January 14, 2022

The Art of the Fall


The Art of the Fall
St. Petersburg needs some of these signs. Wikimedia Commons user Lu Brito.

St. Petersburg artist Ruben Monakhov (born 1970) has become famous for painting one very specific subject: people falling on ice.

After spinal surgery following a major fall, the handlebar-mustachioed Monakhov was very afraid of slipping on St. Petersburg's ridiculously icy sidewalks. He found comfort in taking pictures of real Pitertsy who fell in front of him and then painting them at home.

Monakhov is aware that taking pictures of strangers who had just fallen must have looked bad.

In St. Petersburg in winter, it is typical to see people falling or almost falling on the ice every day. Only some prominent sidewalks are cleared of snow, and after a few snowfalls followed by temperatures fluctuating above and below freezing, many sidewalks have uneven rolling hills of ice. Older residents are basically homebound for the duration of winter.

One hospital saw 40-47 trippers daily toward the end of 2021.

At a quick glance, Monakhov's paintings may appear to be of ice skaters taking a spill. But they are just regular city residents walking in shoes.

St. Petersburg mayor Alexander Beglov was recently called out for his inattention to the streets, with a video from Africa urging him to move there, where the streets do not have to be cleaned of snow.

In addition, whenever the thermometer creeps slightly above 0° Celsius (32° Fahrenheit; freezing), walkers in the center of St. Petersburg must watch their heads lest falling blocks of ice land on them.

Whether it comes from above their heads or below their feet, the snow and ice of St. Petersburg are a real threat to Pitertsy.

Monakhov painted the series of 10 oil paintings called "Oops" as a way of dealing with his fear of walking but also to draw attention to an issue that affects the daily lives of virtually all Pitertsy for a good portion of the year. City officials have yet to respond to the falling art, however.

Check out Monakhov's work on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Erarta Museum in St. Petersburg, and his own website.

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