February 4 - February 24, 2022
Capsule Collection by The Russian Ark
Curated by Natali Begesh
Is abstract art completely disconnected from reality?
The question of defining and drawing the line between realism and abstraction in art remains controversial, multi-faceted and of great interest to art critics and art historians.
The emergence of abstract art in the 20th century became both a milestone in the development of the visual arts as well as its great achievement. Representatives of various artistic movements have been rejecting the academic and realistic art traditions as outdated. Instead, they were continuously experimenting with form and searching for the new means of expression, for new techniques.
Thus, the tradition of objective representation in art began to crumble, giving way to the manifestation of free symbols.
CURATOR AND ART HISTORIAN
Impressionists were the first to move away from the heroic and historical subjects and to depict scenes and snippets of the everyday life. True pioneers focusing on rendering the effects of light, they broke from the century-long traditions of the Academie in painting.
In the impressionistic cityscapes After the Rain and In the Subway, Ivan Tupeiko captures the busy pace of a modern city.
It is the light that Ivan Tupeiko pays special attention to in this luminous cityscape. The houses are dissipating in the diffused light and the figures are conveyed with just a few laconic brushstrokes.
The motif in After the Rain became an ideal opportunity to convey the play of light. The artist explains : “<…> I captured the sunlight covering the city with its bright and warm reflections. St.Petersburg in Russia is often viewed as a gloomy and rainy city, and in large part this is true. However, on those rare occasions when the sun does come out after the rain, its rays penetrate the bones of the city, they bounce off the houses, walkways, street wires, road signs, and above all – they reflect off people’s faces. The sun is warming and illuminating the city dwellers from the inside!“
In The Ingenious Hidalgo and Ivan Visiting, the artist depicted his younger brother. The portraits immediately intrigue the viewer with the predominance of dark tones and a vivid contrast between the blacks and the whites.
“In The Ingenious Hidalgo, I was interested in capturing the character and the likeliness of the sitter with minimal means. A black hat, dark hair, expressive eyebrows, beard and mustache – all these create a sort of decorative ornament that was enough to achieve my goal. A more thorough work on the features or a more detailed rendering of the form was superfluous.” – the artist shares about his concept.
In both works, the black paint is applied in wide confident strokes. The compositions are built on the contrast of the black figure with the white background, this creates a unique illusion of light typical of such chromatic dichotomy.
All That Has Gone Before, 2018
All That Has Gone Before is a deep poetic image of love.
He and she are depicted in a calm state, opposite each other, bowing their heads forward. Despite the calm pose, the sculpture is charged with vigorous energy and is emotionally rich.
The figures are rendered in a fluid and dynamic way – without excessive anatomical detail. Even the faces are depicted in an abstract manner.
One can’t help comparing this sculpture to painting. Not only because of its composition, but also because of its textured surface. Irregular, rough, it is reminiscent of the marks created when sculpting and modelling in clay.
Complex, polychrome, the surface creates an interesting interplay of light and shadow and heightens the dynamism of the image. This expressively modelled surface conveys the emotional drama between the figures and invites the viewer to consider complex existentialist topics.
Similar to impressionist sculptors, in the presented work, Suren Kharazyan also employs a great deal of artistic generalization, uses flowing lines, free modeling of the form and interplays of light.
Tanya is a gentle portrait of the artist’s goddaughter. The girl is sitting in a calm, pensive and relaxed pose. She is lively and at ease. As a result, the artwork itself is also spontaneous and unforced.
The artist recalls: “Like all young children, when sitting for me, Tanya was restless and fidgeting a lot. My task was to quickly and fully capture her image during those brief sessions. Therefore, I painted alla prima without a preliminary drawing, energetically attacking the canvas directly with paints.”
It is through the radical use of colour, bold brushwork and, perhaps, deliberate distortion of shapes that Varvara expresses emotions in her still lifes.
The above artistic means are typical of post-impressionism whose followers sought to go beyond naturalistic depiction and get to the essence of things, through the novel use of colour and other formal elements.
In Peaches and Virgo, Varvara layers in large dynamic strokes, without focusing too much on the subjects.
In Peaches, the painting surface turns into an ephemeral veil of colour nuances shifting and changing before your eyes. The pictorial space is rather amorphous – the viewer has to focus hard to distinguish a table supporting the vase full of peaches. The fruit is painted with even thicker strokes making them stand out from the background. This texture emphasizes their volume and materiality, while their warm orange hue creates a beautiful contrast against the turquoise.
Landscapes by Valeria Privalikhina are infused with light and air.
In Dandelion Season, the light is falling between the trees. The colour palette is dominated by emerald and lemon yellow, which fuse in perfect harmony. A few strokes of teal in the foreground add a sparkle.
