THE ART OF MONINO
THE ART OF MONINO
In a sense the The 'Art of Avia' project began decades ago, however for practical purposes it began a few years ago with the Art of Monino series - started after I first visited the Central Museum of the Air Forces of the Russian Federation (AKA Monino Museum), near Moscow.
It struck me that the machines aggregated at the museum are like a collection of large-scale sculptures, because observing them causes you to reflect upon what they embody through their design and engineering, and the context in which they were made.
In this image series I've used a variety of post-production techniques to supply a range of styles, from isolating an aircraft alone in a landscape to allow for an undivided view of it to images that frame the aircraft closer-up, allowing better observation of finer details.
I was lucky enough to photograph these aircraft before many of them have undergone restoration. Lucky in the sense that the unrestored planes have textures and patinas that add much to the visual effect.
Use of composite images shows the aircraft in different contexts than they are actually found at the museum.
The winter landscapes are used as a symbol for the Cold War, the era when the machines were conceptualized.
Below is my artist's statement about the photographic fine art series that I've produced after several visits.
"When I was young I had a small black and white photo book of Soviet aircraft which I used to pore over endlessly - fascinated by the mysterious and purposeful, yet strangely attractive machines. The mystery and awe was enhanced by the secretive and enigmatic nature of the USSR that was hidden darkly behind the Iron Curtain.
Years later, after gaining a university degree in Industrial Design I went on to run a workshop making things for advertising, film and art, such was my attraction to the form, function and signification of objects.
Aircraft as objects represent a kind of imaginative engineering artisanship and are ardently and unquestionably in the realm of Applied Art - one of the principle expressions of Industrial Design.
Soviet and Russian aircraft in particular embody such a degree of design intent and ambitious engineering born from a conceptually heroic imagination that they seem to transcend the mundane machine world and verge on Fine Art. Thus, like all good art they are capable of evoking thoughts and feelings of profound ideas beyond their immediate material presence.
However, there still remains something brutally industrial and rudimentary in the construction of these eastern-bloc aircraft and to see one close-up is to be confused by the utilitarian and seemingly roughly-wrought construction - these things can't possibly fly you think, but such initial impressions belie the incredible sophistication inherent in the aircraft design – and fly they did indeed.
The Central Museum of the Air Forces of the Russian Federation at Monino which is situated some forty kilometres from Moscow houses a significant and rare collection of Soviet and Russian aviation history. I've photographed some of these aircraft, many before their ultimate restoration.
Through this series of images, I am trying to convey the fierce beauty and aged elegance embodied in the machines that have come to rest here.
One can sense history on an empirical scale, and the struggle for technical achievement against tremendous odds writ large upon the aircraft seen in the remarkable collection at Monino.
Despite often using vivid colour, this photographic series is in a way an homage to a small book of black and white photographs that captivated and inspired a youthful imagination many years ago - an inspiration that has taken me on several adventures exploring the ever-enigmatic land that is Russia."
THE MONINO MUSEUM
THE MONINO MUSEUM
Central Museum of the Air Forces of the Russian Federation at Monino is not located in the Russian arctic.
The museum is in fact only 40km or so from Moscow, it is colloquially referred to as the 'Monino Museum', however Monino is actually the name of the town and the adjacent military airfield. The Museum's full official title is the Central Museum of the Air Forces of the Russian Federation, a name which usually gets abbreviated or recombined in various ways for expediency.
Many of the aircraft in the museum performed their last touchdown at Monino airfield before being towed to the display area to be kept for posterity. and to undergo eventual restoration.
Originally an operational airbase the museum was formally created in 1958 to house not only military but also civilian aviation collections, and it is widely regarded as one of the most significant aviation museums in the world.
Showcasing a vast collection of exhibits and aircraft, it is one of the prime destinations for anybody interested in Russian and Soviet aviation, and worthwhile seeing even if one is not - after one visit a Russian friend of mine came away with a new-found respect for their country's technical heritage, which is impressively on display here.
The Monino Museum has undergone extensive renovation over the last few years and now incorporates a world-class visitor's and exhibition centre. In the early days you had to phone in with your passport details and get permission to enter the military zone wherein lay the museum. Now there is an open access road and even a parking area for tour buses, such have been the changes.
The museum also contains large workshops where the aircraft undergo restoration by a dedicated crew of volunteers and contributors. Some of the major aircraft design bureaus are also partners with the museum.
There are many English language references on the web re Monino but the main museum site is at moninomuseum.ru (Russian language).
In my mind no visit to Moscow is complete without seeing this outstanding museum.