Inherent Vice – The Darkest Shade of Pale

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Oil on canvas, 40” x 30” (102 x 76 cm), 2020

      This painting was inspired and dedicated to the great Tom Pynchon (may you sail well, dear Big Man, wherever you are; this work will be the link between you and me, and big thank you for the joy of reading your books).

           The idea for this picture is dark, the darkest, and it was not big fun developing it, although, I have to admit that I did have some sparkles of pleasure or, should I say, pride, while reflecting on so many wonderful things that the humanity achieved over the time. However, in the final equation we have failed, and that is the sad message of this work. Something seems to be wrong in the human DNA – the destructive gene is not only acting against other species and things; it also is suicidal.

      The humans, bastardized towards amphibians, like as being thrown from an enormous Petri dish into the vast nothingness after an unsuccessful experiment, are drifting away. No matter for individual brilliance it’s the statistics that is killing us. The survival is not individual’s task. Let’s end with the beginning – “it is too late. The Evacuation still proceeds, but it’s all theatre”.

      There are many details here that are directly related to T.P. (magenta and green, the title, the image from the cover of “Gravity’s Rainbow”, binary coded beginning of the same book, etc.), but there are also the details pointing to other great human achievements (music, literature, science, art) as well as variety of pleasures, variety of codes (including the barcoded year of signing of the painting). Starting with T.P. the dedication stretches to many more people whose names will be recognized by closer inspection of the details. The coding has quite a big presence in the painting, but I don’t think the viewer should decode every single code – all those scriptures bear different roles in the image, including the textural role. (It partially depends from what distance the picture is being observed: from 10’ distance most viewers will see the texts as a texture, when closer they van read the text, and after all try to understand it).

     

       After a year or so working on and off on this painting I finally signed it on a very interesting date: 02/02/2020.

Kraut Harmonia

Acrylic on canvas 40″ x 30″ (102 x 76 cm), 2019

 

       Karlheinz Stockhausen advised his students to avoid any repetition while creating music. On the other hand, Hans Jaki Liebezeit the drummer of the famous German krautrock band Can (who were students and followers of Stockhausen) had completely opposite ideas about repetition in music believing that repetition is everything and that “without repetition there is no grove”.

      In this painting (that in some ways is a picture of mentioned kind of music) I tried to put these two principles (repetition and non-repetition) together in a way that would bring up a harmonious result rather than an exclusion of each other. Combinations of the two are multiple: the parallel vertical and horizontal elements  are repetitive, but they are not the same, and where they intersect each other there are new shapes in different colors popping out; the entire image is divided by the vertical axis leaving each side with multiple nonrepetitive detail that become repetitive as they mirror the other side of the painting with the same pattern. However, all the shapes and colors on the left side although the same as the mirroring shapes and colors on the right side are not exact copies of each other for being painted by a human and not machine – they differ slightly. Also, the central vertical element is the only one that is not duplicated (nonrepetitive) but when split in two by the horizontal axis its left side has been repeated on the right side of the same element; further on, the entire painting is having two sides that are mirroring each other when divided vertically but not when divided by a horizontal axis. The horizontal elements are thinner and on the first sight look different than the vertical ones (red and green respectively) but if the vertical elements were made from rubber and stretched, they would be the same as the horizontal ones, etc.

      Somebody may see them as a strange multi-tonal music scales.

     The colors chosen have important roles here: the two opposite principles are represented with the two very opposite colors: green and red. Vertical greens run against red horizontals just to reconcile in the yellow (not brown, as expected) intersections creating a new flood of different shapes in different colors. The organic black (with a slight tone of the Prussian blue) background naturally recedes and brings forward the other colors. The black background also has a symbolic function here as the krautrock musicians – the first after WWII generation – were dealing with the dark legacy of the generations that came before them and were not ready yet to face it; the answer to the silence of their fathers was loud electronical music of the kids growing up after the War.

      I did make some abstract pieces before (mostly digital) but in this painting it was for the first time that I went beyond the form and put some sound meaning into it. The abstract form was dictated by the subject as I cannot see the other form suitable for describing this kind of music. This was also in consistence with my conscious effort to avoid the traps of developing any style – this painting is very different from the one that preceded it and will be unlike the one that will follow.

      Some viewers may find traces of op art here. If you do – go ahead and enjoy it, however, more important about this painting is its aesthetics; they are different from the aesthetics of a landscape or an abstract expressionist piece – it follows the aesthetics of the music that is often electronic, amorphous (kosmische musik) different than the music we usually listen to on the local radio station. With that precaution one might start exploring the details of the painting and if the viewer can see some kind of harmony in their interrelations that would be the sign that I have succeeded in my intention.

