On November 24, 2022, an exhibition of Alisa Palavenis’ latest paintings was opened at the Ramovė of Vilnius crew officers, Vilnius, Lithuania. The title of the exhibition testifies that the author has tried different ways of artistic vision of the environment in her paintings. The artist’s paintings presented in the exhibition are a tribute to the 20th century. for the painting trends of the middle, ranging from Fauvist, and Purism painting to postmodernists.
The harmony of all these influences is revealed in the author’s work, first of all, in the color of pure shades inspired by the painting of Henri Matisse (1869–1954). H. Matisse said that in his paintings he depicts only what seems positive to him in the environment. This “positivity” meant that the painter filtered reality according to his vision, depicting an uncensored impression of the visual environment. This kind of vision manifested itself through sharpened color – every visible reflection of colored light became a rich experience for the painter.
This color influence is visible in A. Palavenis’ paintings “Île Sainte-Marguerite” (mixed media, 2019) and “Still Life#1” (oil on canvas, 2022). The image of the island located near Cannes in France has been transformed into the main essences – babbling water, all-encompassing greenery of eucalyptus, and hot sand.
The wild impression in the painting is conveyed by the quick painting style, in which there is no attempt to convey the realistic features of the place, but only its most significant values. For this, the sharpened color of emerald green, azure blue, and yellow colors is used, but the suggestion of strokes is also used. Greenery is rendered with energetic, boiling strokes, water with overflowing, volatile strokes, and sand with “loose” strokes. The composition of the painting also reveals the hierarchy of the elements – eucalyptus trees dominate and control the space of the painting, while the hot sand represents the sky – its shade at the top of the canvas serves as an indicator of the hot yellow sun.
The painting “Still Life #1” captures the red of a flower immersed in a transparent vase, spilling out into the shimmering space surrounding the flower outside the concretized surface of the table. The author can see these sharp shades in the everyday environment around her – in the painting “Supportive still life” (lt “Palaikymo natiurmortas”, oil on canvas, 2022) the dazzling details capture the viewer’s attention and contrast with the muted everyday background.
Fauvist, sharpened color is reflected in the author’s next painting “Where are we, where are you” (lt “Kur mes, kur tu”, mixed technique, 2022), but this painting is not painted as a reaction to the surrounding environment but as a symbolic image. The characters of the picture arranged using the collage technique reflect the thoughts and moods of the author, but at the same time, they are well known, distilled to archetypes recognizable and understandable by all.
Such rendering is reminiscent of the 20th century. the painting of the purists, especially the architect, theoretician, and painter Le Corbusier (1887–1965). Le Corbusier liked to use colors in his works and architecture, but either only primary (yellow, red, blue) or elemental (green, skin tone) colors. For Le Corbusier, these colors symbolized a kind of key or scheme according to which our world was created. In his architecture, he used these primary colors for stained glass windows, along with illustrative “keys” explaining how to read these colors (red for the sun, green for the sea, blue for the sky for birds to fly, and yellow for the morning star). The artist also chose “golden age” scenes inspired by ancient traditions for his paintings and color graphics. He often depicted men and women naked in a classical manner in the nature that cares for them. Such a plot vision partially responded to the primitive spirit of Fauvism, which prevailed a couple of decades ago – but the most important idea in purist paintings was to abandon excessive depiction and redecoration.
The world, or ideas about the world, are tried to be represented by its main “components.” A similar principle is applied in A. Palavenis’ painting “Where are we, where are you”, which the abundance of the author’s impressions in Greece is distilled into basic, stereotypical images of being and the color of clear, pure colors.
The juxtaposition of pure shades to such “marble paper” patterns is also conveyed in the painting “Abra Kadabra” (mixed media, 2022).
The most reminiscent of purist aesthetics is the painting “The Beginning of the Dating” (lt “Susitikimo pradžia“), in which the theme of the couple’s relationship is conveyed through the metaphor of meiosis (a biological process during which cells divide and partially exchange each other’s characteristics). The distinction and at the same time the relationship between men and women is conveyed in the Renaissance figures of Michelangelo’s David and Bartolomeo Ammannati’s Ceres.
