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Baker Mamonova Gallery

Baker Mamonova Gallery (photo from Russian Art Space website).

Baker Mamonova – from London, with love

Although a fairly recent addition to the galleries and enterprises of St Leonards, the Baker Mamonova Gallery in Norman Road has already made a big name for itself in the area and has an enterprising eye on the future. HOT’s Grace Vogiatzis visited the gallery to speak to one half of the ownership, Olga Mamonova, to find out more.

The Baker Mamonova Gallery certainly feels very Russian – big and bold, it’s an expansive space split into two levels. With an interior of exposed brickwork and metal structuring, Olga says they wanted to capture a feel of the Russian Constructivist era. This industrial pallor is broken by bold splashes of bright Soviet red, the soft bustle of the gallery’s Russian café and, of course, the array of intriguing art works.

'Ice Burg' Russell Baker   Photo by ZR

Icebergs by Russell Baker (photo: ZR).

This impressive gallery space is the joint enterprise of artist, Russell Baker and Russian art expert, Olga Mamonova, a couple whose paths crossed through their joint passion for Russian art. Following 12 years of success of their East Hill gallery in London, they chose to extend their operation to Hastings, thus, the Baker Mamonova Gallery was born.

On first glance, Hastings isn’t necessarily the obvious choice for locating such a specialised art dealership. The couple were drawn to the area by “the beauty of the sea, the people and the creative spirit of the place.” Conveniently situated betwixt London and Paris, Olga cites St Leonards as a cultural island, an artistic hub in the southeast that’s beginning to feel quite cosmopolitan.

Baker Mamonova Gallery

View of the gallery (photo: ZR).

Though it only opened in October, the gallery has grown fast in popularity, with its café serving up ‘a slice of Russian life’ – Hunter’s Stew, fruit tart and, of course, borsht. With its open plan and the quiet bustle, the gallery has a very relaxed feeling.

“The feel of the gallery is similar to how Russians like to spend their time,” Olga explains. “To Russians, their environment is very important.” With the space, Baker and Mamonova wanted to create something beyond a gallery, more akin to ‘an arts club’, a broader artistic house – for casual discussions, theatre, live auctions and creative writing, as well as easel art.

Olga Mamonova

Olga Mamonova (photo: ZR).

The gallery has already hosted theatre pieces and auctions, and has more events planned for this year, including the ‘up-market’ Designers and Makers fair which starts on Friday 28 March. Baker and Mamonova’s designs don’t stop at the gallery door; the two have recently bought the old cinema next door, intending to restore it to its former glory by mid-to-late summer of this year. Double doors from the gallery will lead directly into the cinema space, which the couple hope will be used not only to present art house films, but also theatre productions, comedy evenings and book launches.

“With the gallery and the cinema,” Olga says, “we wanted to expose what’s here, restore and renew.” It seems the collaborative pair are becoming valuable investors in St Leonards.

Baker Mamonova Gallery paintings  Photo by ZR

Paintings in the gallery (photo: ZR).

For the historically interested, there is perhaps a lack of context to the works on display at the gallery – a reminder that the operation is first and foremost a business. Regardless, it certainly serves as an entrance to the world of Russian art. Olga however, is hesitant to let the gallery be pinned down so easily under one label. Charting crossovers of Russian and British, Olga indicates pieces on display by British born Baker, as well as Russian émigrés.

Painting by Prince Rostislav Romanov

'Beach House in a Storm,' Prince Rostislav Romanov (photo: ZR).

The gallery’s ‘piece de resistance’, perhaps, can be found unassumingly perched on an easel, in the form of a bold impressionist work, thick with curving lines of paint. As Olga informs me, the work was painted by a Romanov descendant, who, having fled the fall of the royal family and the rise of Soviet Russia, eventually settled – where other than? – the artistic haven that is St Leonards.

 

Baker Mamonova Gallery, 53 Norman Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, TN37 6NH. Open daily except Tuesdays, 11am to 5pm or later. Tel 0789 655 3914.

Russian Art Space, the Baker Mamonova website, here.

Facebook page here.

An exhibition of works by Prince Rostislav Romanov will open on Wednesday 30 April; he will attend the opening.

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Posted 13:34 Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 In: Arts News

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