Stella Art Foundation presents the third part of an “exhibition triptych” by Alyona Kirtsova. The first two shows were “Colour Guide” (2006/2007) and “North” (2010). The logic of the relationship between the project parts is exhaustively designated by the artist in the first lines of her verse-text for the present exhibition: “Colour has meant excitement since childhood / But more recently: the more restrained, the more captivating it is”. We begin with almost the entire colour spectrum, its systematised completeness. Then there is a sharp and demonstrative compression of both the geographical horizon (north) and the formal horizon (from “realistic” representation and object to their minimally abstract matrix). And finally, now, “Grayscale”: the final statement, extremely restrained, with any excess stripped away. Stages of the intensity of light, that conceals inside itself the sum of all colours.
Alyona Kirtsova is one of the most serious and subtle Moscow masters of abstract art. A pupil of the legendary artist Vasily Sitnikov (1915-1987), she began her artistic career in the mid-1970s underground circle. Progressing from figurative to abstract, Kirtsova has maintained an internal consistency in her creativity down the years.
“Colour has meant excitement since childhood.
But more recently: the more restrained, the more captivating it is.
With advancing age there is nothing more valuable to the eye than dust, the feathers of city pigeons, silver and ash.
And white: moths fly / hurl themselves into the abyss of a lamp at the country cottage.
And black, a pulsating family origin.
The severity and clarity of gray: the absence of melodrama.
“Shades of gray ranging from white to black are called achromatic — in the Greek that literally means “colourless”. In optics achromatic colour is not the absence of colour, but colour devoid of specific spectral tone. Tables of gray shades are used in technical photography and for computer settings. The so-called “grayscale” the table of brightness of white, distinguishes 256 shades, with 8 bits of information for each pixel. By providing a “real” half-tone (grayscale) image, black-and-white photos and film were the only documentary means of transmitting and receiving information about the surrounding world for many people for more than a hundred years. Nowadays black-and-white photography and cinema are mainly used for artistic purposes.
“Achromatic colour painting is called grisaille and was aleady used in Roman frescoes. Giotto, Rembrandt and Bosch used it, and Guernica was alaso painted in achromatic. Grisaille is often used as an academic exercise in early classes at art school. It has also been frequently used to depict the stone architectural elements of buildings and monumental sculpture.
“In her third exhibition at Stella Art, Alyona Kirtsova uses grisaille technique for a series of landscape vistas reduced to the concision of a Suprematist formula. The exhibition is in the form of a set of laconic achromatic rhymes, encoding various experiences of an infinite landscape. Kirtsova calls the series and the entire show “Grayscale”, introducing a sort of graded table, painted using a palette knife and oil on canvas, into this imagined distance. The coloured horizontal stripes in her Landscapes — familiar to the viewer and significant to the artist — are completely desaturated, denuded of spectral brightness, so that they become “colourless”. This transition does not impoverish the painting, but, on the contrary, brings it to monumental expression where the picture acquires lapidary (Latin — “cut in stone”) qualities. Holes — a series within a series, white, gray and black concentric squares — switch the viewer’s gaze from the horizon line to space, where there is only light, and darkness engulfing it. Plain and simple. Like an epitaph.”
Alyona Kirtsova was born in 1954 in the village of Barentsburg (Spitsbergen Island). In 1973-1975 she studied painting in Moscow at the private school of the underground artist, Vasily Sitnikov. In 1986-1987 she was among the founding members of the Hermitage artists’ association in Moscow. In 1993 she co-founded the Utopia Foundation in Moscow. She lives and works in Moscow.