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Art: „petroArs“ – crossing boundaries with stone

(March 2010) Scientists are often bone-dry contemporaries, because they pursue exact rules and refuse to look beyond their own field of research. Refreshing exception to the rule is the work of the Director of the Museum in the Russian Geological Research Institute in St. Petersburg, Aleksey Sokolov with his „petroArs“: he brings together special minerals and landscape photography or paintings and suddenly unexpected convergences or perhaps irritations or disturbances become apparent.

The idea of looking for something in stone rather than merely seeing stone as a cold material is age-old, he expounds. And quickly adds: „The stone realm… is a real fairyland.”

He hopes to awaken emotions in the beholder contemplating the stone, just as he experiences himself. First step is free association when contemplating a stone. Then he searches for a suitable picture. And finally he often ads a haiku, a Japanese poem comprised of three metrical phrases, which, according to experts, opens the reader’s mind.

Nevertheless Sokolov is a geologist through and through. After all his parents were also geologists and he worked at the Institute for Arctic Geology in St. Petersburg after his studies and his PhD where he worked on biostratigraphy, correlating the age of rocks from the strata of biomaterial contained in the layers.

Since 1994 he is director of the Tchernyshew Museum belonging to the Karpinski Russian Geological Research Institute. Its permanent exhibiting shows some 80,000 samples of stone.

So we must ask, what drives him to create such artistic stone objects. „I don’t know why“, an unusual answer for a scientist. And he adds: „It gives me pleasure… besides, it is nice to share positive emotions with other people”

And the name „petroArs“? It is a composite of the Latin word for stone, petrus and art, ars. The acronym could also be interpreted to allude to St. Petersburg and the initials of his first and last names.

Aleksey Sokolov (Mail)

Exhibit „World of Stone” (Russian)

Karpinski Russian Geological Research Institute

Photos: Aleksey Sokolov