If Rothko lived in the Artic Circle / Maria Timofeeva / Russia (Vorkuta)

A little bit about Vorkuta:

The town of Vorkuta, situated in the permafrost belt about 110 miles from the Arctic Ocean, was founded by the Vorkuta River after large coal deposits were discovered in the area. The first detachment of prisoners was dispatched to the spot in the early 1930s, and they soon constructed a workers’ settlement known as Rudnik. By the start of the Stalinist Terror, the area was already home to one of the biggest and harshest camps in the Soviet Gulag: Vorkutlag (which included the Rechlag camp for political prisoners). In 1943, the many settlements around the coal mines, where the high salaries also attracted workers from across the USSR, were reorganized into the town of Vorkuta, now Europe’s easternmost city.

Soviet officials declared an amnesty after Stalin’s death, but the pardon did not extend to many political prisoners, leading to a massive prisoner uprising in Vorkuta, which the authorities brutally crushed. Since the 1990s, the town has been in industrial decline, the mines have outlived their usefulness, and residents have been leaving. Vorkuta is technically the fourth most populous settlement north of the Arctic Circle (after Murmansk, Norilsk, and Norway’s Tromsø), but this is likely based on numbers that are no longer accurate. According to unofficial counts, there are now no more than 50,000 people left in Vorkuta. Today, it’s one of Russia’s fastest dying cities.

A little bit about me:

I was born in Klin, a town near Moscow. I studied at the Moscow Institute of Culture in the management of social and cultural activities. I worked in the cultural center “Lyra” in Moscow, but then everything changed. I moved to Vorkuta at the beginning of the year for great love (as the wife of a Decembrist). On the first of April I got off the train “Moscow-Vorkuta” and started a new life. I moved to the city where everyone is leaving. I study life beyond the Arctic Circle, explore abandoned polar villages and work with the Soviet past.

About “Vorkuta as Abstraction” project:

Recently I started to see and feel Vorkuta as an artistic abstraction. In the urban space I could easily see color fields and fragments that resembled the canvases of abstract expressionists.

For example, the visor of a blue roof with a white sky seemed to be another composition by Vasily Kandinsky (it is symbolic because the artist explored the Russian North, culture, history and language of small indigenous peoples), and in an element of an old Soviet kiosk Mark Rothko’s expressive painting was guessing.

My artistic research shows that the Russian North is not limited to the usual black and white colors, but has a rich palette, shades, texture and narrative. I think of the city as an art object, as a large canvas and a work that can be seen from a certain angle.

Welcome to my abstract gallery!

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