• Exhibition “My not distant ancestors” in Jerusalem Artist House, 2010

    New realism – continuity of past, present and future

    At the beginning of the 21st century, the image of an artist born in the period of romanticism, when the emotionalism, passion and intensity of all senses prevailed in the arts, has gradually faded. Over the centuries, this image of an artist has been replaced – reason and intellect became most valuable. The artist started to verbally express his ideas and conceptually shape his art.

    In short, the “feeling” artist has been replaced by the “thinking” artist.

    To this “thinking” category belongs also artist Anatoly Baratynsky.

    By his nature he is an innovator. Even when working by traditional techniques, he is not satisfied with old, time-tested notions and rules. When several years ago Baratinsky worked with aquarelles, he was painting on the drawing paper considered unsuitable for this purpose; the paper absorbed colours very differently and this, in turn, created a completely different effect; or when he tried to achieve textured surface; or when he washed off the colours in a different way as was the custom; and other instances (he does not give away all his secrets); as a result his aquarelles were unique and even professional artists often could not guess what technique he used.

    However, the conceptual work of Baratynsky – his last series, or rather several series, which vary in genre, are unified by the same technique.

    The main idea of his cycle – the idea consciously and thoroughly developed by the artist – the continuity of the past into the future, through the present reality.

    All this is apparent already in the first picture with which he starts the cycle.

    An old family photograph – great-grandmother and great-grandfather, their daughter and her husband – young grandmother and grandfather of Anatoly, their children. Such photographs can be found in the photo-albums of almost anyone.

    Baratynsky takes an old photograph and transforms it. First, he converts it into a print, transfers it into a black-and-white picture, preserving the monochromism, which is typical for daguerreotype and old paintings. And when this is done, he superimposes on the top a textured vertical and horizontal screen, imitating the newest technology – computer pixels; and thus the family monolith reaches us from the distant past and visits us in the present and becomes a symbol of unbreakable connection with the whole family clan.

    The series continues and in terms of its genre and painting, it much closer to our times. The portrait of his mother has the same nostalgic overtones as the portrait of the family. The picture of his wife, whom the artist photographed in Venice, has a rosy dream-like hue, reminiscent of impressionist mist.

    The computer pixels are ever present – they are perhaps the most important components of the pictures through which Baratynsky conveys his idea of continuity. In his “old” portraits, the pixel screen, fully covering the pictures, creates an almost imperceptible dividing screen between us and the persons, who lived in the distant past; the screen gradually thickens toward the edges and becomes a broad frame around their faces. In the portrait of his wife, the screen is opened up and only traces of it are visible; his wife belongs to the same period and the same world as the painter and there is no reason to transform her picture into retrospection. However, on the entire surface of the canvas the screen is drawn much more distinctly, it blooms in various colours and hues, creating the same kind of vibration which reminds us of impressionist canvasses.

    The artist plays with the pixels, bringing together and moving aside the screen, or thickening it or tearing it apart. In the series of the naked, the screen serves as a transparent curtain which sways and intensifies the play of light and shadow; in landscape compositions, the screen sometime underlines movement of air mass and in other cases it presents itself in the role of a symbol, unifying all three series into one unified whole. In all pictures of the cycle, there is at least a little piece of the screen, which is painted in dark-green and yellow-brown colour, combining ultra-contemporary structure with archaic colours.

    Baratinsky thinks that the first pixel appeared long before the computer or TV was ever invented as an mysterious invention of a great artist in the “Black Quadrate” by Malevich. If we agree with this idea, I would also like to add the canvass of Mondrian.

    In this cycle of paintings, consisting (so far) of three series, there is another concept is present. Actually, the concept is the same, i. e. the connection of times, but the means of realization are different. They are not directly associated with the computer technology.

    This is a consciously introduced artistic component – allusions to the history of arts. Baratynsky lives within it completely naturally, since the art history is as real for him as the life around him. Due to this fact, these various techniques from different historical periods – photography, landscape, computer imitation and even various landscape styles, depending on the artist’s intent - are so organically united in his paintings. Some of his paintings clearly strive for classicism, others give fleeting impression of romanticists, still others hint to symbolism; and reality – and all this, except old photographs from an album, fixed in a photo-camera today – reality transforms and becomes art.

    The artist called it the new realism.

    Marina Genkina

    Art Historian