Sculptures of our time: one artist’s mesmerising portraits of collective human movement

Sculptures of our time: one artist’s mesmerising portraits of collective human movement

8 September 2021

Creative inspiration finds Russian artist Ni Petrov in the most unexpected of moments — in the middle of a queue, or sandwiched between commuters on a busy crosswalk.

Ni Petrov was born in Barnaul, a city in the Altai Region of Siberia. After graduating with an architecture degree from the Altai State Technical University, Petrov moved to St Petersburg, where he currently lives and works as an architect. His Instagram, @nipetrov, is reserved for showcasing his crowd-inspired artworks: captured as watercolour paintings, stop motion animations, or Google Street View collages.

His artworks aren’t so much a comment on city life. By turning his attention to crowds, Petrov says, he is trying to continue a fine art tradition of depicting the human form. “It is a well-known fact that in ancient times, the human being was worshiped more than ever. In Ancient Greece and Rome, the human body was regarded as a work of art,” Petrov told The Calvert Journal. “Instead of singling out one figure, I’m representing a mass.”

His series Man in the City shows images of crowds in and around St Petersburg. Here, Petrov replaces the surroundings with a unifying white background. Without context or sense of place, the commuting figures appear like mesmerising frozen sculptures.

Often, he takes individual figures — a woman engaged in a video call, a child at a playground, or a teen on route to school — and turns them into miniature snapshots of contemporary life, akin to a Where’s Wally? puzzle-book.

For his Crosswalk series, Petrov photographed rush hour at busy St Petersburg locations — the Vosstaniya metro station, Nevsky Prospekt, Peter and Paul Fortress — using a slow shutter speed and double exposure to heighten the sense of congestion and turn moving masses into an abstract pattern.

“Each movement is a fleeting moment,” says Petrov. “Just like how some artists try to translate the light and shadow they see in front of them, I’m interested in capturing human movements.”

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