July 24 - August 23, 2015
Mixed media and installation works
Opening Reception for the Artists
Fourth Friday, July 24, 2015
Free and Open to the Public
Closing Artist Talk
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Free and Open to the Public
The mixed media show Terra Incognita brought together twenty two paintings and three installations by the Virginia-based art educators Konstantina and Ignat Konstantinov, aka the "KonKons"- two artists in a unique collaborative effort. Skillfully incorporating both highly personal and traditional art-historical precedents, they created mixed media imagery that is at once meditative and dynamic. With their suggestions of cliffs and mountains and various other organic formations, elegantly addressed, the artists aim to find balance between the natural and the man-made.
Combining artistic nostalgia and a hint of contemporary expression, their mixed media paintings play with a dialectical relationship between order and chaos, thus creating a multi-voiced conversation.
Although they took inspiration from their global travels, they never simply recorded their vision of a particular place. Instead they conjured metaphorical responses to what they saw, or distilled the physical surroundings – the weather, the light, and the churn of water – into delicate, dynamic markings. Signature traces of oil paint suggesting the painterly gesture of an extended brushstroke provide distinctive accents.
In each of the KonKons' works of art, the final picture is the result of a complicated process of texturing, cracking, coloring and glazing the surface several times. Often all previous layers are left visible, like trace memories or ghostly apparitions. Their approach to mixed media involves an element of risk and uncertainty, but the unplanned also frequently leads to the most exciting results. They often incorporate natural substances into their pigments to achieve this effect, starting with dust, but of course, the KonKons are heightening rather than suppressing surface incident.
The KonKons' "landscapes" have always occupied a difficult terrain, somewhere between mythology illustration, magic realism, or dream-like abstraction of the unknown. The paintings conjure up stormy oceans, desolate tropical islands, booming skies, and flooded riverbanks, but when seen up close, the rocks and towers in works like Alemonia and Mandragora come off as almost shapeless and inert.
In KonKons' installations or mixed media soft sculptures, an emotional interpretation of minimalism explores enclosed spaces as welcoming refuges as well as mysterious labyrinths. Perhaps the most powerful rendition of this concept is "Phoenix" – a conical structure made of wood, fiberglass, metal and sail-cloth. In each one of these free standing works the idea of presence and monumentality is at the forefront, with viewers being invited to explore their own presence in relation to these large-scale forms.
From a distance, a couple of large unframed canvases resemble abstractions, but bits of highly stylized imagery wink from within. Here the KonKons play with bracing contrasts, depending on the dramatic effect of natural disasters. The shapes are in and of themselves weirdly beautiful, but the drama is heightened by curiosity: Are these reflections of a surreal dream or the "real" thing?
Terra Incognita is a "must see" exhibit that ranges in intensity, volume and rhythm, and requires a second visit to the Art Space Main Gallery for a better understanding of KonKons visionary, rich with charisma and angst.
KonKons' works are in private collections in Vienna, Austria, England, the Mediterranean Island of Malta, Portugal, India and here in Virginia at the Markel Corporate Collection and VCU permanent art collection.