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Mikhail Shemyakin. From a postman to a great artist


The artist has been opening exhibitions in St. Petersburg with an admirable frequency. And its worth mentioning – he never repeats those. A fundamental love for work is something that has always been Shemyakin’s famous trait. He has never spoken about a creative crisis. A year ahead of his jubilee – Mikhail Mikhailovich turns 75 in 2018 – an exhibition called “Shemyakin. The opening” was launched in our city. Pavel Bogdanov attended it


Pavel Bogdanov, reporter: “Today Mikhail Shemyakin drinks tea with the President, while the fund named after him is located just a block from Nevskiy – at Sadovaya street. But not that long ago, in the 1970s, he was forced to leave the USSR with a threat of criminal prosecution. And he had to leave all his works behind”

Part of those has miraculously survived in private collections. In Shemyakins’ paintings of those distant years we would not see anything connected with the Soviet lifestyle – which he separated himself from. Shemyakin was expelled from the Arts Academy for “esthetic perversion of fellow students”

He worked as a postman, a watchman and even a scaffold worker at the Hermitage. But no one forgot about his art. The photos made by Shemyakin with a “Zenit” camera in the 1960s served as a gallery of images of those who were the subjects of his artistic experiments.

He was not allowed to get education, and later even got jailed. Punitive medicine in the Soviet Union equaled prison time. However, even in that absurdist reality, there was space for unexpected twists. His first personal exhibition took place in a psychiatric clinic.

Having emigrated to France, Mikhail Shemyakin found himself in a world where it was not easy to live in at all. His fight for the place under the sun was not easier than that of workers of the old marketplace, which he filmed back in those days. Inspired by his “heart of Paris” series, his friend Vlamidir Vysotskiy wrote his “Tushenoshi” poem.

In 1981 the artist moved to New York. Shemyakin settled in the Soho area. The artist started working with large scale canvasses in a spacious workshop and started doing sculpture too, for the first time. It was just 10 years before his first massive exhibition back home…