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Irises in Spring | Interlude of Ambiguity | Irises and Pears | Thumbnail Gallery
Art of Maria Kazanskaya
Though the official title of the work is "Flowers on an embroidered cloth" - the original title is more evocative - "Irises in Spring".
There is no such thing as a purely abstract thought - before there is any stimulus to the brain it is a sack of disconnected nerve cells, a bag of differentiated protoplasm. It is because of stimulus that the connections between these cells form, they signal outwards to each other chemically to join together. These signals cause them to form webs of connections, which under further stimulus are strengthened or weakened, their powers heightened or destroyed. But there is no such thing as a purely concrete thought either - everything that we deal with, whether it is sight or sound or language or anything else is really an inside the mind symbol for the thing itself - and the terms we experience are not the true symbols - but symbols of symbols.
It is for this reason that paintings which use as their symbology the depiction of reality are most invasive - why they stab inward - because they appeal to the mechanisms which an individual is made out of - the interconnections created to deal with stimulus, to symbolise it, to manipulate it and to ultimately be able to reply to and interact with. But ultimately one cannot interact with a painting. The most invasive of abstract paintings are those whose abstraction mimics that of the outside world - so that the patterns seen on the canvas have advocates in the mind itself - arguing for its coherency and reality. To have power without appeal to these mechanisms - the abstract must then avoid any trace of the outside - it must display its unrealness completely. This is why abstract expressionism's obsession with flatness was inevitable - to eliminate the feature of human vision which is most deeply embedded in it - the perception of depth. But this too means that the form of the abstract painting is dictated by our symbolizing of the real - because it must avoid being any trace of the real as rigorously as the salon painter attempts to conceal any trace of artifice.
One one hand - the real is a symbolic act, and on the other hand the symbolic is a real act.
Any painting therefore must intertwine its use of depiction and abstraction. I say intertwine because "balance" is to simplistic a word - how an artist uses these two forces is important as their proportions. The form of the intertwining is what creates the symbology of the image, symbols are not arbitrary they either repeal or repel the forms of the mind, the only real control the artist has in success is in remaking the means by which these forms are remembered, associated and connected, or to endow a form with the aspect of reality by a combination of these.
In the above detail from Irises the most obvious point of tension between depiction and abstraction intertwined is the use of the leaves in the folds of the cloth. Again these are not actual objects - they do not mimic the behaviour of leaves placed below the cloth. Instead they are probably the embroidery mentioned in the title, and yet the ethereal brush strokes are not those of sewing, the flashes of green give them a reality that embroidery does not posses.
They are clearly not leaves of the irises, but of fruit leaves, such as one would find on pear trees, the strength of their repetition, their placement and the sharpness on a canvas dominated by draped lines means that this symbolic/real intertwining is an important motif - it is neither accidental, nor subsidiary to, the image. There is therefore a consistency to the world created by the painting. Real objects create a halo around them - high up in the painting the embroidered leaves are ghostly, but near real objects they take on characteristics of the real.
The consistency is shown by the small brass pitcher - note the clear reflection of two people - I would guess the artist and her husband. That the moment depicted is not the artist painting the actual scene is another break from tradition. Normally when we see the artist looking at a scene - we see the artist involved in the act of creating it. When we see the artist in a scene we normally they are looking back outwards at the viewer. Here the artist is included, but it is artist as detail.
The pitcher makes everything reflected in it pear shaped - again we meet self-similarity in the painting. This is important - because the world of the painting has its own substance and meaning.
Because this is so, real ambiguity is possible in her paintings. Let me take a simple example from this painting. One one of the pears shown here, there seems to be a face, the face of a woman who looks outward - is it put there intentionally, in imitation of the pitcher - or is it just happenstance of the brush work? Because the world of the painting is sufficiently rich - this ambiguity is possible - there are clearly layers of detail which are not intended to be images - however they exist and are sufficiently complex that the artist could have reached out and made this detail intentionally - or not. Since there is a self-logic to the whole of the painting is strong enough - and contains both details of the brush work which are images and details which are not but have the same aspect and are created by the same means, this ambiguity is possible.
For a moment let us return to the previous painting - and the ambiguity effect of the wall.
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Art of Maria Kazanskaya