Morton Fine Art presents “Footprints in the Snow: A Siberian Escape Story,” a solo exhibition of oil paintings by the artist Andrei Petrov. Composed of twelve new works that riff on the mindsets and landscapes of his paternal grandfather’s journey to freedom, this exhibition is dedicated to the refugees and millions striving for freedom in Ukraine.
The artist’s seventh solo show with the gallery, “Footprints in the Snow” will be on view from April 12 – May 7, 2023 at Morton Fine Art’s Washington, D.C. location (52 O St NW #302).
Andrei Petrov’s most personal body of work to date, “Footprints in the Snow” was inspired by the story of his grandfather’s escape from a Siberian gulag in 1915. Having spent over a year in the labor camp’s miserable conditions after he was branded an anarchist by the Russian Empire, the elder Petrov broke out with the aid of a black robed Russian Orthodox priest and made his way through the frozen taiga into China. After smuggling himself onto a boat to Liverpool, Andrei’s grandfather eventually settled in Philadelphia.
Long inspired by this amazing journey, the artist set out with this series to capture the brighter moments of this harrowing experience.
Through texture and color, the new collection evokes a range of his grandfather’s emotions, from the struggles of solitude in frigid conditions to the ecstasies of securing safety and survival—reuniting for the first time with a warm bed and a hot meal. Applying the delicacies of light and grandeurs of scale inherent to the Hudson River School, alongside approaches to color and form native to Abstract Expressionism, Petrov’s inventive style has arrived at a point that is recognizably unique to the artist.
Combining handmade tools with self-developed studio techniques, Andrei Petrov scrapes, glazes and effaces various parts of his canvases in sections, revising compositions that he builds out from black-and-white drawings. Timing is crucial: Andrei Petrov works with oil paint that is thickly applied and then partially removed while still tacky, eventually arriving at levels of timefulness and wear that resemble ancient masonry.
Glazing and tinting with qualities of light in mind, the final product is a complex and multilayered experience, full of the traces and tracks of Petrov’s restless, searching process. Evoking instances of light that strike only at certain times of day, Petrov’s compositions seem to crystalize a moment, or a mood, without ever falling into the concretion of stasis.
Having long been inspired by his ancestral backstory, the artist’s desire to work directly with the themes of his grandfather’s journey came as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. An American with Ukrainian and Georgian ancestry on both sides, Andrei Petrov dove into a heightened awareness of his history and the implications of his national identity.
Figuratively following his grandfather’s footsteps of escape, the artist experienced new insights about the qualities and development of his own artistic journey—a vocation that for him has always been an exploration of movement, enacting the eye’s pursuit across the canvas. Rejecting a sense of static immobility that often characterizes abstraction, Petrov’s work approaches a kind of presence that, without directly reproducing the shapes of nature, strives for a proximity to life.
In the works that make up “Footsteps,” expanses of white and blue are bisected by furrows of black, yellow and red. The canvases seem to suggest the topography of winter landscapes as seen from above. Andrei Petrov notes the natural consonance of lines and shapes that seem to connect one work to another when hanging together in the gallery, and likens the arrangement to an assembly of landforms, fitting together or drifting apart. Conceiving of these works like tectonic plates approaching a Pangean unity gives Petrov a sense of familial connection across the immeasurable expanses of time and space.
In that spirit of unity, the artist dedicates this show to the people of Ukraine, with particular sympathy for the refugees who have had to flee the same repressive imperialism his grandfather once faced. By making history present through a poetic sense of place, the artist teases out resonances woven throughout various surfaces and planes.
“There’s a presence in the forms I’ve chosen to represent these feelings,” Andrei Petrov says of his work, “You get rewarded by looking at the facts up close.”
About the Artist
Andrei Petrov (b. 1966, Washington, D.C.) paintings begin with a pencil or ink drawing on paper which he extrapolates from and edits as he works the canvas. First with pencil or charcoal and then with color washes done with acrylic or ink, he maps the raw canvas and allows it to be ingrained with the materials. Once satisfied with the composition and balance, the surface is sealed with a clear acrylic so as to allow the use of oil based pigments.
Handmade tools are used to drag, apply, scrape and blend the paint across the canvas plane. Sandpaper and rags also propel the evolution of the work.
The addition and subtraction of paint are meant to act as a metaphor for the intentions and motives for which the paintings are based.
Morton Fine Art
Founded in 2010 in Washington D.C. by curator Amy Morton, Morton Fine Art (MFA) is a fine art gallery and curatorial group that collaborates with art collectors and visual artists to inspire fresh ways of acquiring contemporary art. Firmly committed to the belief that art collecting can be cultivated through an educational stance, MFA’s mission is to provide accessibility to museum-quality contemporary art through a combination of substantive exhibitions and a welcoming platform for dialogue and exchange of original voice.
Morton Fine Art specializes in a stellar roster of nationally and internationally renowned artists as well as has an additional focus on artwork of the African and Global Diaspora.