Russia is probably one of the lowest countries on the list that come to mind when you think of freedom of expression. This idea that the huge country is packed wall to wall with imperialists that want to stamp out new ideas and force its inhabitants to conform is far from accurate. The red wearing, flag waving communist Russia image is largely formed from America’s rhetoric that it spread throughout its rocky history with the cold nation. Its clear that today Russia is a much different place than the one we have been led to believe it is, though still, like any country there are issues that need addressing.
A great way of finding an accurate perspective of the social fabric is by looking at the work of a country’s artists. Few types of artist are more effective at spreading the message of the community than the street artist. Unhindered by regulation and because they can simply make their very public canvas virtually anywhere, street artists are the easiest ones to watch for political issues. Here are some of Russia’s best rebellious urban artists and what their work seems to say.
From the country’s capital comes Mikaela, a clearly talented artists with an unquestionably feminist sensibility. This artist remains anonymous like some of the famous urban artists that precede her, possibly due to her preference as a public figure but very likely because of the expected blowback from her political pieces. Adept at drawing the faces and figures of women and girls, her issue here is that Modern day Russia is not an equal playing field for both genders. She shows the want for a bright tomorrow in her piece that shows the back of a woman as she looks longingly from a window. Discrimination and prostitution are still key issues that need to be rectified in today’s Russia.
Pavel Pukhov was the real name of a previously unknown street artist from Russia. He began making statements through paint much earlier than most of his contemporaries, providing his own commentary of the laws of the land through stencils and murals and more. He is often considered to be the nations equivalent of Banksy thanks to his previously secret identity, his political satire and his prolific work. He would often paint faces of people who seemed desperate or the scary masked faces of wrongdoers in surprising places. Bridges, ruins and of course walls all became his tools that helped represent a still very present uncertainty and fear.
Zmogk & More
Konstantin Zmogk is known for bringing some colour to the streets of Russia thanks to his use of vivid cubist images. His selection of works show overlapping geometrical designs that include typography but more often than not show serene landscapes with real colours swapped out for psychedelic palettes. This artists as well as several others have all been working towards creating a much less monochrome country. With soviet buildings largely being constructed from grey concrete, its clear in recent years that artists everywhere want to bring colour to their country along with justice, diversity and equality.