Alex Kanevsky: Fin de Siècle
Nov 3 — Dec 1, 2018
Check gallery website for hours and additional info
Kanevsky is adamant that paintings can never be described by words because their language is fundamentally visual and not verbal. To him, paintings are not expressions of pre-conceived notions, ideas, or even thought processes; in fact, he believes that they resist any conceptualization—but what then is Kanevsky’s work about? If it is neither representational nor narrative nor symbolic, what is it that drives his vision?
In Kanevsky’s paintings the subject and the background often blur and melt into each other; bodies appear fractured, partially formed, either obscured by a flurry of colors or dissolving into darkness; the landscapes expand limitless and even in scenes that seem to take place inside, the visual field is undivided, open-ended as if confined by the borders of the canvas rather than structured by the order of things inside. It’s a world in which light, color, and movement almost always take precedent over form and shape.
We are looking at a world in which the raw sense data are not yet fully filtered and formatted through the concepts of our language, where we look at the things the way we actually see them rather at what our idea of them is. It’s a world in which the sensual is on the verge of just becoming conscious.
This becoming is a fluid, amorphous process. Sometimes a figure is nearly fully formed, sometimes we can only sense it, and sometimes we see it in various stages of taking shape. This fluidity and amorphousness injects a sense of mystery into the paintings, but more importantly: it engenders a breathtaking sense of possibility. Often, we don’t know if a shape or a color is about to fade into the background or emerging from it, whether it will become water, sky or light, become a body or maybe several bodies. Kanevsky’s is a world in which the sensual still holds a multitude of possibilities, and we are witnesses to the act of becoming.
Visual language, Kanevsky says, is odd; it has no set rules or grammar, and almost nobody speaks it completely fluently. Yet, its effect on us is powerful. Similar to music, visual language can reach into a realm that is infinitely subtle and supple, that is capable of expressing emotional climates, sense perceptions and vague notions, a realm that can capture and render everything which affects us so profoundly precisely because it eludes definition.
In rare cases, Kanevsky asserts, the visual language speaks with an exquisite crystalline clarity, it allows for the kind of opening that can only emerge when we are completely free and unencumbered by conventional rules. Kanevsky’s artistic struggle, hence, is “to find clarity,” to go beyond what we think we see to how it really appears to us, to remove the layers and layers of conceptualization that are preventing us from seeing. It’s been called the fundamental task of human kind ‘to give names to things’; Kanevsky artistic aim is to go back beyond the names to the things the way they feel and appear before our perception has been splintered and fractured.
Alex Kanevksy was born in 1963 in Russia. As a teenager he moved with his family to Lithuania where he studied theoretical mathematics at Vilnius University. In the early 80’, he moved to the US and eventually studied painting at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts.
His background left him with one foot in the Russian and Eastern European tradition and the other the American lineage – none, however, too firmly planted. His work, he says, is influenced by a wide range of artists, writers, composers, potters, and filmmakers from Velasquez to Joseph Beuys, from James Joyce to Cormac McCarthy, Tarkovsky to Kaurismäki.
Kanevsky had over 20 solo exhibitions and won more than a dozen awards for his work. He has been widely written about across the art world; in 2016, the DCG publication “Alex Kanevsky” won the Independent Publisher Book Award.