A Series of Paintings about Chernobyl
The world-wide energy crisis makes us increasingly aware of the topics of energy resources production. While wealthy oil-producing states such as the United Arab Emirates invest heavily in developing tourism as a means of ensuring continued prosperity after the oil reserves are depleted, other countries must still deal with the consequences of irresponsible energy policies.
Is atomic energy an alternative? Will there be a renaissance of nuclear power? From the point of view of the people who suffered the catastrophic effects of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in Belarus, this is definitely not an alternative.
Natalia Berschin was born and grew up in Minsk. Inspired by the current debate, she began to consider the effect of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986.
Topics considered are:
Living space, everyday life, nature: the ghost town Pripjat with its abandoned houses and deserted landscape, no-one will ever live there again in this decaying, desolate city. All man-made things are gradually being taken over by nature and which seems intact and harmless. Yet it represents an unseen danger, is threatening and uncanny – strange variations in the flora and fauna have been found. Only a very few old people are still living in the villages in the “Zone’’, people who did not want to leave their homeland – their loneliness and melancholy, too, are themes.
Technology: automobile graveyards and mechanical scrap bear testimony to the reckless behaviour of uninformed people following the catastrophe. Contaminated fire fighting machines used during the crisis lie abandoned in the landscape. The engines and other parts which could be removed have been sold and re-used. An entire fleet of riverboats was used during the clean-up operations following the accident. Their component metals are highly contaminated with radioactivity. No-one has a solution for disposing of this radioactive scrap. Twenty two years after the accident the reactor itself is still a latent threat – a mood which is artistically captured in cold, artificial colours.
The superb feeling for colour which serves as both the genesis of and vehicle for moods is equally important to the polished technique with
which Natalia Berschin translates these themes onto canvas. In meticulous layers of traditionally glazed oil painting, an almost
surreal effect is achieved through very fine transitions in colouration. By a very fluid application of paint, by spraying and by
scoring, these layers are partially destroyed resulting in a tense surface construction which contributes in equal measure to the
persuasive impact of the work, as does the socially critical content.
The artistic dialogue on the topic of Chernobyl and the after effects is, on the one hand a personal assessment, a facet of Belorussian
history which, due to the Russian policy of suppressing information, was barely examined officially. On the other hand, the investigation of the theme highlights the current debate on the use of atomic power and the dangers it encompasses.
Dr Kristina Hoge
Translation: Martin Gregory