Anglo-Russian Dictionary: Anne Rothenstein and Irina Zatulovskaya
Drawn to each other’s work, this is the first joint show by the two artists, straddling Russian and British culture. The uniting theme is literature and the challenge of exact translation from one culture to another. Russian artist Irina Zatulovskaya has created portraits of Russian and British writers - including Platonov, Khlebnikov, Shakespeare, Dickens, Pushkin, Chekhov and others while Anne Rothenstein is for the first time showing her covers for the London Review of Books, produced over the last few years, as well as other collages created especially for this show. The exhibition continues in the London Review of Books Cake Shop, where a series of embroideries by Zatulovskaya will be displayed, with further works by Rothenstein.
Both artists come from artistic families that informed and influenced their work. Anne Rothenstein grew up in a community of artists in the Essex village of Great Bardfield; her father was the print-maker Michael Rothenstein, and her mother was the painter Duffy Ayres. Her grandfather was William Rothenstein who ran the Royal College of Art and served as an official British war artist. Her uncle John Rothenstein was a Director of the Tate Gallery, and her brother Julian, is a designer and founder of the Redstone Press.
Irina Zatulovskaya’s grandfather Sergey Mikhailov was a leading teacher in a prestigious Moscow art school (MSKhSh), and counts Ilya Kabakov among his former students. Irina’s mother was the painter Raisa Zatulovskaya. Zatulovskaya received her training as a painter in the Polygraphic Institute, which at the time was the most liberal arts school in Moscow. Its curriculum was particularly good for combining lessons in academic drawing and painting with history of art and literature.
Zatulovskaya belongs to a tight circle of artists who emerged in the Soviet Union in the late 1970s and escaped the official doctrine of social realism by looking at pre-Renaissance art. At the same time they thirstily absorbed information about Western modernism. Zatulovskaya devloped the mature style that she is famous for today by the mid-1980s. Briskly executed with seemingly effortless virtuosity Zatulovskaya’s paintings are rich in references to literature, history, religion and everyday culture. Zatulovskaya often uses found objects and pieces of material to paint on – for example shutters, doors, window frames and pieces of rusty metal. Thus they become an integral part of the work, and the work elevates the materiality of the world. Her pieces are kept in many museums and private collections in Russia, UK and Europe, and major retrospectives of her work have been held in the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow and the Russian Museum in St Petersburg.
Anne Rothenstein was never formally trained, but rather learned to draw and paint from her family and has never stopped drawing, even during her 10-year career as an actress. Rothenstein started painting full-time in 1982 and has designed covers for the London Review of Books for several years. Her work is deceptively simple and yet rich in references. Cinematographic references and aesthetics are strong in Rothenstein’s work, her paintings reminiscent of film stills. Richard Eyre has written of the, ‘unrepentant humanism is in Annie's paintings even if her figures are not naturalistic. They are powerfully delineated, often with curving, almost geometric, backs, and solid slabs of rich colour in the clothes set against blocks of near-matched colour in the backgrounds. The design of the paintings is formidable: all the elements are conscripted to form wonderfully satisfying shapes which never dominate or subvert their content.’