Contemporary classical paintings with a touch of surreal notes. Neo-neo-realism2011
Just before the turn of the 20th century, a group of Russian artists decided to spurn the artistic conventions that had dominated the previous fifty years of art and literature. Figures such as Alexandre Benois, Leon Bakst, Konstantin Korovin created daring work, much of it for the spectacles organized by impresario Serge Diaghilev. In place of politically engaged works focusing on the prosaic and quotidian problems and injustices of daily life, the loosely affiliated members of the so-called World of Art movement rediscovered the concept of painting as spectacle and magical experience.
They turned their attention to the extravagant world of ancient regime France and of Catherine the Great’s Russia, reveling in the endlessly theatrical worlds of masquerade and commedia dell’arte.
2009 marked the 80th anniversary of the death of Sergei Diaghilev and the 100th anniversary of his first seasons Russes in Paris.
In their newest series of paintings, Igor Kozlovsky and Marina Sharapova reimagine the world of the World of Art. Employing their characteristic contrast of exquisite detail in the foreground against an abstract, vibrantly colored background, they dedicate this series to play, artifice, masking, and theatricality more generally. Although the exhibit is inspired by the World of Art and the Russian Seasons of Diaghilev, traditional figures are deployed in a new context.
As a result, the paintings have a contemporary feel, though they are linked to the history of Russian theater and theater more generally. The background of each painting is a fully elaborated character and plays an important role: in one case it recalls an old and tattered stage
curtain, in another a partially eroded fresco, in a third antique tiles... The "actors" in these paintings do some unexpected things: marionettes come to life in “Night at the Theater”, fantastic coiffeurs become the main actors in "Vanity Fair," musical instruments come to the fore in "Venice", while a vase with fruit is found in a rather unexpected place in "Newton's Law."
Using all these elements, the painters approach their paintings as if they were design constructions, which gives them their unique feel.
Each of this series of Igor & Marina’s painting tells its own story, but taken together they reveal art’s ability to overcome the mundane and to create its own flamboyant and endlessly imaginative world.
Dean, The Graduate School
Bertha and Max Dressler Professor in the Humanities
The desire to capture movement has been a crucial impetus for developments in visual art from earliest times. The cave painters of Lascaux strove, for reasons we can only guess, to depict the course of the hunt. To project their power, Egyptian and Assyrian rulers asked their artists to create techniques to depict battles, processions and other ceremonial events that unfold in time. Ancient Greek artists, in media as varied as temple friezes and mundane urns, confronted the same issue of how allow the viewer to experience the flow of movement and time in an essentially static medium. Keats famously noted the paradoxical combination of stasis and motion in his ekphrastic “Ode on a Grecian Urn:” “Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave/Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;/ Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,/Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;/She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss.” Medieval artists continued to experiment with the presentation of movement, specifically processional and ceremonial movement, as attested in the mosaics at Ravenna, and in icons depicting scenes from the life of a saint surrounding his picture. In the early 20th century, the Futurists, obsessed with the speed of modern life, invented new ways of imparting as sense of motion to two and three-dimensional static objects.
The advent of the motion picture might have been presumed to put an end to the need to employ static images to create the illusion of motion. After all, why should one struggle to force an art form to do what something of which it is manifestly not fully capable? And yet the moving picture image does not solve the problem set so long ago by ancient artists. For the great majority of film images project movement at its “natural speed,” and fail to reproduce the paradoxical mix of movement and stasis provided by painted “narrative” images. They pass by too quickly, just as landscapes do to the automobile traveler, who is not able to appreciate the views in the same way that his forebears on horseback or on foot could.
Our project, “Walkers,” is meant to open a new chapter in the long history of painterly images of motion. We propose to build on a series of works we have been creating over the past 4 years, works that in their painterly technique synthesize many past epochs of artistic achievement in new and compelling ways. In particular, our exploration of the paradoxical relationship of motion and stasis is paralleled by a simultaneous consideration of the relationship between abstract and figurative art and between conventionality and verisimilitude.
