Countess Yelena Boretskaya of Old Novgorod attending a photo shoot by Thomas Andrews for fashion quarterly Dvoryanstvo (outfit by Natalia Plastinina).

Countess Yelena Boretskaya of Old Novgorod attending a photo shoot by Thomas Andrews for fashion quarterly Dvoryanstvo (outfit by Natalia Plastinina).

Pen and marker on card

A4

Private collection.

Featured in 'Flâneries in Forests and Fields' group show.

Private Collection.

This picture is based on a famous painting by Thomas Gainsborough, an English artist of the 1700’s. The painting itself is called “Mr and Mrs Andrews”. It is a painting in a style that I loathe intensely. Indeed, the whole point of my picture is to make fun of that type of picture.

Gainsborough's main breadwinner was painting members of the British landed gentry. Gainsborough himself got sick of painting portraits; he prefered landscapes, and “Mr and Mrs Andrews” combines both portraiture and landscape, so Gainsborough must have been delighted to paint something that he could enjoy and could make money off. And don’t get me wrong, the painting is technically brilliant. Gainsborough could paint. But like so many paintings of its time, it’s a clear vanity project for its subjects. It screams “Look at us! We’re rich! Look at all our land!”. It’s the 18th century equivalent of the selfie. With added privilege.

Anyway, for the purposes of the exhibition I decided to send these painting up. Since I wanted to poke fun at, first of all, their artificiality, I chose to make it clear in the picture that the landscape behind the sitters isn’t real. Therefore it becomes a screen projection instead of a real vista. The landscape was pretty difficult to reproduce. Not only was I copying an oil painting with markers, but it’s not a style I’m used to (someone one asked me why I don’t paint nich portraits and landscapes, to which I looked at them blankly and said “Why?”). The picture emphasises the “vanity project” nature of the setup, becoming a fashion shoot featuring a noblewoman, flanked by her bodyguard and her robotic pet (the character painted on the robot’s side is 犬 (dog).

Dvoryanstvo, by the way, is Russian for nobility, in case anyone was wondering. As for Old Novgorod, I recommend looking up the Republic of Novgorod for an interesting bit of Russian history...

Add new comment