Russian monumental art often suffers from monotony, clichés, and naturalistic solutions. Thus, unusual original artworks full of artistic imagination are very valuable. Only such works can make an artistic impression and be retained in people’s memory.
The “Monument to the Settlers of the Altai from their Grateful Descendants” created by Oleg Zakomorny and erected in September 2012 in Barnaul — the capital of the Altai Region — represents this type of artwork.
What is the composition of this monument?
The top of the octagonal pedestal bearing an inscription and ornamental elements imitating spikes seems to be covered with the fertile Altai Chernozemic soil. A seeding farmer is walking on it with a basket of grain, throwing them into the soil. Alongside him there is a little girl holding her long braid. These are a Settler with a beautiful Russian face and a child symbolizing the future.
These images are already beautiful on their own: they are expressive and executed with real mastery. They are elevated up to becoming symbols of a powerful and wonderful nation.
Even if the monument was limited to these two images, it would already have been good. But it contains something much greater: it has nature integrated in it in a skilful and harmonious way. The nature, which surrounds these people and makes part of their lives. A grove of trees is seen behind the silhouettes of people, with clouds and birds above them; and the whole composition is framed by a circle, resembling the sun with its rays.
Inclusion of natural elements and landscape background into a monumental artwork erected in a public square was never encountered in this type of art before. This represents a demonstration of the daring and innovative discovery made by Oleg Zakomorny. By taking such decision, he was running a risk of causing an eclectic effect, overcharging the artwork with elements or creating a compositional intricacy. But the sculptor managed to avoid all these dangers. He managed to create a synthetic symbolic image of the monument as a whole. Strong and beautiful people in alliance with harmonious and shining nature.
One can only wonder how the sculptor could create a light and transparent composition with such an abundance of elements, with no part interfering with others, with the figures on their separate backgrounds and, at the same time, having the light showing through, with the real and the symbolic combined.
This monument is an absolute creative achievement of the sculptor and a significant phenomenon of Russian monumental art.