Category: Opinion

G.ART about Women in Abstraction and their features

Abstract art was a logical stage on the exciting road of dismantling thousand-year-long canons of the visual arts. Starting from impressionists, painters consistently refused to imitate nature, were looking for hidden constructions that create the existence, – light and sound waves, complex geometry. In this creative environment in 1910-s originated the abstractionism that completely refused narrativity and became keen on experimenting with colour and form.

First abstractionists are considered to be exclusively male artists: Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, Robert Delaunay, Frantisek Kupka… And only recently the experts started stating that the first ones were, in fact, women!

Long before Malevich, before even the notion “abstract art” was introduced, on the verge of 1860-s in London a medium Georgiana Houghton started creating her bizarre paintings, stating that her hand is led by the spirits. In 1906, four years prior to the appearance of the first abstract aquarelle by Kandinsky, swedisch painter Hilma af Klint, who was also into occultism, created a series of abstract paintings “Initial Chaos”. Unfortunately, she never exhibited her works and even asked in her will to hide them from the audience for twenty years. Meanwhile, during the second decade of the 20th century, the world got profoundly interested in non-figurative art. Two main directions were formed: geometrical and lyrical, where expression of colour preceded the form. Women got more and more rights, they got the opportunity to work in art on equal terms with men. Creative work of tens of female abstraction artists of the 20th century is a multi-faceted phenomenon. Helen Saunders (Great Britain) prefered precise geometry, Aleksandra Ekster (Russia) painted bright, dynamic abstractions with the strong Cubo-Futurism influence. Sonia Terk-Delaunay (France) together with her husband Robert Delaunay developed a direction known as “orphism”. Dadamaino (Italy) worked in op-art, Barbara Hepworth (Great Britain) created abstract sculptures…

Totalitarian regimes abolished abstractionism, as well as other modernistic movements. The tradition was interrupted for decades, but that makes the openness of the post-soviet non-figurative art to world tendences even more important. On the Gart Gallery platform various abstraction masters are presented, among them four female painters: Leila Shelia (Georgia), Margarita Kerimova-Sokolova (Azerbaijan), Ganna Kryvolap (Ukraine), and Mirjana Marsenic Vujovic (Montenegro). Based on the example of their creative styles we can see the scope of the modern female non-figurative art movements and the variety of approaches towards its conceptualizing.

Leila Shelia is one of the first georgian female abstract painters. Parallels with the non-formal abstractionism of 1950–1960-s can be found in her works. Leila works with lyrical abstraction where the moods, the shades of feelings have the ultimate meaning. The world created by Leila, is filled with haze, with fog. In this haze – grey, silver, blue, yellow – the shapes of objects disappear, the sounds get lost, the lighting becomes mysterious.

Everything is changeable: those things that were considered to be comprehensible get new qualities, and the mysterious stains on the water turn out to be grass, flowers, moon-glades on the water. The artist draws her inspiration from the reality around her, from nature, but she transforms it with the power of her author’s vision. Magical discoveries await the pilgrim on the road through this world. The spectator together with the author gets into a kind of trance, his/her feelings get oversensitive, he/she draws true pleasure from the perception of complex coloristic combinations.

Works by Margarita Kerimova-Sokolova are completely different by colour, plasticity, intensity of emotions; they can be attributed to abstract expressionism. Theoretical principles, devised by Margarita, are important for understanding not only abstract art, but also the nature of visual representation in general. According to her, figurative painting is as abstract, as abstract painting is figurative. As an example, the artist uses two famous works by René Magritte: the ones with a realistically painted apple and a smoking pipe, with “It is not an apple” and “It is not a smoking pipe” written upon them. Magritte has pointed out that it is only a visual image of an apple and a pipe. For Margarita every figurative image is also just an image. Visual art is based upon plasticity, colour and lines. Every figurative thing dwells on an abstraction that is based on the same three elements. That is why the titles “figurative” and “abstract” are relative and the artistic goals are the same.

There are several defining forms in abstraction: a circle, a square, a cross, lines, flowing into one another. When the painter looks at the figurative image, he or she sees, first of all, these forms, the formula of the painting, and this formula is always abstract. First of all, a master solves plasticity tasks, upon the precise abstract form he/she can “place” anything: a portrait, a figure, a landscape, – the image would become solid, it would be able to affect a spectator on the emotional level. Margarita says that for her any figurative object can be a reason for abstract image and vice versa. The main idea is to get an impression, an impulse for creativity. In her paintings from “The birth of music” cycle the process of music harmony emerging out of chaos is interpreted through dynamic colour stains. Music is an art that is almost mathematically precise, but, in her attempt to portray music, the artist rejects dry logical constructions and dives into the almost unconscious element. She turns into a mediator, an intermediary between the sound and the image, she decodes one art of perception into the other. Margarita is positive, that abstract art can be both male and female, it has specific qualities. But, when it comes to great artists, gender identity recedes into the background. High-quality work of art contains both masculine and feminine components, like ing and yang. Any creator in any kind of art should possess a harmonical combination of masculine and feminine qualities, although, of course, masculinity in men as well as femininity in women plays the leading part due to the laws of nature. But if there is a considerable overbalance towards one or the other, if it is too noticeable, the work of art gets less interesting.

In the works by Ganna Kryvolap, like in Margarita’s works, bright, strong combinations of colours play the main parts. But Ganna’s works are more graphical, as if constructed out of cubes. Perhaps, the first impulse towards abstraction was a task that Ganna got from her Professor at Taras Shevchenko State Art School – a painter Lev Prizant, – a task to depict autumn without any concise objective side. During her years at the university, Ganna worked not only with classical direction, but also with abstraction, although there was almost no information about this movement in the USSR at that time.

She is sure that it is impossible to teach an abstract vision, each creator has to discover it himself. Abstraction enables artists to depict the nuances of their inner state, the intensity of their emotions through colour. It opens completely different sides of the universe and does not limit the viewer in the search of meanings – it is always a dialogue between the work and the viewer. Despite the fact that in abstract art male artists were path-breakers, who worked out the theory, the norms, female painters were able to discover their sensuality, their intuition more brightly, as Aleksandra Ekster and Sonia Delaunay once did.

The works by Mirjana Marsenic Vujovic, in contrast to the “hot” paintings by Margarita and Gannna, are filled with coolness and freshness. Similar to Ganna, Mirjana turned to abstract art in her youth, during her studies at the Faculty of Fine Arts. She understood that she felt confined in the realm of figurative tradition and started to create lyrical abstract works, where the forest played the key role. The texture of the leaves, rugged tree bark, rapid water of the streams and calm expanses of lakes, stones, grass, moss – Mirjana sees unique beauty in all this. The state of nature mesmerizes her with its fluidity, eternal movement of life, and the colours of nature allow her to create subtle palettes. However, abstract painting that granted Mirjana her creative freedom, did not become the end point in the art for her. Having kicked off from non-figurative art, she went to installations, to three-dimensional objects. The artist is also currently working on the realistic cycle. She does not have any tutors in the abstract movement, one of the artists she draws her inspiration from, is a german painter Anselm Kiefer. Mirjana considers female artists to be braver, because, compared to men, it is always more difficult for women to establish themselves in any field. According to her, female art is very strong. Women did not have a say in art for a long time, but now their artistic statement sounds loud and free.