Tundra, deer and idol spirits

Tundra, deer and idol spirits

February 01, 2021

Bone carving is the kind of art that creates truly amazing things.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Look at the three-dimensional panel by Alexey Porotov. His deer, rushing out, mesmerize and make you look at the grace of the figures again and again.

It’s hard to believe, but the northern peoples could create three-dimensional images – what we call 3D-format today – many centuries ago. The craftsmen used the bone and horn of a deer or a mammoth tusk as a material, which makes it possible to use various techniques. Including mosaics and three-dimensional carvings. Aleksey Porotov, a graduate of the Norilsk College of Arts, used them in his work.

 “Starting to create this panel, I made many thematic sketches – the images and plots seemed to be easy and clear, since I know firsthand about life in the tundra”, he says.

In the hands of a carver, hard bone is plastic, like a young branch, and takes any shape – from realistic figurines of the main inhabitants of the tundra – deer – to sophisticated metaphors and symbols, saturated with the mysticism of northern legends. Perhaps it was they who influenced the work of the famous Nganasan original Motyumyaku Turdagin, whom art critics call one of the best watercolorists of the North. And he called himself an alien, a creature from another world…

“Since childhood, I dreamed of becoming an artist as well-known throughout Taimyr as Motyumyaku Turdagin”, admits Alexey Porotov. “His life was amazing – the gifted boy loved to draw, express his fantasies in the interweaving of lines, carve the views of the tundra, deer and dogs and the figures of people with a knife on the ice of the lake. As an adult, Motumyaku led a tundra nomadic life, and in his rare hours of leisure he continued to paint. His landscapes of endless tundra breathe lyrical calmness, as if created from a bird’s eye view”.

Porotov decided to name his term paper “Dedicated to Motyumyaku”. On the panel, he depicted the endless tundra with its hills and ravines.

“The background, that is, all the plans of the landscape, I made using the mosaic technique: taking into account the changes in the relief of the earth, I selected individual pieces of the deer’s antler by color and tone”, explains Alexey.

The plot of the work, at first glance, is simple – birds are circling near the horizon, saying goodbye to their native places, before flying off to a foreign land. Deer are walking along a barely noticeable path. From behind the hill, hardly seen silhouettes of their figures, made in the technique of inlay, appear. A winding path stretches along the hills, between the larches that have lost their summer dress. The deer come closer – you can already see their horns and fur.

“These figures are made in relief technique”, ​​the carver continues. “A little closer, deer are a bas-relief. And in the foreground, three-dimensional figures break out from the plane of the panel and walk past the ancient spirits-idols, guarding the peace of the beautiful earthly world”.

How did the young master manage to give his work such an unusual and expressive form? How did he manage to fill the panel with movement and emotions? The Norilsk College of Arts explains: it’s all about the artistic traditions. The ancient art of the indigenous peoples of Taimyr is truly unique.

“As an artist, I am aware of myself as a part of my ancient northern people. And I want to preserve the artistic images that have come from the depths of centuries and pass them to the young generation”, says the author of the panel.

Read about other masterpieces of the northern artists and craftsmen in the Masterpiece story section.

Text: Elena Popova, Photo: Norilsk College of Arts

February 01, 2021

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