Apart from a man resting on the grass, there is a number of other important details. The artist shared the concept behind this artwork: “A summer day in the park – shady, fresh, calm. Dandelions are scattered all over the green grass, people are having a picnic, the tall trees are casting blue shadows — I painted this scene in broad strokes with many generalizations. The only exception are the small yellow dots of dandelions that animate the foreground”.
The title of Ilya Samarin’s sculpture Caring incapsulates the very concept of the work. The parent is leaning towards the children in an attempt to support them. Figures are shown holistically, the chosen means of expression are laconic, the volumes are clearly defined.
Even though the composition is captured in motion, the movement is calm, not overly expressive, devoid of nervous dynamism. This craving for simplified forms and geometrization of figures evident in Ilya Samarin’s work is reminiscent of the expressive means employed by the Avant-garde sculptors.
Samir Rakhmanov is famous for his exquisite innate sense of colour. Three paintings included in this Capsule Collection represent a breathtaking interplay of colour and form.
In Still Life With Red and Blue, the composition is built on sharp colour transitions distinguishing one object from the other and on the balanced arrangement of the objects on the picture plane.
The artist recalls: “Still Life With Red and Blue was composed from absolutely random objects. In its own way, it personifies the complete chaos and mess that I tried to assemble into a somewhat structured image. In turn, this affects the abstract perception of the still life. While we seem to understand what objects are depicted in front of us, their combination makes us perceive the still life through the prism of abstraction.”
Daria Levchuk’s artworks stand out in the present Capsule Collection for their original technique.
In the selected collages, the artist creates flat, almost schematic images devoid of any attempt to render volume or spatial depth.
Figures and the interior surrounding them are based on the combination of simple geometric shapes and interconnected colour planes. In both artworks, the palette is bright and contrasting.
This artistic experiment has created a stunning effect: despite highly recognizable figurative elements, collages at the same time are brought to a high degree of abstraction.
Back in the days, such innovative techniques as paper embossing or collage – which are employed by Daria Levchuk in these works – were popular among the Cubists. Similarly to the collages at hand, Cubist works also paid special attention to the analysis of forms and experimentation with objects and space.
Paintings by Roman Kruglov represent a departure from naturalism. The artist puts emphasis on the emotional and psychological content of the paintings.
What immediately strikes in the urban landscape View of Trastevere are its colours and the graphic nature of the composition.
“The artwork was based on a black and white photograph I took in Rome out of my hotel room. In a way, any documentation of reality may become a secret code, that only the person creating it will understand. It may lack compositional alignment, details may not necessarily be informative, and finally, it may even be deprived of colour! What is important is the impulse, that brings you back to a specific moment in time.” - the artist explains.
Varvara Drobina’s linocuts are packed with tension. In each composition, the figure constitutes a central axis in an abstract space.
Their poses suggest a union with the nature’s elements and contain a powerful momentum. What is this? Perhaps, the artist’s reflection on the man’s inseparable connection with nature.
The expressive means are reduced to lines that define forms and create the sense of movement bringing the artworks to the verge of abstraction.
With their bright contrasting colours as well as strong emotional content, Varvara Drobina’s linocuts possess certain features of Expressionism. Another interesting connection with Expressionism would be that that the linocut technique was invented by a group of German Expressionist artists Die Brücke (The Bridge).
Izborsk Fortress, 2020
In Izborsk Fortress by Ilya Zorkin, the depicted scene is infused with dynamism and movement, breaking out and beyond the edges of the canvas. One of the main attractions in the Pskov Region, Izborsk Fortress is captured in a loose sketchy manner. Its walls, rendered by the artist in just a few sweeping strokes, create the visual dominant of the composition and at the same time become powerful "lines" creating movement and drawing the viewer into the picture.
What is striking about this painting is that the sky is painted with impasto strokes, while the foreground is captured with lightweight, thin and sometimes even transparent strokes. This helps to balance the upper part of the painting against the powerful swirl of movement created by the confident elongated strokes in the lower part.
The palette is organic and balanced, with nothing creating any sort of visual conflict. As a result, the landscape perfectly combines the sensation of a serene contemplation with an emotional upheaval.
The effect of movement, masterfully created by Ilya in this painting, was also very important for the Futurists. Futurist artists were striving to reflect the dynamism of the modern world in their works. To achieve this effect, among other expressive means, they often used "lines of force".
This special, gentle work by Ksenia Sandesko contains an interesting contrast between realistic and abstract elements.
At first, the viewer is attracted by the young, tender and beautiful faces of the two sisters that are rendered quite realistically.
After that, however, the viewer starts exploring the rest of the picture. The drapes surrounding the figures act as a decorative frame. Various shades of ruby and blue perfectly complement the brightly painted faces and the shades of the girls’ hair. Flowers, as a symbol of life, are scattered around the picture completing the composition.
