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Dirty Flowers

By Boris Bernstein

Maria was brought up as an artist in the spirit of broadly understood realism and has more or less stayed faithful to its basics. She applies dyes to the surface of paper or canvas in such a way as to create some illusion of reality. In this sense she remains in thrall to the classical antinomy of painting. A painting, while a representation of something else, something which it itself is not, is at the same time an autonomous "object for viewing," organized and crafted by the artist, possessing its own value and interest. These two fundamental properties contradict each other. A painting wants to be a representation and does not want to be a representation; in declaring its own presence in the world it defies the secondary, sacrificial role of a replacement for extra-pictorial things. This paradoxical unity is present independent of style or genre, whether in an illusionistic Dutch "luncheon" or in an odalisque by Matisse. But the nearly trompe-l'oeil old Dutch still life is significantly different from the the 20th-century classic's nue in how they balance the tension between representing (depicting, simulating) and being.

Here we approach the crux of the matter. Maria Kazanskaya has her own strategies for maneuvering between the two poles. Reality remains an essential and ever-present beginning for her -- a beginning and a founding principle. Then, when it has been artistically experienced and assimilated, Maria subjects it to an intricate painterly sublimation. The very process of ascending to the tense duality of the image is sometimes documented in series of paintings devoted to the same subject.