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Alexander Borovsky "EKATERINA VORONA’S WORLD OF WATER"

30.07.2016

Contemporary art does not have strict genre boundaries. It is difficult to find artists who stick to their specialization, like, say, historical painters, landscapists, and, certainly, marine artists. There is the opinion that genre divisions are archaic, referring simultaneously to ancient guild origins, the imperial classicalization of the hierarchy of genres, and the bourgeois reproduction of art as a product of class consumption. These references depend on, of course, the ideological orientation of art critics and historians. Some profess a phenomenological approach, and others reactualize Neo-Marxism, and the third group prefers the structural method. But as a whole, genre is regarded by contemporary art as a rather uncomfortable burden. Is this fair? Of course, it would be a pity, even unproductive, to take methods of analysis that have been tried and tested for centuries and put them aside, at the very least a category like genre memory, which played such an importation role in the understanding of art in the last quarter of the last century. But as a whole, such an approach is fair. In this approach, the logic of the development of contemporary art, which breaks all barriers, including genre, is so that man in the world can be represented completely. Indeed, no matter how mindful, say, German landscape Anselm Kiefer was during his Odenwald period (right up the inclusion of the texture of straw, leaves, and even dirt for authentic effect), few would think of calling him a landscapist. In his Lepanto series, Cy Twombly, to some extent, reproduces the position of naval forces and the topography of the famous naval battle in the Gulf of Patras that ended Turkish rule in the Mediterranean, but your tongue would not allow you to call his large gestural ab- stractions marine works. Not long ago, the staff of the Tretyakov Gallery showed an exhibition to the famous sculptor Anish Kapoor, the artist behind monumental, optically active sculptural volumes that reflect the surrounding environment. The artist stopped before Aivazovsky: “God, this is what I strive to do... It’s metaphysics.” That is how it is. In contemporary art, landscape, including sea landscapes, appears in various contexts: metaphysical, mythological, phenomenological, culturo-anthropological and so on. Others would argue with me that it has almost always been this way, since the early Romantic period. In Caspar David Friedrich’s or Turner’s landscapes, do metaphysics not triumph over “physics” — mimesis, recreation, reflection? That is how Alexander Benois wrote about Turner, whom he called the “greatest of the Romantics”: “He has a wide berth and hovers over it.” Yes, it is from Romanticism right up to Modernism in landscape that the demiurgic complex has triumphed: a complex of domination and levitation, and also the transformation (reformation) of the landscape in accordance with the creator’s own “dictate and volition.” Contemporary art (the line of it that has an interest in nature, relatively speaking) “remembers” (the genre memory remains as a phantom) this great demiurgic cosmic breakthrough. But reflections in the further development of landscape (with all understandings of the conditions of this term, requiring the most expansive interpretation) bring us to a conclusion: a return — naturally, at a new stage of development — to the unmediated, relatively speaking, natural. No, the meta- physical resource of the landscape (more so the relationship with the natural) is far from depleted. But interest is rising in what Michel Foucault defined as “physicality.” These lines of reasoning arose in me when I was introduced to Ekaterina Vorona’s work... The meeting was relatively unexpected, and this allowed me to retain an element of impartiality. If I had come across her work at exhibitions, the effect would have been different. And so, without a “relationship history,” Ekaterina Vorona’s images of the world of water — enormous, hammering away at one point, tightening in on itself as if in a funnel, driving the viewer due to the constraints of the material into an almost tactile juxtaposition — were perceived as a whole, like a phenomenon of sorts. There is a lot mixed into them, including reminiscences of a genre and stylistic character — symbolism, for ex- ample. But the main thing is the almost physical sensation of the establishment of some kind of the relationship with the natural. I am not sure that it has been reflected upon. It is almost certainly not verbalized. But it is conclusive in its immediacy and empirical nature, and one has lived through their relationship to nature. Indeed, it is as if Ekaterina Vorona appeared out of nowhere. But no, she has had a completely professional career in terms of her artistic education, exhibition history, and representation in collections, including those of museums. The fact is, in contemporary practice, there is a certain typology of entry into art defined by institutions, hierarchies, and cu- ratorial strategies. No surprises can be observed. Vorona is independent, outside of the system, and outside of the es- tablishment. Thus, the meeting was intense and emotionally heavy. Vorona began with modest landscapes (Sunny Morning, 2001), which are nice as simple works done in a very unpretentious and personal style. A little more than ten years went into the development of her expressive potential. Vorona had become an artist on the scale that is interesting to a museum by the mid-2010s. She deliberately chooses her subject, medium, and scale: monumental canvases, from