As it is fairly unusual for artists to collaborate on their canvases, we would like to say a few words to explain why and how we do so. In Saint Petersburg, we worked in separate design fields. However, in this country we decided that because we possess complementary specialties and interests, it would be artistically fruitful to combine forces. Igor is generally more interested in color, in material, and in abstraction. Marina, by contrast, has an excellent touch for realistic drawing and is capable of creating new images on the basis of the works of older artists, particularly those of the Italian and Dutch Renaissance. Of course, it has taken us a long time to reach our present level of cooperation, and working together is not always easy. Still, this combination has allowed us to develop the work that you see in our portfolio and that forms the basis for our proposed artistic project.
As you can see from our website, much of our recent work plays on the contrast between complex patterns of abstraction in the background and meticulously worked figuration in the foreground. Motion, insofar as it is present in these canvases, is implied by the swirling motifs of the background, while the figures are presented with the static monumentality of Renaissance portraits (see for example “Shadow of the Fresco,” or “Two Heads are Better than One”). These and canvases like them demand a complex technique and a deft sense of composition.
We generally avoid perspective in our paintings because it is important for us to keep our work in the frame of an iconic image. Our figures have, in most of our recent paintings, tended to be quite static and their gestures limited, but these constraints have helped us to create works that make a most dramatic impression. We like to push people to use their imagination and one tool we use to achieve this is the creation of a dark background which each person can fill with his or her own phantoms. Another technique to produce a similar result is to leave part of the painting unfinished, so that the eye of the viewer is does part of the artist’s job, finishing the unfinished image. A third tool is to add some enigma to the artwork: we like to cover eyes in the portraits with turbans and strange hats, or to juxtapose seemingly uncombinable things to create complex visual metaphors. We don’t necessarily have a story for each painting, but it is important for us to create the sense of a story behind each of them.
“The Walkers I,” for example, depicts two volumetric but schematic figures moving from left to right against a background suggestive of hieroglyphs. The strong horizontals of the background create the illusion of a series of parallel roads against which (or along which) the figures are moving. The relationship of the figures is intentionally ambiguous. “Walkers IV” unfolds against a similar background but the figures now mimic one another and the feeling of dynamism is strengthened by the fact that both are clearly in motion. Though there is no story behind the picture, it is not hard to imagine it as a depiction of Orpheus and Eurydice.
In one of our experiment, “Walkers VI” we have begun to approach the technique we propose to employ for the large-scale project. We have toned down the horizontals (though they are still clearly present) and through the swirls in the background we have introduced a sense of cyclical rather than linear motion. The figures are presented in a frieze-like manner but the central figure has been endowed with a face and hands that are more realistic than the schematic heads and hands of the figures in front and behind him (or her—the figures are purposely androgynous). A further sense of dynamism has been introduced through the fact that the forward figure has, apparently, walked part of the way out of the picture.
We decided to create a series of interrelated canvases employing the basic techniques we are refining here. We are still developing this approach so much will undoubtedly change in the course of our work, but we anticipate creating some 15-20 large scale canvases in the nearest years, that would “walk” around a large room. The viewer in the middle would be invited to follow (or even join) the procession, which would be complicated by the relationship of the figures, who would not merely follow one another but also “interact” with those figures opposite to them on the other side of the room. We also imagine that we will create rows of miniature “Walkers” who would process above and below the central band of figures, in a technique analogous to the iconostasis in an Orthodox Church.
Accompanying the exhibition, we expect, would be performances of musical works that capture a similar feeling of motion and development in time—we have in mind obvious pieces such as Ravel’s Bolero, Bach’s Art of the Fugue, but also many examples from folk music ranging from Africa to Eastern Europe. The catalogue for our exhibition would be produced in the form of a fold out “accordion” or a Chinese scroll so that viewers could re-experience the work outside of its exhibition space.
Text by Igor & Marina, translated by Andrew Wachtel2011
Contemporary classical paintings with a touch of surreal notes. Neo-neo-realism2011
“The Other Side of the Looking Glass” is an attempt to open the door to a place, where each object has countless reflections ever changing their shape and color.
