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Olga Tobreluts

Olga Tobreluts (born in 1970) is a figure of certain significance in contemporary culture. She is active as an artist, photographer, sculptor, and curator, as well as a creator of large-scale video installations. Ms. Tobreluts earned her international acclaim as a pioneer of media art, who cultivated her easily identifiable aesthetic through the use of  cutting-edge digital technologies. She developed the technique of juxtaposing two- and three-dimensional images which is widely used today; in fact, a number of artists have chosen it as their primary stylistic tool. Ms. Tobreluts’ works are bold manipulations of historical facts and contemporary myths, amalgamated in a magical super-reality.

Olga Tobreluts’ artistic career was launched with the debut exhibition of her abstract paintings on St. Petersburg’s Palace Bridge in 1989, alongside works of the New Artists collective. Following its success, she moved to Moscow where she lived in Petliura’s squat on Petrovsky Boulevard and continued to work on her abstract paintings and graffiti. Throughout the 90’s she frequently visited Berlin where she discovered digital technologies at ART+COM Institute under the direction of Professor Ulrich Wahlberg. This  encounter led to a radical change of aesthetic. Ms. Tobreluts abandoned painting and immersed herself completely in computer graphics, photography and 3D modeling.

In her quest to create a 3D digital equivalent of an anatomically realistic academic drawing of a human body, Ms. Tobreluts began to appreciate the ideas of Neo-Academists. In 1994 she joins the New Academy of Fine Arts that was founded in 1989 and generated the most influential art movement on Russia’s contemporary art landscape. Having accepted the position of a professor in the Department of New Technologies, Ms. Tobreluts became the champion and the driving force behind Neo-Academism. Bruce Sterling described her as “Helen of Troy wielding a video camera and a computer”. During this period Ms. Tobreluts created her most iconic works that illuminated the principles of the entire movement. She created a completely new reality that transcended the historical context and was much more in synch with the modern world.

Whether or not Olga’s ornamental myths have any basis in classical mythology, they always reference the present day and age. Essentially, her subjects offer an effective way to connect with a contemporary audience. The choice of form varies depending on the re-actualization of mythological figures that are especially significant in the western cultural tradition. The modern references are easily identifiable in her works featuring the archetypes of antiquity. Ms. Tobrleluts’ belief that “everyday rituals define the meaning of life” provides the key to understanding her mythology. She engages in the ritualization of the routine that helps us feel the very pulse of life. Olga’s art underscores the fact that history is the cradle of mythology and the furnace in which artistic ideas are forged.

In the early 90’s Ms. Tobreluts focused on bringing antique statues to life by emphasizing their anatomically realistic flesh and dressing them up in brand name clothes. Her “Models” series shared GRIFFELKUNST First Prize for the best digital artwork in Europe with works of [a French artist] Orlan. Tate Liverpool’s 1999 exhibition “Heaven” included Olga’s “Sacred Figures” series, which endowed Renaissance portraits with new faces. Ms. Tobretluts’ works receive international acclaim. They are distinguished with prestigious awards and featured on the covers of such influential magazines as ART, ATTITUDE, Duesseldorf Hefte, The Observer Magazine and many others. In 2000 she embarked on a large-scale project, “Emperor and Galilean”, a 54-work series inspired by Heinrich Ibsen’s eponymous drama. This project successfully debuted at the Henie Onstad Museum in Oslo before making its lauded homecoming to St. Petersburg’s Russian Museum.

In 2003 Ms. Tobreluts almost entirely stopped using digital technologies and returned to painting as her primary medium. The gestation of Olga’s personal style is informed by her focus on recovering ancient painting techniques as well as by her research of the ways in which chemical composition of pigments can help enhance the rendering of light.