Text by Natalia Lazuka, art historian, the Contemporary Fine Art Museum, Minsk, Belarus
The Mirror. The City. The Soul.
"In this space the person interested can move along the marked and unmarked roads, through existent and nonexistent lands, diving to see the bottom under the water, bending forward to discern a blade of grass which has drawn the attention, rising on tiptoe to peer at a silent cloud... Here too the rivers once were drops, and roads - footpaths...". Goran Petrovic "Sky-Locked Atlas".
Art is an impartial mirror of time even when it artificially decks grey everyday life, plays with our phobias and low instincts or bathes in sugary aroma of kitsch. Our time and we are the poetisation of boredom and prosy cruelty, the philosophizing in a frantic attempt to understand at least something, melancholy, irony and pleasure at the same time.
It is an artificial mirror in which both reality and its author reflects - the one who him/herself is a fragment of the surrounding world and its basis. The inner world of the creator is a splinter of the great universal mirror.
But who says that we realize the creative work as a prism of the surrounding world? In reality it is hidden from us. After all the understanding is transference into another life. And is it possible to understand the thing which is not the own creation?
Our subjective vision is also a reality. We read works of the creator as a page from a diary, not knowing, what this or that described detail actually meant. We do not guess at all, and only seize something that seems common for us and connected with our own memories. This is how the work and its author become the mirror for us - the audience, connoisseurs and interpreters - multitude that gives rise to the world of the human reality.
Victoria Kovalenchikova's works are dedicated to the subject-matter of the city. Certainly, there are other topics in her creativity that are reflected in lyrical and rural landscapes, portraits and still lifes. However, the artist depicts the city with its quaint entwinements of building lines more often. Is the author's choice accidental? Of course, no. The language of architecture is plastic, multiple and filled with emotions. History and the contemporaneity, the essence of form and sense, an indissoluble connection of sensuality and functionality are interpreted in it.
The world of architecture is a reflection on the inside and from the outside. Inside of us there are apartments, rooms and corridors where we used to walk, to sneak noiselessly out on the street to play and to rush to school. A scene from the window, a reflection of splashes in the sideboards' glasses, a groan of the door, smells. A great number of details that we remember and live with. Architecture from the outside of us is streets we used to go along in summer, a footpath through a garden, straight on, a habitual route to the work place and a favourite meeting place. The city's architecture is our soul's mirror. And its mirror. Looking at this world, the world of paintings by Victoria Kovalenchikova is seen as a reflection of her own memory and reminiscences, i.e. sounds and movements, feelings and ideas. This is what the author lives with, the way she sees and feels.
This is how memory's canvas is woven. Not from newspaper cuttings, scraps of articles or journalistic news. Every canvas of Victoria Kovalenchikova is an emotion stiffened suddenly as if condensed air bound by an indivisible sigh.
The title of Victoria Kovalenchikova's latest exhibition, City Rhythms, is not casual. It is a series of picturesque works where one can perceive the true, not imposed rhythm of the city in a silent contemplation of the streets' measured steps. Architecture in her works becomes a universal basis that is ready to accept any mood, idea or its echo. Architecture is understood as the world's divine fundamental principle. And the first line, the precise line of a building, in the artist's canvas turns into a beginning of the universe, it fastens and connects the whole narration. Architecture is postulated as a basis of our material and thing world. However, it is adorned by ideas, desires, feelings: and memory.
"The city's larger half will disappear, the same half will appear, and then they will disappear as well, the next one appears, then disappears. Houses, long rows of houses, streets, miles of roadways, heaps of bricks and stones. Changing hands. One owner, another one: Pyramids in the sands. Built on bread with onions. Slaves built the Chinese Wall. Babylon. Huge blocks left. Round towers. Everything else is dust, inflated suburbs of an early construction. Quirvan's houses of cards where the wind searches. Only a night shelter. Anyone is nothing". James Joyce, Ulysses.
This is how memory's canvas is woven: In her canvases, Victoria Kovalenchikova does not play crafty with laconism of separate details, does not make certain signs of them. She paints a situation: general, integral and full. It is not a greased, as if a dim print, photo through the glass where a muddy outline of buildings is only seen, either. The artist's architecture is a hull, basic lines for a rave of paints and shades. As if a stone, natural in its bends, is framed by a strict skeleton of silver.
The city flows by Victoria Kovalenchikova's brush: her colour scale is deep and rich. Smooth and viscous as caramel, it can be tasted, savoured and tried. Slightly muffled, thin and accurate in the shades' transitions, her colour is various, containing a whole spectrum, a whole scale of emotions, without a loud opposition, without stiffness and a new-fangled hysteria of colour. Her colour reflects a condition of rest: in the twilight of a day, when the sun has impregnated the houses' walls, having filled them with an unforgettable sensation of luxury and heat. As if a lace of the sea foam, a light white veil of sputtering suddenly gives rise to a feeling of Christmas pleasure, virgin-snow cleanliness and youth. Victoria Kovalenchikova's city is young, it is full of a vital force and energy. And all-sufficient. The city and its architecture are dimensioned and strong, its emotions are more complex, intense and precise than those of people which are sprayed like a fog of senses. The city is eternal. In its history, a human being is ephemeral in spite of the fact that his hands have created magnificence of marble, stone and metal. This is how the human sea grinds the rocks of the cities' strongholds for centuries. And through their existence, people receive their pass in history. This is how they speak the language of creativity through the centuries, overcoming the borders of time, to themselves. The humankind can only live by creating in an infinity of self-knowledge of their way and applicability.
What does the city mean for Victoria Kovalenchikova? It is the artist's mirror where her essence is reflected impartially. The city is she herself and her attitude to herself. Architecture for her is a notebook or, more exactly, a cabinet of curiosities in which her memory is stored. Memory is like a reflection of the most valuable for a person when the artist's creation opens to a spectator as a variant of a self-reflection.
"An open art work is not an illustration to described reality but its reproduction in its own structure realized in an act of communication of the art work with an audience. "The art work's structure" turns into the cosmos's mirror: The universe we try to learn (or at least to offer comprehensible interpretations) is nothing but a "transcendental form of language". Umberto Eko, Interpretations' Paradoxes.
However pompously it may sound, with the help
of the canvases' eyes, the artist looks at the unearthly things incomprehensible
by people's logic and accounting machine. Victoria Kovalenchikova opens a
picture of the world in her own picture of the city built of multitude of
memory's artefacts - subjects and connections between them, events and
associations that they create. And the artist's each canvas is a fragment of a
uniform outlook at the world. Probably therefore she does not give any
ethnographic reference points that could precisely refer us to certain
associations. Still, we do know the artist's city. And the spectator tries to
solve these tangles of the building lines. The city and its architecture tells
us, just a moment and you shall recognize a familiar lane, a tense string of a
highway and a noisy crossroad. It seems that we have already seen it,
recognized it and remembered it. The building, street, its turn, these roofs,
ladders, windows. However, memory's small knot slips out of our hands. Where
are you, memory? What have I seen here? And a lonely figure only smiles
mysteriously on the background of the warm squares of the buildings filled with
the sunset light.
Text by Natalia Lazuka,
art historian, the Contemporary Fine Art Museum, Minsk, Belarus