27 January 2015


I like the Gallery for Russian Arts and Design (GRAD). That is hardly unusual, I like lots of galleries of all sorts, but there is something quirky and edgy about GRAD that especially appeals to me.

It helps that they often cover Russian art in the style of, or inspired by, Constructivism and I love that. The little room of Russian posters at the Tate Modern was my favourite and I miss it.

This visit was also helped by their friendly opening hours. Being open until 7pm meant that I could work at our London office until 5:30pm, walk all the way there (boosting my daily step count) and still have time to see the exhibition, go for a curry and then head to Big Ideas, the real reason that I was in London that evening.

The excuse for this exhibition was The Bolt, a ballet with music by Shostakovich that was first performed in the early 1930s. The music was playing quietly in the background but the main purpose of the exhibition was to show off the designs by Tatiana Bruni.

These designs were mostly sketches of various characters and these were strung in long lines on four of the walls in the oddly shaped gallery. The Bolt had a large and varied cast from posh ladies to drunks.

In the centre of the room was a collection of costumes which I compared with their original sketches. My favourite was a young woman's outfit because of its colourful stripes.

The other thing that I liked about the pictures was the action in them with many of the characters leaning forward in unnatural poses. These were pictures for a ballet so the movement was useful to indicate what the characters could have looked like in motion.

There were other nice touches too, as I've always found at GRAD. In addition to the sketches, outfits and music, there were two displays about the ballet with cuttings and photos from the time, and a synopsis of the ballet that put it into historical context and also explained why it suddenly became unpopular.

I had to wait until later for the final part of the story. There was a BOLT at GRAD iPad app that had more detail about the ballet and it's creators. I tried to download it while I was there but I struggled to find sufficient signal just to sign in on Spawn/Twitter; either the gallery is made of lead or that corner of Oxford Circus is a mobile dead zone.

The political theme, the bolt and what it was used for, seemed to be a small, almost insignificant, part of the actual ballet that had lots of excuses for the workers and villagers to dance. Though, to be fair, even the might Swan Lake has a ball scene just so that it can include several regional dances which do nothing to advance the plot.

BOLT was a simple idea neatly executed that gave an interesting glimpse into the society, politics and fashion of the time.

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