a meter to two meters, pastels as her material, and the world of water as the object and subject of self-expression. This decisiveness is curious and of itself. I already said above that the artist almost does not reflect on her point of view. I am also sure that this choice was likely intuitive. But it all turned out quite contemporary: pastel on canvas is a rare combination of media, especially since the composition stretches the canvas to a scale that further intensifies the approach. This is where the feeling of mediality, that is, the intentional selection of these expressive means as a media, comes from. Persistence, consistency, and repeatability (the subject of replication, the implementation of a kind of order of divisions is in and of itself characteristic for postmod- ernism). There is a clear difference from the contemporary typological art practice: she does have a strategy. The series are formed without a preconceived plan, and are quite spontaneous. The intermeshing of these things is achieved with an outlook on life: a complete picture of the world of water is achieved in all of its various states. It is as simple as that. So what remains to be stated is: Vorona comes into contact with what is considered contemporary in some of her fundamental ways. It seems that we are dealing with some kind of immediate, intimate version of contemporary art. Vorona works with oil pastels. This material is unique. It gives a viscous, homogenous texture, highlighting the gestural nature of the textural approach. The material also determines specific limitations: the strokes (of movement) may be impressionistic, but impressionist effects of the color and tone relationships are hard to achieve with this medium. Moreover, the medium itself includes a moment of transition from reflection to self-expression. A large surface is cov- ered with pastels in a specified time, that is, with the investment of time and purely tactile, manual energy. It is a time frame that does not allow for immediate responses, runaway impressions, and least of all pseudo-impressionistic reac- tions (Benois contemptuously called this reduced impressionism “quick amateur works”). Vorona’s world of water demanded the immersion of oneself, perhaps with no less force than diving outside of it, into the natural situation. Of course, in such things like Red and Gold, In Motion, Sparkle of the Carnival, in sea views with ar- chitectural elements (bridges, fountains), there are traces of a “subjective view of the visible world” (Benois). And in attempts to convey the motility (pace, rhythm) of the painting itself (strokes, the movement of the pastel crayon and shading using fingers), the dynamics of the space unfolding panoramically, the flowing twinkle of the water and the ripple of the sun they, of course, follow nature. They follow in their own way, with a certain thoroughness and excess corporeality that comes from the character of the material itself, pastels. But the natural impulse dominates, leading the way. In works of a different kind, however, at the center of the artist’s attention is longer the pursuit of an elusive condition. The principle of sequence itself replaces it. In this she, along with many Russian artists, is following the path of Monet during his “Cathedral” period: from quickly changing impressions to the painting’s own existence. Kazimir Malevich aptly remarked about this stage, “Monet put the entire emphasis on ensuring that he was growing the painting growing on the walls of the cathedral.” Using this metaphor, the artist “grows a painting” of the water’s surface. It is thick and layered. It emphasizes warm and cool colors and its swirls of color. Of course, the color surface retains certain natural connections. For example, in the works Between Two Worlds and Beads of Light Cast on the Water, the artist aims to convey the optical effect of bubbles on the water. Vorona, however, feels so freely in the painterly manner created by her own efforts that she easily turns away from natural optics in favor of the effects of the mytho-poetic plane. The haze is a metaphor for the condensation and materialization of the space of the panel painting that attracts the artist. Indeed, only the foreground is saturated; moreover, it actively works outwardly, as if demonstrating its readiness to burst out of the plane. This is aided by the “externalized,” tactilely tangible texture of the pastels. Saturation in our context is a sign of vitality. In Vorona’s paintings, indeed, there is a kind of inner life. It is important for her to show the succession of events: the birth of foam, whirlpools, sea vapor — and it is not about capturing an objectivized sense. I repeat, the movement of the painting is emancipated from the movement of the motif. This movement of form is in the depth and from the depth, to the surface, while this movement of form takes on a metaphorical dimension. Hence, the Gobelin tapestry-esque Summer Dream, the metaphor of lace in Rainbow, the biomorphic Skeleton of Water, and the spectacle of Golden Rainbow. In these works by Vorona, without a doubt, there is a contemporary version of symbolist approach. Grigory Sternin, speaking about symbolism, warned against attempts to decrypt and decode outright: “the mirage is the illusory nature of life itself,” and “Symbolism is a doubled world.” Speaking about Vorona’s works, I would also avoid using literary analogues and ekphrasis. It is enough to state that in Vorona’s optics, there is a symbolist lens. The concrete “sprouts” the mytho-poetic, and vice versa. This is where the suggestion of the artist’s images stems from — and their spellbinding effect on the audience.