Oleg Mikhailov - 'Of Sea & Stone'

Wednesday 2  - Sunday 27 October 2019

Oleg Mikhailov studied painting and printmaking in the Graphic Department of St Petersburg Academy of Arts, one of Russia’s most important academic art institutions. The love of lithography came in his fourth year at college. He initially specialised in etching but eventually grew frustrated with the difficulties intaglio presents in working with colour and at more than modest size. Lithography is different. Lithography is close to painting and drawing, as it is so direct (‘what you see is what you get’) while etching is a translation.

Stone is a brutal object but at the same time very sensitive. It perceives the imprint of a finger and even breathing, requires special attention to itself and provides ample opportunities for creativity in response. The polished stone allows you to make a velvety light pencil drawing while at the same time [tusche] can be used like watercolour and scratched. Stone gives the opportunity to improvise and change some elements in the course of work, if you know the process. It is impossible to change the drawing completely, but it seems to me more than in other techniques, for example engraving, which does not forgive mistakes.

Mikhailov feels lithography offers the widest opportunities for mark making. You can draw, paint and scratch all at once: it is not graphic like woodcut, not negative like etching. Everything is combined and available to you immediately. Best of all is the sense of the past.

It is in these ancient times we find a deeper connection between lithography and the sea. The delicate limestones favoured by lithographers are made of calcium carbonate, a mineral first found in the shells and skeletons of molluscs and corals. The slow accumulation of their bodies on the sea floor, followed by heat and compression in the Earth’s crust, transform them into stone. It is fitting Mikhailov uses a medium composed of ancient sea creatures to create an aquatic world full of movement and life. With skill and passion, he transforms ink and stone, combining imagination and observation, surface and depth, the sure hand of a master draftsman, and the marks and histories of lithography itself.