Gallery 8

On a rainy January day I went to Duke Street to see Natalia Dolgova’s exhibition Icons of Faith and Fate at Gallery 8 and meet the artist. Siberian born Dolgova has launched an innovative collection of works which celebrate femininity, iconography and tradition. “Everything will return to the screen” enthuses Dolgova, explaining her belief that the technique used on the two-dimensional canvas will outlast conceptual artwork. As a painter she plays with the dimensions of her pieces, some of which are textural and thick with swathes of paint, such as The Swan’s Song, while some seem flat as playing cards with similar compositions, such as her Queens. Others still, experiment with perspective and proportion: the delicately rumpled silk of the angel’s dress in Once Above a Yorkshire Village contrasts with the spots and stripes of the warped patchwork of fields below.

Her interest in mythological and Christian iconography runs through her past work, but saturated the exhibition. She confesses that the Christian symbolism in her work has increased since moving to England in 2005. A Barbie and Ken-sized Adam and Eve, a tiny, delicately painted cross held by a baby, a curiously peaceful looking John the Baptist’s head on a triumphant Salome’s plate: all of these occur in the exhibition, some are deeply symbolic, others are cheeky and playful. I ask about Salome and she explains that it was painted whilst she was in love, “So, it’s a revenge painting?” “Yes!” she laughs “And you can put that in your article”. Conversely, The Christmas Gift is a serious, traditional painting of the Russian school. As we stand in front of it she explains the influence Russian art has had on her, but more importantly she emphasises the reaction she wants from her audience. Her artwork is created to “encourage people to go back to their roots”. The symbolism and stories behind her work are highly personal to her and she wishes them to trigger our own personal heritage of symbols and myths. Dolgova is more interested in the ancient, the immortal and the primal rather than current trends. She tells me that civilisation withers, but systems of belief and the human condition do not and she hopes to remind us of this with her paintings.

As we stroll through the front room, which consists of her series of Queens we can’t help but gravitate towards The Queen of Plants, a painting in which a loosely clad girl distractedly strokes the disproportionately large shaft of a lily. Dolgova lets out another laugh and tells me that this is the most erotic painting she has ever done. In it she considers the contrast between the innocence of nature and the eroticism of the pubescent discovery of sexuality. She may also be questioning the negativity imposed on sexuality by religion, as the angelic young girl looks guiltlessly and dreamily into the plants. The dominant and powerful Sea Queen faces The Queen of Plants. “I trust her…” asserts Dolgova, as if the women she creates were entirely external from herself “…I rely on her”. This queen looks after the boats and creatures of the sea. Her half closed eyes look directly at the viewer as she controls and aids her wards. Dolgova takes archetypal women and transforms them into empowering, strong and sometimes highly erotic goddesses. There are goddesses of the sea, air, plants, darkness and even parties (The Princess of the Circus with her fishnets and exposed breasts was painted shortly after a party in Amsterdam). These women are often disproportionately larger than their surroundings and Natalia relates to them as a woman and an artist.

Natalia Dolgova can be found online at, where her transition from illustration art to symbolic, feminine fine art can be fully appreciated. Any queries may be addressed to [email protected].