Fishing for inspiration

Undeterred by the postponement of the Art for Guernsey exhibition, A Renaissance of Victor Hugo, Oleg Mikhailov has been taking inspiration for more artwork from the sea, as Shaun Shackleton found out

Art for Guernsey may have had to postpone its October exhibition, A Renaissance of Victor Hugo, until next year, but this has just inspired one of its artists even more. In May, Art for Guernsey announced that Daniel Hosego from London and Oleg Mikhailov from St Petersburg, Russia, were to be this year’s artists in residence. The artists had created a formidable body of work and were all ready to exhibit on the the Albert Pier inside two specially commissioned domes on 2 October. Unfortunately, let down by suppliers, the exhibition didn’t happen. While Daniel went back home to London, Oleg stayed. ‘We feel we have a fantastic show in store and we are 101% ready,’ said David Ummels, founder of Art for Guernsey. ‘The artwork is framed and ready to go. We are very much thinking positively and both Oleg and Daniel are excited and both have more ideas for new artworks. Oleg has found a new inspiration. He has been here seven weeks in total, and is staying another week.

Both artists will come back again for two or three weeks, probably.’ With the exhibition postponed Oleg has been literally immersing himself in one of his passions – the sea. He has been snorkelling and spear-fishing in local waters – at Salerie Corner in particular – and has even swum in the OGH pool at night with the spotlights on. This extended time has also inspired more art. Oleg’s medium of choice is lithography, a form of printing which uses a special crayon, oil-based ink and a tablet of limestone and German cotton paper. One image Oleg has created, and is now being used as the background on Art for Guernsey’s Facebook page, is a John Dory flying over St Peter Port. ‘Firstly, I am from St Peterburg and I have come to St Peter Port and this fish is also called St Pierre or the fish of St Peter the Apostle.

The spots are supposed to represent St Peter’s fingerprints – that is why he is flying over St Peter Port. I don’t like to confine the sky and water as up and down, I combine them to make one big world, like space. It is also of the genus Zeus faber, and Zeus is the god of the sea. So, for me, the John Dory is a symbol of Guernsey.’ Other works have been inspired by Victor Hugo’s novel, Toilers of the Sea. One is entitled The Smuggler’s House and shows the boat winch at La Moye Harbour, and above the stars as constellations of sea creatures. ‘In Gilliatt’s mind he is so impressed by the life underwater and believes that there is the same amount of life in the sky – bottom and top again,’ explained Oleg.

 Other works depict the Venus Pool in Sark, in which Gilliatt fights the octopus, which also features the anemones from the island’s Jewel Cave, a portrait of Victor Hugo, a lobster, crab and half sun, half moon symbol above a map of Guernsey, and a Guernsey donkey, laden with produce from around the island. David said the exhibition will now be staged next year. ‘It will have the stunning work of Oleg and Daniel, which together is thematic, and it will be a multi-media event with digital, film and live music. In a way it will be even better than what we originally planned, so [the postponement] may have been for the best.

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