The Phenomenon of Natalya Dolgova

By: Jury Rytkheu, Kerro, Leningrad Region

When I first time saw the pictures of the young St. Petersburg artist Natalya Dolgova, I did not know yet, that the she had spent her childhood in the Far North, in a corner of the notorious Kolyma which is called Tenkinsk valley.

Anyway her northern relationship was easily guessed, since what I saw struck my in the heart and touched my emotional depths, which unfortunately seldom are awakened to become really fascinated. Everything was recognizable and almost familiar.

Characters of ancient legends such as giants and dwarfs brought to life in colours, relationships between people and animals, created by the artistic imagination and possible only in the whimsical imagination of the Storyteller, again took me back to my remote childhood when the artist and storyteller Onno turned up in our yaranga in Uelen and stayed for some days to wait out the winter blizzard which carried on for several weeks.

Every night after the evening meal the inner yaranga became so hot, that people stripped themselves of all their garments: women kept on only a narrow leather loincloth which today is beautifully referred to as “bikini” and men only carelessly covered themselves between the legs with a rag of reindeer calf skin. That is when the genuine art feast would begin, and the true enjoyment of the colourful imagination of the storyteller which would bring to life everything living and dead of the world around. The whale would easily turn into a person, a young man would get wings and fly to the stars and gloomy rocks would issue cries and speak in human voices. The entire surrounding world became amazingly colourful, overflowed with pleasure of life.

This probably also was my first familiarizing with genuine art. Maybe in that very moment the kernels of creativeness were sown in my soul, later to determine my course of life.

Art cannot be primitive. If a work of art is forgotten, becomes non-existent, the soul of mankind grows poorer. But if it continues to serve mankind, stays in the memory of mankind, continues to excite hearts and touch emotional strings, it will remain modern, irrespective of its time of creation.

But the most interesting and surprising is the fact that it continues to be a source of creative energy for the modern artist, inspires him or her to create astonishing works, where time and history, past and present come together, but where there is no gap between centuries and times, and all is one and inseparable.

In recent literature this trend was most clearly demonstrated by Gabriel García Márquez, especially in his novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude “.

Natalya Dolgova’s work is based on the ancient art of the peoples of Northeast Asia, in particular the Chukchee and Eskimos who have created a unique civilization of large sea mammal hunting which survived almost intact to the beginning of the past century. I am deeply convinced that she is a genuine phenomenon of revival of the ancient creative spirit.

One cannot say that no attempts were made in this direction. There were, and some were undoubtedly successful. But nevertheless, only few managed to achieve such an organic image as is the case with Natalya Dolgova. In the works of the young artist there is not even a trace of deliberate stylization, no forced attempts to enter a world which is not hers. It is a free and natural feeling for her to stay in a mythological environment offering inspiration to the will, letting off into free flight the magic bird of creative imagination.

This Chukchee mythological cycle may be an episode in the works of Natalya Dolgova, but it’s a successful and promising episode. And I hope the phenomenon of Natalya Dolgova will be adorned with many new artistic achievements.