Two years ago I was invited to visit St. Petersburg Academy of Art, Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Behind the heavy doors I saw six-meter ceilings and walls that had not been restored for years.
Spiral staircases lead to workshops under the roof, panoramic windows open directly onto the roof, narrow brick corridors in the dark creepy basement. Building has not changed much since its foundation, two hundred years ago. Students in dresses and models in suits from different eras walking along the corridors. In the graphic workshop I saw ancient parquet, cigarette smoke and light from the window on the stairs, heard stories about incredible underground events. In the painting workshops, nude models are posing next to the sailors and real horses. For an IT person as myself, studied to work in office, it looked surreal. In half an hour – a complete immersion to another, secret world of artists, sculptors, architects and art historians.
Students almost live inside Academy, which has not changed much since its foundation. One of the graduates said that when he studied at the Academy, he remembers that he ate and slept, nothing else. It’s difficult to become a student, not easier to study, so there are a lot of freevisitors in the workshops. As students explain: “The majority of not nude models are freevisitors. You are modeling for the opportunity to be in a class and study. ”
Nude models are different people. “This is temporary, I work as an electrician. There is no job, was looking for something in ads, and now I’m a model for two weeks already. I was shy first time. Right next to me was a naked girl. And I stood there thinking only about self-control.” For some people, it’s a temporary part-time job or fascinating new experience, for others it’s a main occupation. “They pay 160 rubles per hour minus taxes. Good nude models, without mental problems are rare. What are they doing here? We need to draw faster before they quit.”
Most of the education is practice: drawing or modeling. Classes from morning to evening, sometimes changing to noisy student parties, huge and original. In November and December, almost every week, in various workshops and faculties. Often with main theme, Harry Potter or Freak Fashion week. The scenery, costumes and script are prepared in advance. Students for students, there are no extra people. At initiations, for example, in the basement and by candlelight, students take oaths: not to lick the brush and not to paint black on black. At the faculty of painting you need to climb to the very ceiling. When main gates are closed, the whole Academy comes to life – alcohol, music and installations, freshmen in masks and cloaks run through the corridors, but someone heading home to finish painting.
I was working on this project from 2016 to 2018, visited most of the workshops and tried not to miss a single event. This is a secret surreal world right in the city center, a journey without leaving St. Petersburg.
About Anton Malkov
Was born in Saint-Petersburg, Russia, in 1996. Studied IT in ITMO university and completed two years course of photojournalism. Now is working as freelance photographer. Was published in russian media: “Russia beyond the headlines”, “Bird in flight”, “Foma”, participated in group exhibitions in Russia and Croatia. During winter 2018-2019 opened his first personal exhibition in Embassy of India in Moscow about life of Saora tribe in India. Winner of russian photography contests, including “Best of Russia 2016”. [Official Website]