ROSA ZHARKIKH (1930, RUSSIA)
Rosa Zharkikh was born in Moscow in 1930. Her mother was a teacher and her father an engineer, but Zharkikh dropped out of high school and graduated from a vocational school that specialized in training blue-collar workers.
For all of her adult life, Rosa has worked in a factory. She spent most of her day on the factory assembly lines, the dirt, gloom and dust lit only by the small fires that the workers built to keep warm. In the evenings, Zharkikh returned to Moscow’s working class suburbs, where she lived alone in a cramped apartment overshadowed on all sides by concrete high-rise blocks.
At the age of 46, after suffering a near-death experience, Rosa began receiving a visions. Directed by an external force, she started to draw. Several years later she retired from the factory for moved completely into her visions. Using thread and fabric, she tried to replicate the magical, flower-like costumes that appeared in her dreams, often working for several years on a single embroidery. It is her goal to construct a bridge between the imaginary world and the real one.
Zharkikh combines references from Christianity and Eastern religion in her works. In the 1990s she became intrigued by Tibetan philosophy, which she felt offered a model of spiritual transformation akin to what she, on her own, had been trying to achieve.
Both her drawings and her embroideries use nested skeins of differing colors to represent graduated stages of consciousness and to enfold self-portraits and symbolic images. Lately, the artist has also been depicting “heroes” from the spirit realm, such as her deceased mother and sister. Zharkikh hopes to be reunited with these perfect spirits, and to this end she has adopted a precise regimen of personal improvement and purification. She eschews television, follows a strict diet and avoids contact with other people.
Public recognition would probably mean little to her, and in any case would be difficult to achieve on a large scale in Russia, given the ingrained suspicion of unconventional art that is part of the Socialist Realist legacy. Nevertheless, over the last ten years, Zharkikh has been supported by and exhibited regularly at Moscow’s Museum of Outsider Art. She was also included in the fifth and sixth INSITA exhibitions in Bratislava in 1997 and 2000, as well as in the Biennale of Naïve Art in Jagodina in 2001.
1) Reflection, broderie, 2005 © Museum of Outsider Art, Bar (Monténégro)
2) Untitled, photo taken from Raw Vision 42
3) Zodiac Signs, Embroidered cloth, 41 x 32.4 cm, Private collection © Galerie St. Etienne
Information from Galerie St. Etienne