More than five years ago, Evgraf and Rita decided to take a long sabbatical from office-based work and travel around the world.
They toured around Europe, China and Southeast Asia, working online, teaching art lessons, painting, and selling their paintings at different destinations to finance their journey.
The duo arrived in Vietnam last year. Since they had a lot of art equipment with them, they limited their travel in the country to four destinations – Da Nang, Hoi An, Ha Long Bay and Hanoi. They stayed in Da Nang for two months and fell in love with life in Vietnam, which they found "vibrant and simple."
As landscape artists, Evgraf and Rita find the beauty in the juxtaposition of nature and human endeavor. Humans, culture and expressions of daily life invest each of their pictures with uniqueness.
One of Evgraf’s favourite places in Vietnam was a corner of the Da Nang Church, from which he had an interesting view of buildings fused between the traditional and modern, and Eastern and Western architectural styles.
"The verticals of Da Nang", a painting on the Da Nang Church by Evgraf Plotnikov.
However, his favorite work done in the country was the "Sunny street" in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. For him, that scene encapsulated all the charms of Hanoi, from the light rays crossing the roofs of old buildings, cutting across electric cables, motorbikes and conical hats, vividly illuminating local traditions and lifestyles.
"The painting has some characteristics unique to Hanoi. If anyone asks me about Hanoi, I would show them this painting. It might not be a misty Hanoi near the Hoan Kiem Lake, but it was my strongest impression of this city," Evgraf said.
"Sunny Street" (Hanoi) by Evgraf Plotnikov.
Rita also found Vietnam a unique compendium of nature and culture, of traditionality and modernity. She was also impressed by the density of urban trees in the country, which, for her, showed a special bond between humans and nature.
The artists said their stay in Vietnam was greatly aided by many friendly locals, who assisted them greatly in organizing art lessons and even a small exhibition in Hanoi named "Russian Artists and shades of Vietnam."
Hoang Lan, an art gallery owner in Hanoi, said: "Their paintings have many classic strokes, are filled with emotion and having unique coloring. The paintings show the love of the artists for the destinations they pass through, and the appreciation of our cultural values."
"Koi fish" by Rita Shageyeva.
Returning to Russia late January, the architect-painter duo organized an exhibition of their paintings of Vietnam in St. Petersburg, which brought back many beautiful memories to visitors who’d visited Vietnam before and enthused others to visiting the country in the future.
Evgraf said: "They (the viewers) love the nature, sun, trees, conical hats, motorbikes and boats of Vietnam. All these details have inspired St. Petersburg’s locals."
Russian artists Evgraf Plotnikov (second left) and Rita Shageyeva (middle) at an exhibition of their paintings held in Da Nang City. They are graduates of the St. Petersburg Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.