In a sense the Art of Monino project began decades ago, however for practical purposes it began a few years ago - when I first visited the Central Museum of the Russian Air Force at Monino, 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 adopted the visual style of isolating an aircraft alone in a landscape to allow for an undivided view of it. Other images frame the aircraft closer-up, allowing better observation of finer details.
The language of machines is potent if one can read the design and purpose of the individual components, as well as the whole. There is great meaning here.
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 endlessly pore over - 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 to me represent a kind of imaginative engineering artisanship, and aircraft are unquestionably and ardently 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 sculptural art they are capable of evoking thoughts and feelings of profound concepts beyond their immediate material presence when observed and pondered upon.
There still remains however 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 - 'but surely, this thing cannot fly', you think. These initial impressions however belie the incredible sophistication inherent in the aircraft design - and fly they did indeed.
The Central Air Force Museum of Russia at Monino which is situated some 40km from Moscow houses a significant and rare collection of Soviet and Russian aviation history. I've photographed some of these aeroplanes 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 the history of an empire and the struggle for technical achievement against tremendous odds writ large upon the aeroplanes in the remarkable collection at Monino.
Despite often using vivid colour, this 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."
Kent Miklenda December 2015
The Central Museum of the Russian Air Force at Monino is not located in the Russian arctic wilderness!
It is in fact only 40km or so from Moscow. The museum is colloquially referred to as the 'Monino Museum', however Monino is actually the name of the local town and the adjacent military airfield. The Museum's full official title is the Central Museum of the Air Force of the Russian Federation, which usually gets abbreviated in various ways for expediency.
Many of the aircraft in the museum performed their last touchdown at Monino airfield before being towed to the museum to be kept for posterity.
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 there.
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.
I've worked across several creative disciplines, photography being one of them. I left university with a degree in Industrial Design but have spent most of my working life in the film and advertising industries (for TV commercials and stills) starting as a model-maker and later progressing to special effects supervisor.
I've also designed and built large architectural sculptures and was even a freelance concept designer for a factory in mainland China for a few years.
These days my involvement with film is minor and I am following my own fine art ideas and travel-themed creative exploits, particularly to do with Russia. This image series is part of the larger exploration of those areas.
Another result of my interest in Russia and it's aviation was being given the role of special effects supervisor on the Russian film Kandagar (2010), which was based on true events. It chronicles the story of an Ilyushin-76 cargo plane crew captured by the Afghan Taliban and held prisoner for over a year before their daring escape with the aircraft.
We filmed it in Morocco with an Ilyushin-76 from Transavia Export in Belarus.
I'm looking forward to many more adventures in Russia, particularly to do with aviation and aerospace and I'll be presenting those as more fine art series in the future, as well as adding to the Art of Monino series.
You can see my full website at www.kentmiklenda.com