The work of Russian-born husband-and-wife team Igor Kozlovsky and Marina Sharapova is characterized by a remarkable fusion of seemingly discordant elements: past and present, figurative and abstract, traditional and avant-garde In images of striking beauty and depth, Renaissance-era figures float over backgrounds of cryptic text and pattern while areas of intricate, realistic detail coexist with expanses of layered color. Igor and Marina strive to “give new meaning to familiar images, placing them in unexpected frames.” Synthesizing the modes and motifs of various art historical periods into coherent, arresting images, they cause great distances of time and geography to collapse. The theme of fusion is not limited to the content of Igor and Marina’s work—it is also integral to their art-making process. Each painting represents an extraordinary feat of collaboration between two artistic minds. The result is an entirely unique artistic landscape where tradition and innovation, old and new, real and fantastic, collide. In this new body of work, Igor and Marina delve still further into our collective human conscience, into the realm of theatricality and dreams. The paintings capture “the moment historical personages remove their costumes and makeup,” says Igor, “but you don’t have to take it too literally - we like questions to be left unanswered. As people say, kept secrets have power. Revealed secrets have none.”
From Caldwell Snyder Gallery website: www.caldwellsnyder.com2012
…The Depiction of the Absent as a Catalogue
Let us turn to some other paintings by Igor & Marina in which the so-called absent is not merely a sign of its actual presence, but in which it becomes a kind of apophatic catalogue.
The catalogue is one of the central epic devices in art (especially in literature); it should be sufficient to recall the famous “list of ships” in Homer’s Iliad, in which the author tots up (and describes) each one of the thousand or so Achaean ships, that set off to win back Helen and conquer Troy.
…In the painting Sofa (2012) we can see an example of Igor & Marina’s apophatic catalogue, but one of a completely new type. To start, let us note that the painting consists of three connected canvases; that is, it uses the artists’ favored artistic format: the triptych.
…Sofa shows us on its left and right sides (we will call them that), a naked girl sitting on a sofa. And, as is to be expected in a mirror reflection, on the left side she is leaning a bit to her right, while on the right side she leans a bit to the left, which allows us to recognize that we have here not only a painting but a variant of a tri-fold mirror. In the middle of the painting, however, the reflection of the girl is … absent, and in its place is an entire “catalogue of ships” (to use the Homeric term), a painted catalogue of various sofas, couches, love seats, and even a full-fledged chaise longue á la Ingres.
…The apophatic catalogue also lies at the basis of the painting Hold Tight & Carry On (2012). This is not a three-part canvas, but it is still a triptych of a certain kind. The painting is divided into three uneven horizontal pieces (panels). We first pay attention to the middle, narrowest one, because it demands our attention . As opposed to the top and bottom panels, which are divided into neat squares with an image in each one, the central section is bright red, like a red traffic light, which grabs our attention. And furthermore, this red stripe is a kind of iconic frame on which, as in the conventional cut out pieces or «windows» on an icon, we can see a women's hands. And these hands are «speaking,» in the sense that they have been captured at a moment of heightened gesticulation against the red background.
…We turn now to the painting Shoes, Legs...What Else (2012). At first glance, it is organized according to the same logic as the previously discussed painting: here we see expressive female legs, there we found expressive female hands; here, we see various women's shoes (sandals, short boots, and so forth), while there we saw various women's purses (clutchs, pouch purses, handbags, and so forth).
…The painting consists of two horizontal sections: in the one on top there are five pairs of naked and unshod women's feet; in the lower, incomparably broader part of the canvas, occupying almost two thirds of the whole, there is a broad narrative catalogue of incredible female footware from all epochs and of varied design, as if thought up precisely for the Shoe Museum in Toronto (the only one of its kind in the world, by the way).
…It becomes clear that the most important thing in the painting is not simply the dramaturgy, but the unusual approach of the director-metteur-en-scéne. And as a result, the rich shoe museum window, which takes up by far the largest amount of space in the picture, is not asking, for what are those women's feet pining (the answer is, «shoes, of course») but they are crying out about the nakedness of their feelings, about their bared souls (let us say). The entire relative nakedness of these legs (only from below the knee to the heel) grabs the viewer precisely because of their whiteness and defenselessness: they simply evoke a desire to cover them—that is, to defend them, put something on them, put them on heels, raise them up…
Excerpts from essay by Ilya Kutik (translated by Andrew Wachtel)2012
Contemporary classical paintings with a touch of surreal notes. Neo-neo-realism.2012