The Good Spirits of Vegetation, Olga Sorokina

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The Good Spirits of Vegetation, Olga Sorokina

Olga Sorokina is an unconventional and flamboyantly creative artist; her graphic works merge a variety of visual components including human, floral, animal, and insect-like elements.

Contemporary art

Biomorphic abstraction in the artist’s works embraces a visual language that is neither representative nor geometric, but yet strangely familiar. Many of the biomorphic forms are regarded as abstract derivatives of reality, both barely recognizable and unidentifiable. A common motif emphasizing this relationship between familiarity and ambiguity is the visual correspondence between the human body and the natural landscape.

In a series of works entitled The Good Spirits of Vegetation, Olga Sorokina addresses the collective trauma associated with the 1921–22 events in the Volga region, when the economic crisis, crop failure and state policy of War Communism resulted in the mass famine. The seemingly cheerful paintings include recurring motifs in the form of human beings with their bodies resembling insects, plants and animals. The drawing technique refers simultaneously to children’s scribbles and primitive imagery, emphasizing the archaic nature of the experience of the natural forces.

Olga Sorokina uses the images of spirits to refer to the powerful forces of nature and the souls of the dead, as well as the traumatic silent experience that slumbers in the wounded soul and is transmitted from generation to generation.

Tragedy is represented in the collective memory of a group, involving—like all forms of memory—not only the re-enactment of events, but also the constant reconstruction of a painful experience in an attempt to give it meaning. Collective memory differs from individual memory in that the former endures beyond the lives of those who directly experienced the events and is being recalled by members of the group, who may be far in time and space from the traumatic events. In this way, the artist’s work sheds light on what happened in the past and was brought back through family memory. 

Olga Sorokina’s work pushes the conceptual and formal boundaries of the work with collective traumatic experiences making it a contemporary art practice. This, in turn, potentially creates broader possibilities for her individual practice.

Juliet Sarkisian,

art critic