Like poetry, meaning in painting occurs somewhere between what is invented and what is invited. This is the point where the mind can be still.
These paintings were created through contemplation and play. These paintings are evocative places I have experienced in the past. They inhabit my dreams. They infiltrate my imagination.
In nature, monumental landscapes are capable of healing — of balancing our minds. This body of work honours the pleasure of seeing and the sacredness of place.
My understanding of space has been greatly influenced by the serene prairie landscape — my primary visual experience as a child growing up in rural Saskatchewan.
The content of these paintings is not meant specifically as landscape. They are not representations or descriptions of specific places. They are reminiscent of experiences of place. The imagery is born of a number of influences and cumulative explorations . The prairie landscape — the way the big sky touches the endless flats — has become for me a metaphor for the interplay between our inner being and the physical, outer world. These paintings suggest place rather than particular sites or locations.
Nature is referenced in its changeless moods and shifts, its movement and stillness- the calm and the restless. There is movement of water, flux of weather and a complex layering of air, atmosphere and light.
There are positive and negative voids. There are moments of translucency and solid texturing. Perspective is found above and below. Layers of colour are hidden, and then made visible.
I struggle to arrive at a sense of place that is evoked through relationships rather than descriptions.
For me, painting is a process that is both formal and intuitive. The perspective or viewpoint in the paintings is often from above. The eye is in a state of endless flight, moving forever through the space. Sometimes the eye focuses on a magnetic center or at the interval between two worlds. The dividing line — which many consider to be the horizon line — occurs in all the works. It serves to simultaneously unite and divide the composition. Tension and energy are held along the dividing line, giving the painting both vitality and stillness. It has been said that, ‘the more deeply a thing is engaged in the immeasurable, the more deeply lasting is its value’. This group of paintings are representations of the immeasurable.
I began painting when I was — years old. Over that time, my work has been primarily influenced by the work of — J.M.W. Turner, Mark Rothko, Agnes Martin, Antoni Tapies , and Otto Rogers. I have learned about paint, color, light and composition from these artists. What draws me to these great artists is their dedication to evocative metaphors, rather than literal descriptions. They invite rather than prescribe. The concrete and the ambiguous are allowed to occur simultaneously in time and space. That moment when intuition intersects with a lifetime of knowledge — this is what fuels my painting.
It is my hope that each of these paintings become an evocative place that explores the sacredness of place. This grouping of paintings are explorations in the immeasurable world between matter, and spirit. As such they mirror or reflect how two worlds interface and express a myriad of the vibrations between.
The continuous and infinite exchanges between matter and spirit are an extraordinary experience of living. It is this exchange in all its complexities that I have strived to reflect in these paintings. I struggle to arrive at a sense of place that is evoked through relationships rather than descriptions. In painting, like all poetic expressions, meaning occurs somewhere between what is invented and what is invited. This is the point where the mind can be still. This sense of stillness elicits a sense of an Absent presence which is curious to me.
The point of stillness in each of these paintings is often the middle or horizon area. This area is given a great deal of reflection and consideration as it is the area that reflects back both the top and bottom. These often delicate soft exchanges are where one feels an absent presence, that feeling of stillness. In that interval between two worlds is where energy is balanced in the composition.
These paintings suggest place and explore the abstract ideas of; absence and presence, stillness and movement, above and below, dark and light. Nature is referenced in how sky meets the land or water, the changeless moods and shifts of atmosphere and light Natures’ movement and stillness- the calm and the restless.
My understanding of space has been greatly influenced by the serene prairie landscape - my primary visual experience as a child growing up in rural Saskatchewan. Although these paintings are not representations or descriptions of specific places, they are reminiscent of experiences of place. The imagery is born of the interplay between our inner being and the physical, outer world. This approach to painting has been a theme I have worked with now for 7 years. My earlier work was much more figuratve and I never set out to use nature, landscape or the horizon as a long term theme or metaphor. However I have discovered that it takes many years to refine an idea and explore it fully, just as it takes many years of working in acrylic paint to develop an appropriate language to express these ideas.
