“Russian folk art on skulls” – Sasha Vinogradova

Los Angeles based Sasha Vinogradova sparked interest with her stark 3d Game of Thrones inspired wallpapers and now she strikes back with another dazzling set, transforming skulls into unconventional canvases for her newest project “Styles of Russian folk painting”. Implementing traditional decorative motifs from different areas of Russia, the skulls transcend their biological function and become objects of a grimmer beauty, reminiscent of Mexican Dia de Muertos imagery.  In the following images we can see traditional designs originating in six different areas, Gzhel, Mezen, Khokhloma, northern Dvina river, Zhostovo and Gorodets, accompanied by our commentary.

The white and blue ceramics of Gzhel, an area of 30 villages to the south-east of Moscow, are similar to other 19th century northern European styles. Becoming associated with pottery since the 14th century, once Russians managed to produce porcelain, at the time being a Chinese monopoly, Gzhel achieved fame during the mid 19 cent for the faience and porcelain production taking place.


Showcasing bold red and brown tones with a black outline, the folk art of the villages of river Mezen is considered to be Russia’s oldest handicraft style, sharing common roots with other Slavic art.


First mentioned in the 17th century, the red, black, and gold patterns of Khokhloma are to be found in Kovernisky district in Nizhny Novgorod. The local craftsmen devised an innovative way to decorate the wood-carved products they were exporting, mostly wooden tableware and furniture.


Appearing in 19th century in the area of Zhostovo in the region of Moscow, the metal painting technique has its roots in Ural handicraft of painting floral motifs on metal. With time, the Zhostovo craftsmen developed techniques stylistically similar to porcelain and enamel painting. The mixed array of flowers depicted in this, rich in shadows, style are executed with a soft brush and heavily, with linseed, diluted olive paints before being lacquered and polished.


Originating in the area of the northern Dvina river, this particular style builds upon a variety of folk symbols, flowers and a strong presence of mythical creatures, in red, greed and yellow, with a black outline on a white background.


The rich in traditional motifs Naive-style art of Gorodets, first appeared in an encrusted form on carved distaffs, a tool for spinning wool, that were produced n the area around Gorodets. As time progressed, the craftsmen shifted from the encrusting technique, implemented painting techniques and expanded their art in a variety of different items. Traditional life scenes are the most popular, along with the depiction of animals and of course the ever present floral motifs.