Unborn Childrena three-part show of recent works on paper and canvas by Yulia Sopina, opened at St Petersburg’s stylish Novy Muzei on February 15.

Inspired by themes as disparate as Opera, Soviet Propaganda photographs and majolica sculptures in Florence’s Ospedale degli Innocenti, Sopina (born 1968) conjures up a world of despair where – in the words of curator Katya Sedykh – ‘there is nowhere to hide from pain.’ One picture shows the Virgin mourning all the destitute children she cannot help.

Sedykh moved to Petersburg five years ago from her native Vladivostok, where she breathed life into a contemporary art scene now kindled by the Zarya Centre under Alisa Bagdonaite. Sedykh calls Sopina ‘one of the most talented Petersburg artists of her generation’ and extols her exploration of ‘mesmerizing deadpan colour.’

Paintings are priced €1500-3000 but the show’s real stand-outs are Sopina’s smaller, other worldly graphic works at a giveaway €350. These feature identically clad children frozen in identical postures within Soviet society’s loving embrace. Their features – conveyed in gouache, tempera or charcoal – are heavy and austere, ‘like ghosts pretending to be children’ as Sedykh puts it.

Composers as different as Mozart, Wagner and Saint-Saëns (see Samson & Delilah, below) inspire Sopina’s more colourful operatic works.