These figures are classic images of strong masculinity and maternal femininity, which the painter accentuated with a skin tone background and a graphic design of dividing cells. The painting talks about the primordial origin of man through love and desire. At the same time – apart from the serious topic of our origins – the painting begins to show a mildly ironic contrast between the “dry” medical cell diagram (turning into a living drawing) and the romantic subtext provided by paraphrases of past art.
The combination of seriousness and postmodernist ability to provide meta-commentary is also visible in the painting “Gedimino Bo“, in which the panorama of the tower of Gediminas castle is transformed into the flag of Lithuania with mosaic strokes.
Finally, the painting “Clouds” (2022) is a re-used paraphrase of Surrealist art (the motif of René Magritte’s painting “Black Magic”). These works are collage-like, aiming to transform the perceived reality into subtexts recognizable to all.
However, the influence of postmodernist painting is most reflected in the author’s work through a filter of reality purified from unnecessary things, partly reminiscent of the drawing of the pop-art painter David Hockney (b. 1937). These smooth or textured, but still clean and abstracted surfaces of walls or windows reminiscent of computer graphics are contrasted in the works of A. Palavenis with images of living nature – flowers or plants – as seen in the paintings “Greek Etudes #1” (oil on canvas, 2022), “Greek Etudes #2” (mixed media, 2022), and “Zorro, Sunday Morning” (lt “Zorro, sekmadienio rytas”, mixed media, 2022).
Plant motifs in the focus of the author can also become a decorative graphic drawing – as in the painting “Find the Donkey” (lt “Atrask asiliuką”, oil on canvas, 2022).
However, the painter is noticeably interested in the analysis of the observer’s perspective typical of pop art creators. In the painting “Zorro, Sunday Morning” the reflections in the window glass is depicted just as vividly as the “real” objects. In this way, the observer is invited to focus not on objective reality, but on his vision and its possibilities. Passers-by on the street usually do not notice the reflections of the shop windows around them at all, because they do not reflect the reality in which they need to act and maneuver, to avoid objects that stand in the way.
The exercise of seeing reflections as an equal visual part of the same reality educates the perceivers of the picture not to think in perceptual clichés or objective categories, not to have expectations about the normality of the surrounding space, but to gain an unexpected perspective of seeing the environment. The well-known space of the glassed-in balcony, when seen from a new perspective, can appear completely unexpected and suitable for unexpected encounters – as the title of the painting suggests.
The unusual perspective of vision is emphasized in the paintings “Mountains of the mountains” (lt “Kalnų kalnai”, oil on canvas, 2022) and “Greek Etudes #3” (oil on canvas, 2022).
Mountains usually linger somewhere on the horizon, like tiny objects far from the observer’s field of vision, but in A. Palavenis’s paintings are in a “close-up frame”. This effect creates the impression that the viewer of the painting is floating in the air in front of the mountain, an impression that is further enhanced by the insertion of a dynamic miniature figure of a flying airplane into the landscape. Another feature of personal perspective is conveyed in these paintings – the ability to “attract” objects in the far field of vision in one’s imagination and to visit distant, inaccessible places in one’s dreams.
The paintings of A. Palavenis, inspired by the influences of abundance, will tell you about the methods of seeing the world established in the modern tradition of Western painting. The author’s attention to the details surrounding her testifies that sometimes the specialness should be sought not in the environment, but in the observer himself. With particular attention to detail, the entire surrounding world can turn out to be worthy of an artistic experience. In the paintings of A. Palavenis, pieces of everyday life colored by personal experiences will tell how the world can be seen through heightened emotionality, the ability to distinguish its main objective, primary and most important elements, to rearrange impressions through the prism of recognizable images and vice versa – to focus on the world’s illusiveness, unexpectedness, and subjective perspectives.
Written by art critic Gytis Oržikauskas
Images of pictures by Alisa Palavenis / IG @artzagorska
Original translation to English by Alisa Palavenis, text source:
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