      Probably the best description of my idea to put repetitive and nonrepetitive principles in the same place can be find in the book about the krautrock band “Can” titled “All Gates Open: The Story of Can” as one of the coauthors and the member of the band Irmin Schmidt recalls him sitting in a moving train’s compartment listening to the repetitive sounds of the train and looking out the window where nonrepetitive scenes occur one after another each moment.

 

   

Metamorphosis

Oil painting on canvas, 30” x 24”, August 2017

 

This is my first painting after more than a year and a half of time spent with other things. The long inactivity made me nervous and with a feeling of guilt for not painting so, once when I started my work, everything changed and I became satisfied by the sheer fact of sitting at the easel again.

As with most of my paintings I decided to make something different from my previous works. My first thought was about Gregor Samsa’s famous transformation in Franz Kafka’s story from which the painting’s title was borrowed. Soon I parted from Kafka and stretched my thinking from the individual to the level of all of humanity. This is not an optimistic story; maybe not even a story. This is not a lament, nor a warning or a prophecy. It probably is closest to an ironic scoff at an imperfect creation. Still some elements of a story exist but they were not put in the usual order for a story but rather as a parable with some missing parts (to be created and put in by the viewer). The beginning is in the very center of the image where we are witnessing a violent act. From there the “narration” develops in the circular waves to which some may see a Dantean quality. The initial act is witnessed with the apostolic number of creatures already affected by the metamorphosis; they don’t seem to be pertaining to the event(s); they sit in some kind of a limbo, hanging in the air, affected by something that may look like an electrifying occurrence. Are they the next round of the sacrifices or just an excuse for a future theological explanation of the past? According to this story WE will not be the ones who will be asked for the explanation. Everything here is seen through the mosaic vision of the insect-humanoid bastard (as suggested by the geometrical pattern of the background). Most of the small imperfections in the picture are left on purpose to suggest the quality of the final product of the metamorphoses and also to break up the monotony of the repetitive imagery.

A few more words on the formal side: First, the bugs. Why the insects? The answer is simple: I was fascinated by their look: so beautiful and plentiful in the form and color. I wanted to have them in my painting. However, their role here is generic, not individual. There is no meaning behind choosing particular insects. What is important are their colors – blue and red mixed into the purple thus suggesting the metamorphosis.

Another important influence in this work was the fractals. The echo of those digital repetitive images stretched in chains, spirals, circles, etc., is obvious in the kaleidoscopic repetitive details of the painting.

The picture itself is far from being a landscape or a group portrait: it rather resembles a religious icon or a heraldic statement. It starts in the center and develops as a burst rather than in a linear sequence. The initial action produced a number of concentric circles tending to continue infinitely. To stop that development and finish the “story” the elliptic line of the creatures was created around the edges of the canvas.

Of course, the world surrounding us was another inevitable influence. If one sees a bit of craziness or even madness in this painting it is simple because it reflects the things happening to us at this time and there’s nothing new about it; it happened before and many paintings from the past are the witnesses. Only this time it is the turn on the insects to tell the story similar to those already told, among others, by Bosch, Brueghel, Goya or the Dada.

 

Starwalker – A Postcard To Buffy Sainte-Marie

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Oil painting on canvas, dimensions 40″ x 30” (102 x 76 cm), 2015

