Chertanovo Severnoye is not as far away as it might seem. Metro station Chertanovo, last car from the center, after exit turn left and you are in the OPZR.
However, it was never destined to become Exemplary Advanced Residential District (translation for OPZR). A utopian project built for the Moscow Olympics 1980, it was never fully accomplished. Some of the unrealized innovative designs of Soviet engineers and architects still cry out to the sensitive ear of the observer through the absurd constructions of later times.
In the microdistrict of Chertanovo Severnoye, the usual street designation is replaced by the continuous numbering of houses —sets of letters and numbers that can drive an unprepared user to the edge of logistical hysteric. On the other hand, these houses have one clear advantage: their intricate shape you will not confuse with any other building on the screen of your GPS device. Our goal —the second squiggle along the path.
At last, we enter a huge glazed entrance hall (famous St. Petersburg houses could only dream of) which by size resembles rather a hospital lobby: high ceilings, exotic plant expats in pots, breccia-like and mosaic floor pavements. New sparky-red Father Frost figures on the walls coexist with their Soviet ancestors that are given an honoured place under artificial Christmas trees dressed according to the latest posthuman fashion. In short, the holiday has come!
Followed by the strict views of the watchlady, we are meeting our today's hero — an artist Roman Manikhin. A silvery exemplary elevator takes us to the last floor with music, so the ride is not boring. Already in original plans, the roof spaces of the house were reserved for representatives of the Soviet artistic bohemia. Here they could indulge in parasitism and cognitive debauchery without disturbing the respectable citizens.
This is somewhat what Roma still does, as evidenced by his latest exhibition of paintings and graphics at the gallery ART4RU. A spicy storm of eroticism and subversive irony. Talking about his work, Roma often turns to psychoanalytic terminology: suppressed desires, psychological trauma, overcoming depression, art therapy.
Once upon a time in Berlin, Roma attended a live drawing session. Nothing special you would say, except the model posed in extravagant linen, a mask and with a massive strap-on. That was a turning point in Roma's career, defining his further artistic path. Formerly a representative of the academic school (graduated from Moscow State Stroganov Academy of Industrial and Applied Arts), Roma radically changed his view on the themes and methods of fine arts. A sparkling provocative aesthetics of the Burlesque henceforth becomes his subject matter.
However, in addition to experiments in Bad Painting (and in Roma's case this term acquires a double meaning), our hero is also known for a series of graphic works devoted to the vernacular culture of post-Soviet countryside houses, commonly called here "fazendas".
Assembled from improvised materials, those unique architectural structures sometimes represent a spectacle no less extravagant than half-naked heroines of Roma's canvases. It is still interesting for the artist, returning to his architectural series, to reflect on this paradoxical phenomenon so characteristic of the ideological and stylistic burlesque of the 90's.
We are lucky, the studio here, although not spacious, houses a long table and something like a kitchen. Roma does yoga and devotes time to exploring the Ayurvedic theory of nutrition and getting the right foods for his table. So, at our dinner we, best we can, tried to please his gastronomic preferences. The menu had three positions: lentils soup on coconut milk, carrot cutlets with cashew sauce and raw cake from black beans and chocolate.
Roma also shared his recipe for ginger tea with us, that's what he says: "I do not have an exact recipe for this tea, I just figured out once what my girlfriend has mixed into it. I've lost an interest in tea since many years, black, green, elite, fermented. But I'm interested in the effect and emotions that it gives. Therefore, sometimes I do not even put tea itself, just ginger+lemon. The recipe is something like this. A half stick of cinnamon. Better to crumble. 5 peas of black pepper. Crush. 2-3 pods of cardamom. Break each in half. A piece of ginger the size of a quail egg. Or less, as you prefer. Finely chop or grate. 3 carnations. Mix with a pinch of black tea. Brew in a kettle for 10 minutes. When ready, squeeze out juice of two mandarins and add a tablespoon of honey. Tea will warm you after a walk in the frost or cheer you up after half a day at your desk. If desired, you can add a little anise or magnolia-vine"
Photo by Ksenia Kolesnikova