Maria Kazanskaya

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The only goals I pursue in my work, and the only ideas I have, relate to the art of painting. My goals are beauty of form and painterly expression that measure up to the beauty and expression of the subject matter.

Painting is all about mood and brushwork. The mood is created by composition, light, color, and the plastic of drawing and brushstroke.

To produce the right effect, composition should be unusual and attractive. The way an object behaves in the rectangle of a canvas can itself tell a story -- whether the object is given space to breathe, or shoots across the diagonal, curls in a cozy ball, or pushes the boundaries of the frame, extends to the viewer, or wanes away. Composition of my paintings is rarely harmonious and peaceful; they are usually active and disturbing.

As for color, I always start with what appears to the eye and then give myself to the power of impression and associations caused by the subject. My goal is color that's deep, vibrant, clean, and vivid. In this respect, as in many others, I feel relation to French and Russian post-ipressionists and their contemporary heirs.

Brushwork. Oil painting is the single richest art technique. With oil one can create an illusion of watercolor, pastels, relief, charcoal or pencil drawing. However there's little reason for doing that. An oil painter should be true to the character of the paint and utilize all its capabilities. Transparent washes that allow the canvas to glow through, dashing brush strokes, impasto work with palette knife, and transparent glazes again all should be accessible to the viewer. Let the viewer know the artist trusts him to see through the layers of paint and discern the artist's quest for beauty, to see both the depicted subject and the live trace of brush -- all at once. One sweep with a large flat brush smears a color spot into a thin contour line, and we see both the organic stroke and the shape of a glass filled with water. What a connoiseur admires in a portrait by Goya is the master's brushwork, rather than the fine lace of the subject's collar.

Abstract expressionists learned that composition, color, and brushwork -- the beauty of the paint on the canvas -- can be valued for their own sakes. Contemporary "traditional" painters attempt to achieve photographic likeness (verisimilitude?) with fine strokes of small brushes. But it takes the highest mastery to produce an effortless, daring, lively image that can please the formalist with the abstract beauty of composition, color, and brushwork and add this enjoyment to the rich set of associations that the concrete subject creates in the viewer's mind.

A sophisticated viewer will reach beyond the basic content of a painting, an object seen through the artist's eyes. In the artist's approach to brushwork and to the subject, this viewer will read associations that link the work to another painting, a different artist or era. Such hidden quotations will enhance and enrich his experience but won't distract the viewer from the art of painting, as it commonly happens with postmodernist art, where quotation is textual (as opposed to painterly) and dominates everything else.

Brushstroke changing to an ornamental pattern, pattern changing to object, interplay between the brushwork and that which it is to represent, -- foliage, tablecloth, shimmering water, -- this game is addictive. Along with quotation and pure abstract, "formalist", fun with paint and canvas, this interplay is an excellent harmonizing device. With it, one can bind together various textures, shapes, and fabrics into one whole piece, attractive in a decorative way (like a rug or an abstract panel), but intricate and ambiguous.

In the endeavor to express a subject's character with color and stroke, it's impossible to limit oneself to a couple of stereotyped techniques or tricks. I paint from nature, and every time I try to find the artistic devices that are most fit to express my perception of the subject. Every painting is a quest, which is why they all are different, and I hope it will always be this way.