For me, painting is a process that is both formal and intuitive. I have always been interested in evocative metaphors and struggling to engage in some way the immeasurable. I want to invite rather than describe and play between the concrete and the ambiguous. This grouping of paintings are representations in some way of the immeasurable. It has been said that, ‘the more deeply a thing is engaged in the immeasurable, the more deeply lasting is its value’.
as told to sublimotion: Anton Marrast (Grape Frogg)
Anton Marrast - wider known as Grape Frogg - is a Russian illustrator. Unlike many visual artists who order their artistic thoughts from a visual understanding of things, Anton makes his art in a reverse process. He adds another dimension to what he sees - a dimension of an inner story narrated by restless women and plotted with formidable incidents. Anton is more immersed in the world of literature than in the solid reality of his home city, Moscow. This is where he created illustrations based on Madame Bovary for American Playboy and presently works on images inspired by Gabriel García Márquez. Irrespectively of his critical imagination and intelligent heart, he remains a straightforward guy. In our conversation, Anton sums up some facts about his art.
"…I don’t think I have any fixed subjects… or maybe it’s women, naked women…"
sm: Anton, when and how did you start making illustrations? AV: Not so long ago, actually. I started by making collage wallpapers for my friends and myself about 12 years ago. It was really far from my current style. I used to make wallpapers with Catherine Deneuve (my favorite actress), some supermodels. Looking back, it was weird, huh. One day I realized that I wanted to make something special, without using any stock photos, clipart and so on. I started to make pictures based on my own photos, or without any photos… most of them still in wallpaper format. So, if we say that illustration is a picture that tells us a story, many old pictures of mine can do that, although there are some that don’t say anything. Compared to my old creations, what I do now is something different. It better represents my style, my thoughts.
sm: I’d love to see one of your Catherine Deneuves! AV: Okay, here’s one of them! I made it 10 years ago.
sm: How do you create, what is your process from inspiration to creation? AV: Most of my pictures were created from a lack of ideas. That’s why many of them are so absurd. I used to stare for a few hours at a photo with one lonely thought in my head: “I need to do something with this”. It’s a reverse process – I have a picture first, than I try to do something interesting with it. The idea for a picture can be found in the middle of the process, or at the very end of it. Although, some of my illustrations really do have main ideas that came before I started working on them.
With commercial illustrations, there is a more logical process. First I have an idea, then comes a sketch part, and the rest is based on all this.
sm: While harsh at times, Moscow is one of those naturally magical cities. What is life in Moscow for an artist like yourself? How does your imagined world correlate with the real world around you?
AV: It doesn’t, huh. No, actually many of my pictures show some fictional, imaginary things, surrounded by reality, mixed with reality, photographed real world. Some of my pics show creatures, objects in impossible, weird situations… I just love to think about some fictional, surrealistic meaning of everything that surrounds me. Oh yes, Moscow is really one of the most magical cities to me. I have some pics based on photos I made on the streets of Moscow (like “I Could Not Imagine”, “Somnambule” or “Flying Giant”), but there’s no special place in my art for this city. It really inspires me – walking around the streets, but I must say that, since I live here in Moscow, it’s just the closest place that can provide some inspiration. There are many creative people here, but I prefer stay out of art communities, events or performances. I just do not depend on Moscow. It could be any other city for me.
sm: Russian constructivism has inspired Western illustrators for years and I observe that its popularity reaches its peak sometime around now. You obviously stay away from your homeboy style. What is your favourite style? AV: Well, I don’t have it. I really love experiments. If I have an idea, I start to think about the style that will represent it best. However, a few of my last works can be identified by style. And it’s only because of the recognition factor - I just want people to recognize me by my art.
sm: What is the one thing that influences you most in your life and work? What are your subjects? AV: Feelings and emotions. Strong emotions and feelings, no matter good or bad. If I have a strong emotion, it will become a picture most of the time.
I don’t think I have any fixed subjects… or maybe it’s women, naked women, haha. Seriously, woman is my favorite character.
sm: Naked Catherine Deneuves on the meta-physical level… I wonder what your works stand for? AV: My wish to bring out the feelings, emotions hidden in my work.
sm: What are you working on right now? AV: Right now I’m working on a set of illustrations based on some works by G. G. Márquez. Which ones? It’s a secret, huh.