It was in the late 60’s when I first heard of Buffy. I lived in Europe then; the world was much bigger than it’s now and the U.S. were quite far away from Europe. Yes, the people who were interested in popular music would find ways of knowing what was happening overseas, but many times it was not a first hand info that would reach us. That was exactly how Buffy Sainte-Marie’s name came to my world. Namely, Donovan Leitch (then a very popular folk musician from Scotland) had an album titled “Universal Soldier” on which he performed the song with the same title. Of course, it was Buffy’s song and her name was on the cover. Hello Buffy! Later I learned of more of her songs, and then the movie “Soldier Blue” came to our big screens…I ended up living in America and having a bunch of Buffy’s records and learning more about her – about her life, her activism on behalf of Native American peoples, about the years when she was banned from the radio without even being aware of the fact, about her very positive personality and great optimism. I watched her interviews and performances (it’s so easy nowadays with the Internet etc.) … The thing that surprised me the most was the fact that she was one of the earliest digital visual artists. Obviously she is a great person deserving a full admiration , but also I felt that in many ways we were very similar to each other, and because of that I was able to understand many aspects of her life and her art. Also, we are on the same side of many important issues. Having all this in mind I started playing with an idea of painting a picture as a homage to her. Some two years ago I started working on the idea. There was a good deal of thinking and sketching both on the paper and computer. One thing I was sure I wanted was Buffy in the center of the picture and riding a bison. There were several color options for the animal: white as an albino, pink and finally sky blue – in every option it would be a symbol rather than a real animal. There was an option of a wolf following the rider and a tepee flying in the sky above her head. What I couldn’t decide was what to take as the background. That was an issue that kept me spinning in circles for about a year’s time. I was still coping with the problem when a year ago came an invitation for participation in the Musorgsky project. It was a good news. I needed a break. I needed to work on something completely different. Filled with energy I painted my ‘Baba Yaga” and “The Great Gate of Kiev” in four months, creating also tens of very useful digital versions of “The Gate”. After the Lourdes show – in the late March – I returned to my previous project. This time I knew what I exactly wanted: the background (physical and symbolic) will be the Aztec calendar slightly changed for the purpose of the painting. The calendar is also a Sun disc shining with the white and yellow light in the central part. Instead of the head of the bloodthirsty god Tonatiuh I placed Buffy’s smiling face shining in the very center of the disc and the picture as well. In her right hand she holds a bow – a weapon that she transformed into a musical instrument – a music harp. The Sun is opposed by the moon (another heavenly body important to the Natives Americans) in somewhat cooler tones but still with colors matching those of the disc. Here comes the idea of the Starwalker (another great Buffy’s song, by the way): she is among the cosmic bodies riding a sky blue bison that is standing on the image of a stylized star. The Sun and Moon are packed with the Aztec’s imagery (it took some time to study their ingenious way of stylizing things) and there was still a considerable empty space left (another background). With so many details on the Sun disc  I needed a neutral background that would bring forward the disc, the Moon and Buffy on the bison. That’s why I used the gray and black color and also a quite simple pattern of vertical lines. These gray, black, blue and red lines are representing the sky(s) and are also illuminated and executed in the manner of producing the waves moving from the sides toward the center pushing the central figures even more forward. The waving lines can also represent the sound waves (of music) moving from the center to the sides of the image.

Great Gate of Kiev

The Great of Kiev“Great Gate of Kiev”, oil on canvas, 24” x 30” (61 cm x 76 cm)

 

Together with “Baba Yaga” this painting is an illustration for a movement of the famous “Pictures at an Exhibition” (composed by Modest Musorgsky after seeing his friend Victor Hartmann’s art exhibition). My painting was inspired primarily by the work of the painter rather than the musician, although the music had played its part too. From Hartmann I took the idea of creating an architectural object isolated on an almost empty square. Golden colored beehive shaped cupolas resembling traditional helmets worn by the medieval warriors were also taken from the Hartman’s work.

At that point I made a radical turn toward my own vision of the building that was actually an axis to which I started adding other details. As working on the picture I kept thinking about the city itself: it’s old glory and the calamities of more recent times. The flashes of old history were engulfing my imagination; old gold plated icons painted on the wood, the names of the rulers such as Vladimir the Great and Jaroslav the Wise (represented by their coats of arms), the Slavs, the Vikings and the Byzantines, balalaikas, the arches of the helmets superimposed to the smaller ones resembling the order of the famous babushki toys, archangel Michael as the patron and protector of the city, olive (?) branches on the towers, the bells …

The painting took the form of an icon painted on wooden panel, scratched on the sides. I also decided to use the same colors as used in “Baba Yaga” – another challenge for me (and, possibly the viewer) – the primal triad of the purple, yellow and blue with the further addition the red, orange, green, brown and white (gray). The only color used in the first mentioned picture and not being used in the “Gate” was the pink color of the reflection of the banana-moon in the pond (There is an anecdotal non essential explanation for the exception).

The fact that Hartmann’s idea of the gate was never realized gave me the freedom to build my own building that never existed anywhere except on my canvas. To achieve that effect I decided to avoid the use of any existing architectural elements (beehive looking cupolas, the arches that never became gothic, umbrella- liked roofs (associated with that of Baba Yaga’s), etc combined with the magic of children’s picture books mixed with the realistic details spread all around. The purple color of the towers suggests that they are not from the real world.

Many of the details have rather complex meanings and symbolizing variety of things …

Finally, I wanted to make a statement about the recent events in the city and the area (suggested with the turbulent sky as the background –which patterns can also associate with the famous decorations of the Easter eggs from that part of the world). Despite of the use of many patriotic Ukarainian – Russian elements I was resolute not to have any political allusions, and rather than that I put all my hopes to the dancing couple who look like members of intellectual middle class symbolizing wisdom and humanism; their clothes’ colors match those of the city’s defender the archangel Michael and the towers’ bells and they dance on the chessboard looking empty square …