“The drapes rhythmically folded around the figures metaphorically stand for the turmoil of events, a whirlpool of energies. This personifies the drama of being human in this complex world.” – Ksenia explains.
This painting, akin to Art Deco creations, turns abstract forms into decorative devices. Despite the dynamism present in the composition, the forms do not fall apart, they are fluid, and the colours are vibrant and contrasting.
The expressive power of Untitled by Ekateryna Borodavchenko cannot go unnoticed.
The lower figurative part of the artwork suggests that we are seeing an image of a person, but there where one would expect to see a face, we see some kind of abstraction. Using a combination of unusual materials, the artist created a highly emotive image.
“What is the rationale behind using this technique? Well, I love working with contrasts. Here, the juxtaposition of a figurative painting with an abstract form is used to create a powerful visual effect.
The figure is holding itself by the throat, with something coming out of its head! It can be wild thoughts, rough emotions, passionate feelings – all these cannot be shown through ordinary objects. It is for this reason that I use abstract motifs. Abstraction makes it possible to portray the intangible. The mixed media technique heightens the felling of tension.” – the artist comments about her work.
The original technique developed by the artist may evoke various emotions in the viewer. This dialogue with the viewer, the idea of getting into the subconscious and draw real images from there are close to the ideas and goals of Surrealism.
Gilboa Mountains, 2017
Gilboa Mountains by Nikol Klampert depicts a mountain range of the Jezreel Valley in Israel. The landscape is excellently composed as a combination of brightly coloured blocks. The entire canvas is organized around the expression of coloured shapes.
The mountain range occupies almost the entire surface of the painting. It is painted with energetic strokes and a palette knife. The colours are assembled in a way that does not only convey the volume, but also the depth.
The high horizon line vertically stretches the image. The light blue sky completes the composition, helping to enliven it and to balance the vigorous energy of the colour masses at the same time.
Eugeny Medvedev’s portraits are infused with a calm, serene intonation. In both paintings, the backgrounds are fairly abstract. The environment is devoid of any material palpability, the outlines are blurry, the form is built with colour and strokes.
In Girl, we see a pensive face with a gaze and thoughts directed inwards. The image of the girl is penetratingly expressive and soft at the same time. This gentle intonation is contrasted with the expressive depiction of the model’s dress that is rendered with large and vivid strokes.
Self-Portrait is a quintessential image of the artist-creator. The colour arrangement has an exciting balance between warm and cool tones, which can be seen both in the clothing and the figure. The image, as if enveloped in a soft natural light, seems to float in a light haze.
Figure Stepping, 2018
In front of us is a nude female figure. The sculptor refers to the traditions of classical art, transforming it trough his individual ways of seeing: “Combining the principles of ancient art with my personal experience, as well as with observations from nature, I am trying to express the spiritual and moral ideals of humankind using the language of sculpture. I am aiming at finding the right measure of generalization which comes from studying the nature rather than from a mere invention.” – the sculptor explains.
The shape of the sculpture is laconic and architecturally integral. Rendered holistically, the figure looks more monumental. Its contours and the rhythm of its silhouette are soft. By using non-traditional materials in this sculpture, the artist adds an additional dimension to the work.
The artwork has limited portraiture features, instead, the focus is placed on the plastic expressiveness of the figure.
Artworks by Ekaterina Feoktistova are based on simple and recognizable natural forms, such as leaves or branches. They are multiplied, repeated, creating an intricate rather abstracted pattern. At the same time, each painting remains inimitable, just like natural forms are.
These graceful landscapes by Ira Rybakova depict nature not as a tempestuous element, but rather as a calm native land.
In Winter. City, the presence of a person can only be guessed by a few bright houses standing against the soft natural palette of the background.
The radiant picture surface is split between the water and the sky. These elements are painted with subtle chromatic gradations and multiple tiny strokes that create ripples on the surface of the picture.
In Trees. Spring, instead of creating a wide forest panorama, the artist simply captures a few trees in the foreground. Branches are forming lines that stretch up and beyond and create a "pulse" in the painting. The light is created with the warm, subtly nuanced palette built around delicate monochrome tonal variations. It gently dissolves the space and the objects in the painting.
By combining the figurative and the abstract in her works, Maria Katyanova creates the sense of intrigue.
At first glance, the works seem to illustrate scenes from the everyday life: city dwellers are crossing a busy junction. In the "crowd" we begin to distinguish vague silhouettes of people – some are depicted realistically, while others are captured with only white blurry outlines. Thus, pictures contain two different internal rhythms.
There is an interesting experiment with the perspective in the way Maria positions the junction on the picture plane. The juxtaposition of flat surfaces and spatial depth creates an unexpected visual effect and engages the viewer. Subtle laconism of the colour palette pushes the images even further towards abstraction.