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Heir of 1970–80s’ “Moscow Conceptualism,” and originator of “psychedelic realism,” Pavel Pepperstein’s practice skirts the line of direct statements while rejecting reductive interpretations. His images accumulate sources from various cultural spheres to acquire unorthodox meanings.
While imagining a distant future, 7000 years ahead, the Russia City series is deeply rooted in Russian cultural heritage and considerations of the country’s turbulent history. Each painting depicts specific scenery that is fantastical and uncanny. The paintings are full of visual details reminiscent of the early 20th-century Russian avant-garde and Soviet dreams of the cosmos, as well as other culturally clichéd archetypical Russian images. Echoing Pepperstein’s literary work, the paintings propose that it is not the people nor the history that carry the essence of Russia, but nature and its mystical power. He comments: “At some point Russia City gets invaded by aliens and oyster shells and it becomes clear that humans will disappear, but Russians will stay”—implying that anyone living in this territory can be defined as Russian, independently of belonging to a particular nationality or even humankind.