"It would be en error to consider my photographs within the context of the values now fashionable in the arts in general and photography in particular. To align them with such and such a trend, without taking into account that the very purpose of their existence is defined by the past. Even the most factual of them are not reportage, but a novel. The principal motivation for their creation is, in fact, always the same: Russia’s history throughout the 20th century, which is an unending series of tragedies of ever more baffling dimensions, whether you consider the wars, the famines or the so-called times of peace. The history of Russia… but in the form of rather contemporary images, made in a single location, a single city – St. Petersburg. Rather than the city (which is mostly only vaguely visible), these images represent emotion - the range of emotions forming the deep inner character of the people who lived in this country and endured all these disasters, people who were usually only represented from outside. And it is therefore these emotions which, in themselves, are quite general and have remained unchanged in the course of the century, like the emotions aroused by the music of Shostakovich, for example, or by the novels of Solzhenitsyn, which are the true subject of my photographs, and my goal would be to convey them to the viewer, to make him or her understand, to feel compassion and love."
Titarenko was able to develop a form of expression reminiscent of Dostoyevsky’s stories, inspired by the moods and rhythms of the music of Shostakovich. Often, the city, veiled in winter’s shadows or bright with summer’s dazzle, is inhabited by nearly transparent phantoms. They dwell in its streets, cross its courtyards: crowds on the move, spreading over a vast square like a wave, their individual identities blurred and indistinct. Nevertheless, sometimes a few isolated, improbable figures emerge from the crowd. This photographic technique, involving relatively slow shutter speeds, confirms a taste for randomness and makes each image a unique adventure, a potential source of surprise. The approach also bespeaks Titarenko’s long-standing interest in 19th-century landscape photographers, especially those who operated in cities. In addition to this style of representation, which eschews any temptation to be objective and is finally quite impressionistic, the darkroom technique Titarenko uses transforms the black-and-white print into a composition endowed with subtle, suggestive hues and ever-differing nuances of gray. Titarenko never reproduces exactly the same rendering of light and shadow from one print to the next.
Alexey Titarenko photographs can be found in the collections of such museums as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia (PA); the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (TX); the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (MA); the Museum of Fine Arts in Columbus (OH); George Eastman House, Rochester (NY); Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego (CA); Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara (CA); Davis Museum, Wellesley (MA); Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk (VA); European House of Photography, Paris (France); Musee de l’Elysee, Lausanne (Switzerland); Reattu Museum, Arles (France), and in the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg (Russia).
The role for contemporary artists is to react and reflect upon life and the world around us. They may choose to celebrate form and beauty in figuration or abstraction, or perhaps to reflect on the social mores and politics of society. They may share with us a visual diary or preoccupation, coloured by their personal sensibility, or they may choose to express a sense of collective mind. Simultaneously they are creating a distinct artwork that has a unique voice and spirit, which will invite us to share their thoughts or narrative, whilst also exploring our own.
Gerry Judah’s paintings are a direct response to conflict across the globe, and the impact of that violence, whether it is the consequence of war or natural disaster. At the same time, he is fascinated by changing urban landscape, and his paintings explore the dynamic of construction and destruction. It is hard to look at his work without reflecting on conflict in the Middle East whether that be Afghanistan, Iraq or recent months in Gaza. There are also echoes of the devastation ensuing from climate change wrought by hurricanes, tsunamis, flooding and bushfires that remind us of New Orleans underwater, or the aftermath of the tsunami in the Asian Basin. Although on first inspection, Judah’s epic landscapes articulate global concerns for peace, he acknowledges the dangers of man’s impact on a finely balanced global ecology, and the decimation that unravels as we exploit the planet with an ever growing appetite.
Aesthetically, Judah composes a score that is made up of light and shadow. The fragility and delicacy of his work is at odds with the force and consequence of the concepts that drive him. Despite the darkness of his subject matter, he creates an explosion of light permeated with an ethereal quality reflecting the cadences and vortices of shattered architecture that we witness in daily media reports. His apocalyptic settlements constructed from scores of buildings, complete with internal structures, communications and water towers are fixed onto canvas, and then systematically destroyed. The ensuing rubble and detritus are scattered and fused onto a background of empty white canvas with layers of acrylic gesso to create silent ‘white on white’ abstract paintings.
Transcending issues of politics, race and culture, Judah creates an abstracted and disturbing aesthetic that is both mellifluous and pertinent, where the ‘presence of absence’ and loss is palpable, and we are confronted with the reality and urgency to seek solutions.