Veronica Smirnoff’s new exhibition currently on display at the Jessica Carlisle gallery in Marylebone is a single-room show filled with earthy-toned paintings in a variety of formats. The focus of The Greater and Lesser Ways is a female story. The Russian-born, London-based artist takes traditional codes of art and transforms them into a new, beautiful sense of longing that feels absolutely relevant in today’s day and age.

Eternity Is The Most Dangerous Rioter Of All, Egg Tempera on Wood, 2013

The activism in Smirnoff’s work is not the obvious kind, which makes the paintings intriguing. Her soft, feminine figures stand out through sombre colour schemes, bringing a form of positivity into her work. The female character is strong and proud, embracing a different type of femininity that sees nostalgia being equally about reminiscing and looking forward. When asked about the element of feminism in her work, Veronica answered: “The female figures have autobiographical as well as historical accounts to them, but they also act as counterpoints that are designed to commune their view with the world they populate.”

Hinterlands At Nightfall, Egg Tempera on Wood, 2013

However, the nostalgic elements go beyond just the visuals. Her interesting use of traditional techniques and materials such as mixing pigments with egg-yolk and painting on wood go hand-in-hand with the heritage element of her visuals. The artist’s textural ideas draw inspiration from Russian lacquer miniature and icon painting, as well as classistic elements and pre-Renaissance artwork. Talking about the connection between her subjects and the technique, Smirnoff says: “I think it touches on this very primordial instinct of astonishment or the elementary wonder of the world.” And these beautifully nostalgic paintings take you to that distant place of exploration and wanderlust.

Veronica Smirnoff’s exhibition The Greater and Lesser Ways is on display at the Jessica Carlisle, 4 Mandeville Place, London W1U 2BF, until March 4. Admission is free.

Text by Dino Bonacic