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This is by no means the first time that Danila Shmelev has attended the STENOGRAFFIA festival. The artist has been creating art in Yekaterinburg, and in other towns and cities where the festival has a presence, since 2016. This anniversary year of the festival has seen the city centre become home to his latest vibrant piece, which is composed of shredded plastic. STENOGRAFFIA began life here, in the capital of the Urals, back in 2010, and since then has resulted in the creation of around 500 artworks across Russia. It has brought together more than 400 artists and volunteers, and burgeoned beyond the limits of its home city. In 2019, Yekaterinburg has welcomed world-renowned artists, exceptional masters of their craft and friends of the festival, who include Danila among their number.

As the Muscovite artist tells us: “I arrived at the festival as a newcomer. From that point on I met a great many artists from all sorts of different countries, and it’s been a good learning experience for me. I’m always trying to learn new things, and believe that no meeting is ever merely coincidental.”

The trompe l’oeil effect of the piece and the quality of its execution were extremely important to the artist. The artwork began to influence its surroundings and its audience even before it was completed: the vibrant wall became a popular backdrop for photos, and has already become a widely-used meeting point. The artist acknowledges that what people have tended to take away from the work is its environmental subtext: “When an onlooker interacts with a piece, it always takes on a range of different meanings. It’s only logical that the environmental theme should occur to those contemplating the work, because it portrays plastic. The ‘plastic world’ is a rich metaphor for describing our contemporary existence in a capitalist world.” Like any true work of art, Danila’s work is open to varying interpretations.

His ‘plastic series’ has its origins in his work on canvas. These pieces portray canvases wrapped in a protective film that has been torn in various places. These trompe l’oeil artworks are executed in a continuum of dark greys, achieving a striking plastic effect. Danila then began covering city walls with cellophane, creating pieces in Italy and Belgium. As the artist tells us: “A canvas wrapped in plastic is blank, something not yet begun, but when I was painting on a building, I found that it could be something still unsealed, something wrapped up, something not fully understood. There’s no clear reference point.” For Danila, working with walls feels more familiar: “Walls are natural. They’re primal things.”

Malachite can be found in Yekaterinburg at 8B Ulitsa 8 Marta.

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