" technique used to create the halos of saints and the golden background of their icons. By doing so, she converted the clearly out-datedness of this process in a reason of proud re-appropriation of her identity and cultural roots.
In fact, born in Moscow but artistically trained in Italy, Trailina wished to reclaim her identity to reinforce the difference with the superficial approach of the international "celebrity-system", which flattens out every difference turning into popular language that is deliberately low and trivial, idioms and dialects intended in the broadest sense of the term (stylistic, technical, intellectual) originating from various geographic local traditions. However, Trailina feels that she did not learn the puncturing technique in Russia, but in Italy, namely in Florence, by studying and observing, and in some cases even copying, the boards of ancient Italian artists dating back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
She also learned, studied and copied from real life, in hours and hours of solitary work in her studio, the "buon fresco" technique by carefully copying the frescoes of Beato Angelico. We could spend hours listening to her anecdotes about her inclination to work in her studio, without eating or sleeping, because the Italian "buon fresco" technique requires great mastery, determination and timing (as well as remarkable physical energy, so much so that Michelangelo himself defined it as "the only painting worthy of men"), since the artist can only work when the chemical reaction among plaster, lime and air carbon takes place, otherwise running the risk of having to throw away all the work done up to that point.
We could also spend hours listening to the stories of how, with her friend Alex Folla, also an artist, she would visit museums with a notebook and a pencil and stand in front of paintings dating back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and how in many Italian museums — which are now reduced to silly managerial machines rather than useful archives of history — this practice was often disliked and misunderstood, and how, sometimes, it created incidents, misunderstandings and quarrels with custodians or managers of the museums. But the point is that whether the technique is a re-appropriation of the Russian tradition — with the revival of the gold leaf and puncturing technique that, in addition of being the technique of ancient Italian artists was also characteristics of the Russian Orthodox iconographic culture — or a revival, in a fully modern key, of practices and techniques belonging to the ancient Italian painting tradition?