Mikhail Roginsky

Interior with a Ladder

1981

Not on display

Artist
Mikhail Roginsky 1931 – 2004
Medium
Acrylic paint on paper mounted on hardboard
Dimensions
Image: 1492 × 1980 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Inna Bazhenova and In Artibus Foundation 2019
Reference
T15481

Summary

Interior with a Ladder 1981 is a large-format painting in acrylic on paper laid on board by the Russian nonconformist artist Mikhail Roginsky. It depicts an interior scene from the artist’s Moscow flat, painted from memory when he was living in Paris, where he emigrated in 1978 and lived for the rest of his life. The painting belongs to the Pink Interior series that Roginsky developed from 1979 to 1981, in the years immediately following his emigration. The setting features simple furniture and objects: a wardrobe with a ladder leaning against it, a pink table covered with piles of books, a pink chair, a shadowy door and some simple electrical fittings on the wall – an electric socket and a standard-issue radio. What look like loosely painted piles of books and journals are stacked on the floor below and around the table. The restricted pink and grey palette of the painting has been described as giving the work a moody quality, creating ‘an effect of estrangement, allowed to transform an ordinary pictorial motif, to fill it with emotional tension, to free it of one-dimensionality … Roginsky’s view of life and his works are far from being optimistic, they are rather full of melancholy and pessimism.’ (Ekaterina Bobrinskaya and Anna Korndorf, Farewell to the ‘Pink Fence’, Moscow 2016, p.18.)

Roginsky turned to painting after years of work in stage and theatre design in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His early experiments in painting, from 1963 onwards, reflect the influence of this background (see, for example, Railway Platform 1964, Tate T15541). His subsequent job as an art college professor allowed him to work on his own painterly experiments far from both the conventional Socialist Realist style and the nonconformist abstract experiments of the artists of his generation. Roginsky distanced himself from any particular artistic group or collective but participated in unofficial apartment and studio shows.

Interior with a Ladder is one of several large-format works featuring the interiors of the artist’s Moscow flat, its kitchen, bathroom and living room. These works encompass the themes and creative explorations of his Moscow period and herald the formal experiments of his later Parisian period. The carefully constructed composition of Interior with a Ladder features emblematic objects and fittings that characterise Roginsky’s earlier ‘documentary paintings’ of the 1960s, such as Table, Chair, Lamp 1963 (collection of Inna Bazhenova, Moscow), Door and Wall with Electric Socket (both 1965, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow) – hailed as the first pop art works in Soviet art – and Still-life with a Chair 1966 (private collection, Moscow). It frames the room so as to give a snapshot view of the interior that appears casually cropped, giving an impression of everyday, true-to-life authenticity, a typical communal apartment interior. The works in the series were painted in Paris from memory, directly on paper without any preliminary studies or sketches. Their monumental scale reflects the artist’s ambition to recreate the familiar setting of a lost environment. The scale also relates to the theatrically constructed image of Roginsky’s theatre design, as noted by the historian Yevgeny Barabanov:

The constant return to the habits of theatre work in painting – whether interior, landscape or still-life – enabled Roginsky tirelessly to renew his methods. Here, in the inventive yet also practical business of a stage designer, the basic principles of his subsequent practice as a painter took shape; principles based on the ‘aesthetics of simple things’: authenticity of objects as such, clarity of design, linkage of word and image, sparsity of detail with an intense or conversely, limited colour palette.
(Yevgeny Barabanov, ‘Effective Things’, in Mikhail Roginsky. Beyond the Red Door, Moscow 2014, p.23.)

The tilted ladder that appears in the most unlikely locations in all the paintings of the series – put by the window in Communal Flat Kitchen 1981 (State Tretyakov Gallry, Moscow) or by coat hangers in the diptych Pink Interior 1981 (private collection) – indicates a transitional state the artist found himself in, destabilised by enforced emigration. It demonstrates Roginsky’s preoccupation with the symbolism of the composition as well as its restricted colour scheme.

Interior with a Ladder has been published in key monographs on the artist and has been exhibited in various exhibitions, notably at the 1st Moscow Biennale of Contemporary art in 2005 and at the Architectural Biennale in Venice in 2014.

Further reading
Alena Romanova, Nadezhda Vasilevskaia (eds.), O Mikhaile Roginskom. Duraki ediat pirogi. Vospominania, intervyu, stati, Moscow 2009 (in Russian).
Mikhail Roginsky. Beyond the Red Door, Moscow 2014.
Olga Yoshkova, Mikhail Roginsky: narisovannaia zhizn, Moscow 2017 (in Russian).

Natalia Sidlina
April 2019

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